Why is my recovery D drive so full?

Quick Answers

There are a few common reasons why your recovery D drive may be full:

  • Recovery images taking up space – The recovery drive stores system images created by the File History or System Restore features in Windows. Over time, these images can take up a lot of space.
  • Temporary files building up – The recovery drive is often used as temporary storage by Windows. Temporary files like update files, browser caches, etc can build up over time.
  • Incorrect drive letter assignment – Sometimes the recovery drive letter like D: may be incorrectly assigned to another disk instead of the actual recovery partition.

The recovery drive is usually a hidden partition on your PC’s internal hard drive that stores files needed for system recovery options. It’s typically small, between 300MB to 1GB. If it’s much larger, one of the reasons above is likely the cause. You can try some fixes like deleting unneeded restore points or changing the drive letter assignment to reclaim space.

What is the Recovery Drive (D drive) in Windows?

The recovery drive, typically assigned to the D: drive letter, is a special hidden partition on the hard disk in Windows PCs that stores files critical for system recovery options.

Some key facts about the recovery drive:

  • It contains system recovery tools that allow you to boot into the Windows recovery environment.
  • It stores system images created by Windows File History and System Restore.
  • It enables the factory reset functionality to revert your PC to original settings.
  • The recovery drive is created automatically and usually hidden from view in File Explorer.
  • It’s located in a dedicated partition on the hard drive that uses some disk space.

So in essence, the recovery drive contains the files necessary to diagnose startup issues, revert to a previous system state, factory reset your machine, and reinstall Windows. That’s why it’s an important component for system recovery and should have some free space available.

Typical Size of the Recovery Drive

The recovery drive partition is fairly small, often between 300MB to 1GB, since it just has to store system recovery files.

The exact size varies based on factors like:

  • Number of restore points – More restore points take up more space.
  • OEM customizations – Recovery tools from PC manufacturers can use extra space.
  • System image count – Each system image uses storage capacity.

So while the recovery drive size starts out small, it can expand to 2GB, 5GB, or even larger based on the amount of system images and restore points you have on your PC over time.

Why Does the Recovery Drive Get Full?

There are a few common reasons why you may see your recovery D: drive filling up beyond its original small allocation:

Too Many Restore Points

The System Restore feature in Windows creates restore points – snapshots of critical system files at a specific point in time. This allows rolling back your PC to a previous working state if something goes wrong.

Restore points are stored in the recovery drive. Having too many accumulated restore points from frequent automated creation can quickly fill up the recovery partition.

Multiple System Image Backups

Similarly, system images created by Windows File History also get stored in the recovery drive. System images are complete backups of the entire system disk.

Having multiple historical system image backups can take up a large amount of space in the recovery drive over time.

Temporary Files and Folders

The Windows OS also uses the recovery drive to store temporary files at times, like:

  • Windows update install files
  • App and browser cache data
  • User profile folder copies

This temporary usage can gradually consume space on the recovery drive with junk files that don’t get cleared automatically.

Incorrect Drive Letter Assignment

In some cases, the D: drive letter may be wrongly assigned to another partition instead of the recovery drive. This will make some other partition appear full under D: drive.

The actual recovery drive will be assigned a different drive letter in this case.

How to Check Recovery Drive Size and Usage

To see how much space your recovery drive is consuming, you can check its size and usage in File Explorer:

View Drive Properties

  1. Open File Explorer and click on This PC in the left pane.
  2. Locate the recovery drive, typically labeled as Drive D.
  3. Right click on the recovery drive and select Properties.

In the Properties window, look at the Size and Free space values to see the total capacity and used space.

If it’s larger than a few GB, your recovery drive is likely full.

Open the Drive to View Contents

Alternatively, you can directly open the recovery drive to look at its contents:

  1. Open File Explorer and click on This PC.
  2. Double click on the recovery drive to open it.

Look at how much content exists within the recovery drive. If you see a large System Volume Information folder, lots of restore points exist. Or if you see multiple dated WindowsImageBackup folders, extensive system images are being stored.

How to Free Up Space on the Recovery Drive

If you notice your recovery drive is too large and out of space, try these fixes to clean it up:

Delete Old Restore Points

  1. Right click on This PC and select Properties.
  2. Click on System Protection in the left pane.
  3. Select the drive with the restore points you want to clear.
  4. Click on Configure, disable protection, then confirm deletion.

This will delete all restore points to recover lots of space on the recovery drive.

Remove System Image Backups

  1. Go to Settings > Update & Security > Backup.
  2. Under File History, click on “More options” then “Clean up versions”.
  3. Select old system image backups to delete.

Delete any image backups you don’t need to recover space.

Empty the Recycle Bin

Temporary files in the Recycle Bin can also occupy recovery drive space. Empty the Recycle Bin completely to clear such data.

Change the Drive Letter Assignment

If the D: drive letter is wrongly assigned to another partition, change the letter through Disk Management:

  1. Search for “Create and format hard disk partitions” and open it.
  2. Right click on the recovery partition and select Change Drive Letter and Paths.
  3. Assign an unused drive like Z: and click OK.

Now the recovery drive will no longer show up as full under D:.

Tips to Avoid a Full Recovery Drive

To avoid ending up with a full recovery drive again in the future, keep these tips in mind:

  • Manually create system restore points instead of relying on automatic creation.
  • Limit the number of restore points you save to 10-15.
  • Maintain only 1-2 recent system image backups.
  • Occasionally run Disk Cleanup to remove temporary files.
  • Monitor the recovery drive size in File Explorer.

Following smart practices for restore points, system images, and temporary storage will keep your recovery drive from bloating up again.


The main reasons for your recovery drive filling up are excessive restore points, too many system image backups, temporary file accumulation, or incorrect drive letter assignments.

You can resolve the full drive issue by removing unneeded restore points and system images, emptying the Recycle Bin, changing the drive letter, and optimizing your use of system recovery tools going forward.

Keeping your recovery drive lean will ensure it has enough free space for critical system recovery options when you need them. Follow the steps outlined to clean and free up your oversized recovery D: drive.