What are the best ways to free up hard drive space on Windows 10?

By ivan.diskin | July 31, 2018 |

greater than 11 minutes

Hard disk drives are incredibly cheap these days. Therefore, most PC manufacturers find it easy to equip modern PCs with sufficient amount of storage space. Regardless of this, users always find ways to fill up their disks quickly.

It is easy to figure out why thanks to the variety of media content (pictures, audio, and videos), games, applications, and other classes of files that people download from the internet or those that end up on their computers through other means.

So what do you do when you are running low on space? Of course, you could buy a new hardware piece, but you do not have to employ this costly approach to solve your problem. You could do something else.

Instead of spending money on a new drive, you can perform certain operations using some tools already present on the Windows operating system to free up space. In fact, the extra storage area you get is just one of the positive effects the procedures you employ are capable of bringing.

There is something else—an improvement in your system performance, which is a bonus. After all, when a drive is filled up to its full capacity, Windows unequivocally struggles to keep it optimized for usage.

In this guide, we will show you

how to clean up junk files

and other items on Windows 10 using the best methods available. After you have gone through everything, you will undoubtedly have more room for your essential files. You can also keep tabs on the boost in performance we bragged about earlier. Here we go.

How to free up hard drive space on a Windows 10 PC

Delete junk files with the help of Storage Sense:

Storage Sense is a relatively new superb feature available from Microsoft available on Windows 10 only. It provides an easy way for users to get rid of junk files on their hard drives to make space available for more critical content and at the same time, improve their computers’ performance.

Your system usually deletes some temporary files and some items from a previous Windows installation. Go through these steps to use the Storage Sense tool:

  • Press the Windows button on your keyboard or click on the Windows Start icon that is always visible on your desktop screen. Select Settings from the program and options that show up
  • After the program window appears, click on System. Click on Storage. Under the Storage Sense menu on the left pane, you must click on the Change how we free up space automatically link there
  • Tick the checkbox for Delete temporary files that my apps aren’t using. Open up the drop-down menu for Delete files in my Recycle bin if they have been there for over
  • Specify the period you want. Do the same thing for Delete files in my download folder if they have been there for over

Most times, Windows will offer you the following options to choose from: Never; 1 day; 14 days; 30 days; 60 days.

We recommend that you go with the first option (1 day) if you are looking to free up as much space as possible.

  • Windows might let you use the Free up space now option. Your system will delete the files from the previous installation of Windows if everything goes well. Nevertheless, you should know that you can only use this option if 10 days have not gone by since you last installed a new feature update on your PC
  • Click on the Clean now button to initiate the primary operation. Windows will get rid of the unnecessary files

Although you can always repeat the same operation anytime you want to free up space on your system, we recommend that create a setup that instructs ito run automatically at regular intervals. If you desire that Storage Sense cleans up your PC from time to time, then you must continue with the instructions below:

  • Open the Setting program once more and navigate through the necessary options to get to the Storage Sense menu you worked on earlier.
  • Under the Storage Sense menu, you should see the Change how we free up space automatically link. Click on it. When you open the drop-down menu under Run Storage Sense, Windows will present the following options for you to choose from: Every day; Every week; Every month; When Windows decides (recommended).

If you trust your system to do the right thing, then you can go with the When Windows decides (recommended) option

  • If you followed the steps outlined correctly and did everything right, then Windows will run Storage Sense automatically (or according to the configuration you went with) to get rid of junk files

Remove temporary files with the help of the Disk Cleanup utility:

The Disk Cleanup program has been around for quite some time. With this utility, users have more say on what kind of files or class of items Windows is supposed to delete from their hard drives to free up space. You can perform the necessary operations through the Settings app or a specific Control Panel program menu.

We expect that you are familiar enough with the Settings app since your system runs Windows 10. Here are the instructions you need:

  • Open the Settings app any way you like. After the program window appears, click on System from the options available. Click on Storage. You must locate the see the Free up space now link from the menus and options available. Click on it.
  • Tick the checkboxes for all the items you intend to do away with now. Uncheck any stuff you want Windows to keep. You should see a list that comprises of things like these:
  1. Windows upgrade log files
  2. System crashed Windows Error Reporting files
  3. Windows Defender Antivirus
  4. Windows Update Cleanup
  5. Thumbnails
  6. Temporary files
  7. Recycle Bin
  8. Temporary Internet Files
  9. Delivery Optimization Files
  10. Previous Windows installation

Note that the list we have provided above is not an exhaustive one for all users. Windows might not show you some specific items to select or deselect depending on the operations you have carried out on your system or the events that occurred on it.

For example, if specific files from the previous version or iteration of Windows are missing on your computer, you will not see the Previous Windows Installation option.

  • Once you are done setting all the needed variables and conditions, you must click on the Remove files button. Windows will now move to get rid of the items you marked for elimination at once. In the end, you should start seeing extra space available for use

If things did not go the way you expected, you could try out the alternative method of doing the same thing through the Control Panel program. Follow these steps:

  • Open the File Explorer program. Its icon is usually present on the taskbar. Click on it. After the program window shows up, you should see some folders and drives available on your Windows 10 device
  • Locate the This PC option. Right-click on it or right-click on the drive you want to free space on to see a list of options. Select Properties. A small new window should come up now
  • Under the General tab, you must click on the Disk Cleanup button. Another window should show up. Click on the Clean up your system files button. Windows should show you a list identical to the one we outlined earlier in the instructions on using the Disk Cleanup utility through the Settings app. Scroll up a bit if you want to see it.
  • Tick the checkbox for the items you want to remove. Untick the boxes for the ones you want Windows to keep. Click on the OK button once you are done
  • Click on the Delete files button. Windows should now begin the file removal process. When it completes its work, you should see additional storage space.

If the System Restore utility on your computer is enabled, you can free up more space than we anticipated. If you use the Shadow Copies setup that allows Windows to back up files even when your system is running them, then things will go even better than we thought. You should go through these steps to reclaim additional space:

  • Open the File Explorer app as you did in the previous operation. Right-click on This PC or right-click on the drive that lacks space. From the options that appear, select Properties. Windows should launch a new window for you.
  • Under the General tab, you should see the Disk Cleanup button. Click on it. You should see a new window. Click on the Cleanup system files button. Navigate to the More options tab
  • Under System Restore and Shadow copy or their description, you should see the Cleanup button, which you must click on now. Click on the Delete button to confirm. Windows should now get rid of the files for the System Restore utility and Shadow Copy setup

Get rid of some programs:

It is fun when you have many games you could run to relax or applications to perform specific operations. However, some programs you rarely use or those that you do not need at all are probably among them. There is no point in keeping such stuff especially when you struggling with the lack of space.

The vast majority of the programs we are referring to came preinstalled on your computer when you purchased your device. You probably installed the rest yourself because you thought that they will be useful at some point.

If you play games a lot, then you need to understand that most modern titles use up a significant amount of disk storage space. Their files will quickly fill up your hard drive in no time.

When your system’s disk is over-saturated, you might suffer drops in performance due to the sheer volume of files present and the lack of space. In such scenarios, the possession of an excessive number of games or apps becomes counterproductive.

If you are forced to free up space on your device, then we recommend that you get rid of the games low in your priority list of programs to keep. Follow these instructions:

  • Press the Windows button on your keyboard, then tap the letter I key to open the Settings app. After the program window comes up on your screen, click click on Apps. Select Apps and Features from the options available
  • Windows should now show you the list of applications currently installed on your PC. You can find out the games or apps that are using up the most space on your computer with the help of the Sort by feature. Select Size and Windows should rearrange the list in descending order (in terms of size)
  • Identify the app you want to remove. Click on it to highlight it. Click on the Uninstall button that appears. A small window or dialog box requesting confirmation for your action should show up. Click on the Uninstall button to confirm. Windows should now get rid of the app
  • Perform the same operation on all the apps and games you want to get rid of on your computer.Finally, we advise that you reboot your system. After your PC comes on and Windows reaches stability, you are free to check out how much space you now have available.

Free up space by storing items in the cloud:

OneDrive has been integrated well enough into Windows 10 for users to take advantage of its capabilities and use them to free up space. Here, we are going to place a lot of emphasis on the File On-demand feature. With its help, you can access a wide range of items or files (like photos, videos, and music) that you have stored on the cloud without the need to sync them or use considerable storage space.

If you are struggling with operations on Windows because your hard drive is running low on space, then a call for help from the feature in view is in order. This way, you get to keep your files in the cloud, and if the need ever arises, you can download them without trouble.

Follow these instructions to enable the OneDrive Files On-Demand feature:

  • Click on the OneDrive icon. It is usually one of the items present in the notification area of your taskbar. From the options that appear, you must select Settings. A new program window should come up now.
  • Navigate to the Settings tab. There, under the Files On-Demand menu or option, you must tick the checkbox for Save space and download files as you use them. Click on the OK button to confirm the changes you have just made. Windows should now enable the feature

At this stage, we expect that you have enabled the Files On-Demand feature. Therefore, it is time you moved files to the OneDrive folder on your PC and make the transferred items available online only as this setup helps to free up space. Continue with the instructions below to perform the necessary operations on them:

  • Open the File Explorer program using the steps we outlined in the second procedure for the second fix. After the program window comes up, you will see some drives, folders, and so on
  • This time, you must locate the OneDrive folder, which is usually one of the items on the left pane. Mark the files and the folders using up the most amount of storage space available in the OneDrive folder
  • Once you have selected or highlighted all the necessary items, you must right-click on any one of them and select the Free up space option from the list that comes up. Windows will now make the files you chose available on OneDrive in the cloud only

You can go some steps further to free up even more space along the similar lines of the operation you just carried out. All you need to do is move some massive files from their default location on your account to a directory in the OneDrive folder, and finally, you must repeat the steps above on the items you moved to ensure that Windows keeps them on OneDrive storage in the cloud only.

Disable the Hibernation on Windows 10:

Hibernation is a feature that comes in handy when you want to power off your system but you do not want to lose the progress you made on whatever work you are doing. Windows makes such a convenience possible by saving the contents of your RAM (or temporary memory) to a safe directory on your hard drive.

The next time you boot up your device, Windows automatically retrieves the necessary data from your disk and places them back into your RAM. This setup allows you to pick up just where you left off.

Regardless of all we said, if you are still struggling with the low storage space issue at this point, then keeping the Hibernation feature active should be one of the least important things on your priority list. After all, its setup requires a considerable amount of disk space (several gigabytes in most cases) to store the data often transferred between your RAM and your hard disk drive.

Follow these instructions to disable Hibernation to make some room on your hard drive:

  • First, you must open an elevated Command Prompt window. On Windows 10, these are the steps you must go through to do it the fastest way: press and hold the Windows button on your keyboard, then tap the letter X key to bring up the Power User menu, which usually consists of a list of programs and features. Select Command Prompt (admin).

Click on the Yes button to confirm if a small program window shows up requesting confirmation for your action

  • After the Administrator: Command Prompt window shows up, you must input the following code and hit the Enter key to run it at once:powercfg /hibernate off

If you did everything correctly, then Windows should have disabled the feature. Restart your system if you did not notice any changes. You will no longer be able to employ the Hibernate feature, but the extra storage space resulting from your loss might be well worth it.

At this stage, your top priority should be the optimization of the contents of your hard disk, and to do this, we advise that you download and run Auslogics Disk Defrag Pro. The recommended program will help you defrag your drive to improve its efficiency and ensure that it runs at its top speed.

We have reached the end of this guide. There are numerous other things you could do to free up even more space on your Windows 10 computer, but surely you understand that we cannot include them all of them here as this guide is long enough already.

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