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How to clear up space on your hard drive

Updated on May 20, 2016

How to clear space on your hard drive

It happens to all of us. We download videos, music, install new software programs, windows updates, and the seemingly huge hard drive we got when we purchased the computer gets full. Not only can new videos, music, or software not be installed, but also performance of the computer also suffers due to the fragmentation of the hard disk and the loss of any free space.

When the hard drive fills up, people are confused and scared about what can be done to free up some space. One must be careful about what you delete because if you delete the wrong things your computer operating system or applications can stop working correctly. Here are some general guidelines that will work for any computer.

  1. Data files can be deleted without harming the operating system or application programs. Some examples include music files (MP3 or Apple AAC files), video files (Shockwave flash, MP4, and Windows Movie fiels), and other data file like Word documents, spreadsheets, and presentations
  2. Temporary Internet Files can safely be deleted without harming the computer. Some Temporary Internet files may store passwords for your logins to different internet sites, so you may want to check that you remember your passwords before doing this
  3. Deleting Operating System temporary files use for update

Specific instructions for Windows based systems

hile the general instructions can help with Linux and Mac systems, here are some specific instructions for Windows based systems. My primary experience is with Windows XP, but these tips should work for Vista and Windows 7 machines as well.

1. First stop should be the Windows Disk Cleanup Tool. Find this under Start - All Programs - Accessories - Systems Tools - Disk Cleanup. Select the drive you want to cleanup and the tool will analyze your hard drive and give recommendations on the following things that can be done to free up space.

  • Downloaded Program Files
  • Temporary Internet Files
  • Offline Webpages
  • Recycle Bin
  • Temporary Files
  • WebClient/Publish Temporary Files
  • Compress old files
  • Catalog files for the Content Indexer

Select all the boxes and click OK to process the deletions and compressions.

2. Windows has the ability to compress your hard drive to save space. Since compressing files can have an impact on performance as Windows has to compress and uncompress files on the fly, a general guideline is to compress data files and not compress system or application files. So the best way to benefit from compression is to store your data files in one place (My Documents) and then compress the My Documents folder. Here are steps to compress the My Documents folder:

  1. Click Start, and then click My Computer.
  2. To navigate to My Documents select C: (if that is the drive letter), Documents and Settings, then the user you are logged in as. The My Documents folder will be in the user directory.
  3. Right-click the My Documents folder, and then click Properties.
  4. On the General tab, click Advanced.
  5. Click to select the Compress contents to save disk space check box, and then click OK.
  6. In the Properties dialog box, click OK.
  7. In Confirm Attribute Changes, click the option you want.

3. Next will take a look at removing uninstall files from Windows Updates. Open Windows Explorer and navigate to the WINDOWS directory. On most systems this will be C:\WINDOWS. Sort the directory by Name ascending and look for directories that start with $NTUninstallKB***$. These are uninstall files for Microsoft Updates. If you have installed updates and have not had any problems with your computer then you can remove these folders. You will lose the ability to uninstall the particular Windows patch but lets be honest who actually uninstalls a windows system update.

4. Lastly, let's see if we can delete any temporary files. While still in Windows Explorer, navigate to the C:\Windows\Temp directory. This directory will be filled with files with log and other temporary files. Even though the data cleanup utility says it deletes "temporary files", this directory doesn't always get cleaned up. These files can safely be deleted. Every once in a while you will find a file that can't be deleted because it is "in use". Ignore that file and delete the rest

Following these tips can often free up gigabytes of space on your hard drive.

After freeing up space it is a good idea to defragment your hard drive to improve performance.

This can be done via Start - All Programs - Accessories - System Tools - Disk Defragmenter.

How to Free Up Space on Your Computer


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    • profile image

      Bunny 7 years ago

      Excellent! Thanks heaps! xxx

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 7 years ago from the short journey

      Thanks much!