How do I free up disk space?

Running out of disk space can slow down your computer and prevent you from installing updates or saving files. Fortunately, there are many ways to free up space on your hard drive or SSD. Here are some quick answers to common questions about freeing up disk space:

How can I see what’s taking up space on my hard drive?

The easiest way is to use the Storage Sense tool built into Windows 10. Open File Explorer, click This PC on the left pane, and select your C: drive. Click Manage > Storage Sense. This will show you a graphical breakdown of what’s using space.

Which files should I delete to free up disk space?

Start by removing files you no longer need:

  • Empty your Recycle Bin – right-click and select Empty Recycle Bin
  • Remove temporary files – open Disk Cleanup tool and select appropriate options
  • Uninstall unused programs – go to Settings > Apps > Apps & features
  • Delete large files you don’t need – downloads, documents, photos, videos, etc.

How can I find my largest files to delete them?

Use the Disk Cleanup tool (search for it or go to Control Panel > System and Security > Free Up Disk Space). Click Clean Up System Files, then click OK. Select the drive to scan and click OK. This will find your largest files to delete.

You can also use a free disk space analyzer like WinDirStat or TreeSize to visually see large files and folders.

Should I delete Windows update files to free up space?

No, don’t delete files in C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\Download. Windows won’t clean up these update files automatically. Run the Disk Cleanup tool, select Clean Up System Files, check the Windows Update Cleanup option, and click OK. This will safely remove the update files.

Can I move files to an external hard drive to free up internal disk space?

Absolutely. Use Windows Explorer or File Explorer to select files on your internal drive and copy/move them to an external drive. Moving media files like photos, videos, music, and games can quickly free up a lot of space.

Just make sure the external drive has enough free space! Also, copy (don’t move) important files as a backup.

Should I use CCleaner to clean up disk space?

CCleaner can be useful for freeing up disk space by removing temporary files, browsing history, system caches, etc. However, it’s not needed as the built-in Disk Cleanup tool does the same job. Make sure to uncheck any CCleaner options that could delete important files.

Can compressing files help maximize disk space?

Compressing files reduces their size, so you can store more on your drive. Right-click files/folders, select Properties > Advanced > Compress contents to turn on compression. This is useful for large, rarely used files like archives, media files, etc.

Just know there is a minor performance tradeoff when accessing compressed files.

Should I uninstall applications I’m not using?

Uninstalling unused applications can sometimes free up a good amount of space. Open Settings > Apps > Apps & features to uninstall programs you don’t need. Sort by size to target large ones first.

Be careful not to remove anything important that you may need in the future. When in doubt, search online to see if it’s safe to uninstall.

Can I move files to the cloud to free up local storage?

Storing files in cloud storage like OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc. allows you to free up space on your main hard drive. Install the app, copy/move files to the cloud folder, and then safely delete them from the hard drive.

Cloud storage works best for documents, photos, videos, and other files you need to access frequently from different devices.

Should I upgrade to a larger hard drive if I consistently run out of space?

Upgrading to a larger hard drive can provide more long-term storage capacity. But it should be the last resort after you’ve tried the other tips to maximize your existing drive space.

On a desktop PC, you can add a secondary internal hard drive. For laptops, you may need professional help to replace the primary drive with a larger one.

What are some other advanced tips for freeing up disk space?

Here are a few more advanced tips for maximizing space on your hard drive:

  • Reduce the size of System Restore points – open System Properties and adjust as needed
  • Change the location of Windows page file (virtual memory) to another drive
  • Move the Users folder to another drive on your PC
  • Adjust Visual Effects for appearance to maximize performance – search for ‘performance’
  • Change size limits for Recycle Bin, System Restore, and other system settings


The most effective ways to free up disk space include:

  • Deleting unnecessary files – like Recycle Bin, temporary, downloads, etc.
  • Uninstalling unused applications
  • Moving files to external storage or cloud drives
  • Using built-in disk cleanup utilities in Windows

Try these simple tips first before considering advanced options like upgrading your hard drive. With a little regular disk maintenance, you can keep your PC running smoothly even as your storage fills up over time.

Tip Difficulty Effectiveness
Delete temporary files Easy Moderate
Uninstall unused programs Easy Moderate
Move files to external storage Moderate High
Use disk cleanup utilities Easy High
Reduce System Restore space Moderate Low

This table summarizes the difficulty and effectiveness of some key disk space tips. The easiest and most effective options include using built-in cleanup tools and moving files to external storage. More advanced tips like adjusting System Restore require more effort but offer less space savings.

Delete temporary files

Temporary files from your browser, downloads folder, Recycle Bin and other locations can easily be deleted to quickly recover space. This only takes a few clicks using the Disk Cleanup utility.

Uninstall unused programs

Take inventory of programs installed on your system and uninstall any you no longer use. Some programs can consume over 1 GB of space each, so removing them helps recover disk space. This is an easy process using the “Apps & features” settings panel.

Move files to external storage

Media files like photos, videos, music and games tend to consume huge amounts of disk space. Moving these to an external USB drive can free up large amounts of space. While not difficult, it takes more time and planning than other options.

Use disk cleanup utilities

Windows includes the excellent Disk Cleanup utility that can automatically find and remove unnecessary temporary files, downloads and system files. Using this tool requires minimal effort but often provides the best space-saving results.

Reduce System Restore space

Tweaking settings for System Restore, virtual memory, Recycle Bin and other system tools can recover small amounts of space. The tradeoff is losing functionality – for example, reducing System Restore space limits the ability to roll back your system. These require deeper knowledge to adjust safely.

So focus first on file deletion and cleanup utilities for the big space gains that need minimal effort. Move to external storage if you need even more space. Only use the advanced system options if you really need those few extra gigabytes.

Should I be concerned about having low disk space available?

Having very low free space on your main Windows drive (usually the C: drive) can cause performance issues and system instability. Here are some problems to watch out for:

  • Slow boot times – Your PC has to load the operating system and apps from a crowded drive.
  • Slow program launches – Apps take longer to start since cached and temporary files can’t write.
  • Installation failures – Lack of space will prevent installing updates, new software, etc.
  • File copy/transfer issues – Moving or copying files to the drive may fail due to lack of space.
  • Crashes/corruption – With no room for virtual memory or other functions, stability issues can occur.

As a general rule, you should keep at least 20% of your C: drive free – so aim to have at least 50 GB open on a 250 GB drive. If you consistently see less than 10% free space, you definitely need to recover more usable storage.

How can I find and delete large files I don’t need anymore?

Here are a few easy ways to locate large files you can likely delete to free up disk space:

  • Sort folders by size – In File Explorer, select View > Options > View tab > “Show hidden files”> OK. Then sort folders by size to see the largest ones.
  • Use Disk Cleanup – When run as admin, it will clean up system files like old Windows Updates, temporary files, etc.
  • Try WinDirStat – Scans drive and shows big files/folders in a graphical treemap layout.
  • Check Downloads folder – Temporary installers, archives, disk images and other one-time downloads often accumulate here.
  • Clean up Photos/Videos – Delete blurry pics, screenshots, and unused media files (or move to external drive).

Always be cautious before deleting files. Check if they are still needed first. Sorting folders by size and using a disk usage tool makes it easy to identify “big targets” that are likely safe to remove.

What are good practices for managing disk space wisely?

Here are some good habits for preserving disk space over time:

  • Regularly run Disk Cleanup and delete temporary files
  • Uninstall programs you no longer use
  • Move photos, media, and files you access infrequently to external storage
  • Store documents/files online using cloud storage like OneDrive
  • Delete the Windows previous version folder after major updates
  • Empty Recycle Bin frequently
  • Review Downloads folder and remove unneeded installers and archives
  • Consider enabling Storage Sense to automatically clean up space as needed

Adopting these practices helps avoid the continued buildup of clutter on your drives over time. An hour of preventive disk space maintenance can save you the headache of running out of room later on at an inopportune time.


Running low on disk space can harm your PC’s performance and cause system instability. Thankfully, Windows includes great utilities for reclaiming space, like Disk Cleanup. Good storage practices are also key – regularly removing unneeded files, moving data to external drives, uninstalling unused apps, etc.

Try to maintain at least 20% free space on your C: system drive. Sort folders by size, analyze disk usage visually, and target large files you no longer need. With the right tools and habits, you can keep your PC’s storage optimized for performance.