We’ve all run into this at one point or another. Low disk space can be a pain, but I’m going to show you how to remedy it. Today we will use built-in tools in Windows plus a couple of other tricks I’ve learned through the years.
Why Disk Space is Important
The C: drive is used for more than just storing files and your Windows installation. It has another crucial purpose that you may not even be aware of. There is a hidden system file called the paging file which tends to be the same size as the amount of RAM you have installed. Say you have 8GB’s of RAM, your page file will also be 8GB’s in size.
So what does this paging file do exactly? It behaves very similarly to your RAM, albeit a lot slower. RAM acts as the memory that Windows can use to store and run programs as they are used, everything on your system requires RAM. Even Windows itself uses about 1GB at normal use. The paging file acts as a fail-safe in case you run out of physical RAM, and is also used to temporarily store programs that may be called upon later.
Windows also use free disk space for caching purposes. So you need to have at least 15% of your disk free, while also having space for the paging file. Now you may be asking, can I change the size of the paging file? Yes you can, but I highly recommend against this, Windows will automatically manage the paging file for you, and it tends to know what is best. If you do need to modify the paging file, use virtual memory under advanced system settings. Now let’s see how to increase our disk space!
Freeing up Disk Space
Windows has a couple of built-in tools to help us with this task. I’ll list them below and we’ll go over each one.
- Disk Cleanup
- Disk Defragmenter
Let’s start with Disk Cleanup. You can access this tool easily, just by searching. In Windows 7 and above just hit the Windows key and start searching. After you have opened Disk Cleanup you will see this. Click on ‘clean up system files’ as shown below.
Now we are able to see all the options for cleanup. I’ll go through a list of what I usually check off to be cleaned.
- Temporary internet files – these are files kept by your browser for caching, safe to remove
- System error memory dump files – as long as you haven’t had any recent crashes these are safe to remove
- Recycle Bin – forgetting to clean this out can lead to low disk space
- Temporary Files – these are files created by programs and afterward have no use, safe to remove
Once you have these checked go ahead and run the tool. Next, we will look at Disk Defragmenter.
This tool is great for freeing up space and it will give you a performance boost. Over time as you use your PC, files and folders get moved and shuffled around. This can create clutter which takes up unnecessary space. This also can cause delays when you try to open files or when programs try to access them. We call this clutter disk fragmentation. Disk Defragmenter goes through and scans the entire disk looking for clutter and also deletes fragments of older/unused files. To finish the process it rearranges files so that disk space is used efficiently. Just like with Disk Cleanup you can easily get to this tool by searching for it.
Click the optimize button as shown and make sure the C: drive is selected. While you’re here make sure the C: drive is set to be optimized on a schedule. This will prevent issues in the future. At this point, if you still need to free up more space there is another tool that is helpful.
This handy tool will scan your entire drive and tell you exactly what is taking up the most space. If for example, if you had a folder filled with old photos you had forgotten about, windirstat will find it. Once the scan is complete, a list is created for you to look over. You can expand each folder and dive down the list until you find something you can remove.
Be careful at this point!
Windirstat will also show system files and folders, so be cautious what you delete. If you are unsure, do a quick google search to find out.
As you can see in the screenshot above, most of my space is taken up by the steam folder. Use the info in the tool to decide what can be removed. Remember to be careful not to delete anything crucial to the system. The link below is a safe place to download windirstat. Now would be a great time to organize your files and folders as well.
With that, we will wrap things up. In this article, we learned about the importance of free space and the paging file, and we also learned how to use built-in tools and windirstat to remedy low disk space. I hope the info in this article will be helpful to you. Feel free to reach out to me in the comments below if you have any questions. Thanks for reading and visiting Tek Salvage!