What if Windows 10 is reporting the wrong hard disk free space?

May 21, 2020 |

greater than 13 minutes

You might have noticed that your computer is reporting the wrong figure for the free space available on your disk. Some users are experiencing the same issue where Windows is unable to determine how much space is left on a drive correctly.

What if Windows is showing the wrong HDD free space?

The issue is hardly something serious for you to worry so much about now. Some people noticed the discrepancy after they selected all the files and folders stored on their disk and then compared the space those items used up with the figure reported in the File Explorer program or a similar utility. In such scenarios, the disk usage figure reported by the Disk Cleanup program and CHKDSK tool also turned out to be wrong.

Why is Windows reporting the wrong hard disk free space?

We carefully examined the events due to which Windows ends up being unable to correctly figure out the space taken up by items on a PC. After comparing them with the procedures commonly used to solve the problem, we were able to narrow down the causes of the inaccurate disk space reports to these reasons or factors:

  • The restore points (for the System Restore application) are using up an incredible amount of space: System Restore is one of the most useful utilities ever introduced in the Windows operating system environment, but its restore points tend to cause problems for users, especially when so many of them are in existence.

System Restore (when enabled) is programmed to create new restore points automatically while old ones get deleted. However, things do not always go the way they are supposed to; System Restore sometimes fails to delete the old restore points, which means more space than usual ends up being used. If the events we described here apply in your case, then you will be able to resolve the inaccurate disk space reporting issue by deleting old restore points to recover space.

  • System bugs or code inconsistencies: While Windows 10 is considered one of the most stable iterations of Windows released by Microsoft, it is not without its flaws. There is a good chance your system’s inability or failure to figure out the correct disk usage is down to the presence of bugs (especially system maintenance bugs) or related inconsistencies in Windows code.

If our assumptions about bugs being the cause of the problem on your computer hold water, then you will be able to make things right by running the System Maintenance troubleshooter. This utility will automatically detect the issues and apply fixes for them.

  • The Trashbin folder has gone rogue: The Trashbin folder is an important directory in Windows. Given its status, when its behavior becomes unpredictable or unexplainable, problems occur. Some users noticed that Windows no longer placed useless stuff inside the Trashbin directory, while others realized they had lost access to the folder.

Fortunately, in any scenario where the Trashbin folder shortcomings have anything to do with the wrong free disk space problem, you will be able to resolve the issue by executing an operation in an elevated Command Prompt window to get rid of the Trashbin folder.

  • The presence of large hidden files or items that cannot be detected through conventional methods: Having considered the most likely possibilities, it is time we examined an outlier where the inaccurate reporting for free disk space issue is down to the presence of unusually large files on your computer’s disk.

The files might have been created through regular operations, or they came into existence due to the activity of malicious programs. Regardless of their mode of entry, you will do well to use a third-party utility to scan your computer for the items and delete them.

How to fix the Windows showing incorrect disk space issue

Since you now understand why a hard drive might show less space than the amount available, we can now move on to show you how to fix the problem. We will describe the procedures employed to resolve the issue with regard to the possible causes we outlined earlier, and we advise you to go through them in the same manner.

  1. Delete old restore points:

The ultimate fix here requires that you delete all the restore points and even disable System Restore, but we consider that move a step too far since System Restore might come in handy in some way in the future. We simply want you to reduce the number of restore points available. The operation to free up space by deleting old restore points should translate into better reporting of your system’s disk properties.

Follow these instructions to do the job:

  • First, you have to bring up the System Properties window from which System Restore is accessed.

Use the Windows logo button + letter R keyboard shortcut to fire up the Run app and then fill the text field on the application window with this code:

sysdm.cpl

Tap Enter on your keyboard to force Windows to run the code.

  • Click on the System Protection tab (if you are not there currently). Scroll down to the Protection settings section, click on your Windows drive (System) to get it highlighted, and then click on the Configure button.
  • Assuming you are now on the System Protection screen for the Windows drive, you must scroll down to the Disk Space Usage menu and confirm that the Max usage parameter is not set above 10% (of your drive’s capacity).

If you notice that System Restore has been allocated far too much space, you must make the relevant changes to fix things. Ideally, if you have a 1 TB (or 1000GB) hard drive or bigger, then the 10% recommendation is in order. Otherwise, you can go with 15% – especially if your hard drive is 500GB or smaller.

  • At this point, you must click on the button for Delete all restore points for this drive. This way, you get to clear the space that System Restore is currently using.

You might have to confirm a prompt by clicking on the Continue button when the dialog box or window comes up.

  • After Windows carries out your request, you must click on the Apply button to save the new configuration for System Restore.
  • Here, we recommend you restart your computer to ensure your system enforces the relevant changes. In any case, after the reboot, your computer should end up with more space than before and Windows’ accuracy in reporting the available storage will improve considerably.
  1. Run the System Maintenance troubleshooter:

Troubleshooters are the utilities built into the Windows operating system environment used to diagnose issues and resolve them. There are different troubleshooters in Windows 10 that cater to a wide variety of problems. Since we inferred the issue we seek to resolve is down to system bugs, inconsistencies, or glitches, then the System Maintenance troubleshooter is our best bet at making things right again.

You can access and run troubleshooters from the Settings program or Control Panel application, but we prefer the path involving the latter. Anyway, here are the instructions you must follow to run the System Maintenance troubleshooter:

  • First, you have to fire up the Control Panel application.

You can use the Windows logo + letter R keyboard shortcut to bring up the Run app (as you did earlier). This time, after the Run application window appears, you must fill its text field with this word: Control.

Hit Enter to force your system to run the code. If a User Account Control (UAC) dialog or window comes up to confirm your request, you must click on the Yes button to proceed.

  • Assuming the Control Panel window has appeared on your screen, you must move your cursor to the top-left corner and fill the text field with this word to perform a search task: Troubleshooter.

From the list of results for the query, you must click on Troubleshooter.

  • Assuming you are now on the Troubleshooting screen in Control Panel, you must click on System and Security (the last item on the list).
  • On the screen that follows, you must right-click on System Maintenance to see its context menu and then choose the Run as administrator option.

By providing the utility with administrative privileges, it gets all the powers it needs to check for issues (without restrictions) and make changes to fix them (without limitations).

  • Once the System Maintenance window comes up, you must click on Advanced and then click on the box for the Apply repairs automatically parameter.
  • Click on the Next button to move on.

The System Maintenance utility will begin its job now. Be patient.

  • If the program recommends a fix, you will have to click on the Apply button to instruct Windows to use the fix at the next prompt. You might end up having to perform this exact task several times.

Eventually, all the needed repair strategies will be applied.

  • Assuming the process is complete, you must now restart your computer and then confirm that the inaccurate disk usage reporting issue has been resolved for good.
  1. Delete the rogue Trashbin folder:

We linked Windows 10’s inability or failure to determine the actual amount of storage space available to the behavior of the Trashbin folder earlier and proposed that you cleared its contents to fix things. For one, after you delete the $RECYCLE.BIN file that corresponds to the items in the location in view, your computer will be forced to create a new (healthy) version that is unlikely to use up the same storage space or cause problems for you.

These are the instructions you must follow to delete the $RECYCLE.BIN file on an elevated Command Prompt window:

  • Hit the Windows button on your machine’s keyboard or click on the Windows icon situated in the bottom-left corner of your display.

Once the Windows Start menu screen appears, you must input CMD into the text field (that shows up the moment you begin to type).

Command Prompt (App) should emerge as the main entry on the results list displayed. You must right-click on it to see its context menu and select Run as administrator.

  • Assuming the Administrator: Command Prompt window has been brought up on your screen, you must run this command there (type the code in and then hit Enter to force its execution):

rd /S “$RECYCLE.BIN”

If you see the Are you sure? dialog, you have to proceed by typing Y and then hitting Enter.

  • If everything goes well, you must close the Command Prompt window. Restart your computer.

Once the changes become effective, you will notice an increase in the storage space available and the reported figure will be more accurate than before.

  1. Update the Windows OS running on your device:

If you are yet to resolve the problem at this point, then the Explorer.exe bug is likely to be the reason your computer is showing the wrong figure for the storage space available. Windows struggles to read the metadata of certain file types when the Explorer.exe bug is present in its code. When Windows cannot correctly extrapolate the size of folders, its failings translate into wrong calculations for the free space available.

Microsoft did well to provide a patch for the Explorer.exe bug in the Windows 10 Version 1803 update. Therefore, if you are still struggling with the problem, it means your machine is yet to download and install that Windows 10 Version 1803 build or a newer iteration. Follow the instructions to initiate a manual check for Windows updates:

  • First, you have to fire up the Run application as you have done a couple of times in the past using this keyboard shortcut: Windows logo button + letter R key.
  • Once the needed program window appears, you must input this code into the text field on it:

ms-settings:windowsupdate

  • Hit the Enter button to force Windows to run the code. You will be directed to the Windows Update menu in the Settings program.
  • Click on the Check for updates button. Windows will now get in touch with Microsoft servers to check for the stuff your computer is missing.

If your system finds something, it will tell you about it. Otherwise, you will see the You have all the available updates notification.

  • You have to follow the on-screen prompts to install all the pending or available Windows updates. Do this until your system is confirmed to be up to date.

You might be prompted to restart your computer during the update installation process. After any recommended reboot, you will do well to return to the Windows Update screen (by going through the same steps above) to initiate a fresh check for Windows updates.

You should stop checking for Windows updates only after you are sure your Windows has downloaded and installed all the updates available for your computer or system configuration.

  1. Use the CHKDSK utility to fix issues with your hard disk:

If Windows 10’s inability to show the correct figure for the storage space available is down to issues with your disk, then tests and repairs performed using the CHKDSK utility will go a long way towards resolving the problems. Here, we want you to instruct the tool to scan the file system on your drive and then analyze the integrity of the files, their metadata, and so on.

The CHKDKS tool will fix logical file system errors, misaligned time stamps, wrong file size entries, security flags on files, and related inconsistencies or discrepancies within your system disk. It might also tell if your disk is damaged physically, but you will have to run further tests using more advanced utilities to confirm the findings in such a scenario.

You can access the CHKDSK utility as a program from the options in the File Explorer app, or you can perform tasks with it by running certain commands on an elevated Command Prompt window. Anyway, here are the instructions you must follow to use the CHKDSK tool on Windows 10 (through the first path):

  • First, you have to fire up the File Explorer program. You can do this by clicking on its icon (if it is present on your taskbar) or you can use this keyboard shortcut: Windows logo button + letter E.
  • Click on This PC, locate your system drive or the disk you want the Chkdks utility to work on, right-click on it to see its context menu, and then choose Properties.

The Properties window for the chosen disk or drive will be brought up now.

  • Click on the Tools tab (to go there). Under the Error checking section, you should see the Check button, which you must click on to launch the Disk Error Checking program.
  • You might have to confirm some prompts or give permission for certain operations by clicking on Yes or Continue on certain dialogs or windows.

In any case, the utility will eventually come up and start checking the selected drive for file system errors, bad sectors, and related issues.

If Windows detects errors or serious problems on the disk, you will get a notification asking you to run further scans on the disk. Otherwise, you will see the You don’t need to scan this drive message.

  • We want you to go with the additional scan procedure regardless of Windows’ advice. Click on the Scan drive option on the You don’t need to scan this drive window.

This other scan might take a while to reach completion. The speed of operations here is somewhat dependent on how fast your computer is.

In the end, if Windows fails to detect an issue with your disk, it will tell you about it. Otherwise, you will see a message that asks you to restart your computer to repair its file system. You will get the option to reboot your PC right away or wait and schedule the scan and error-fixing operation around the next startup event.

  • We recommend you restart your computer there and now. You might want to save all your work and close the applications currently open before you proceed.

After your computer boots up, the CHKDSK utility will come up to run checks on your disk and fix the issues it detects along the way. You must be patient here because the operations are likely to take a considerable amount of time. Anyway, the tool will provide a final report on the problems it found and the actions it took to resolve them. If further operations are needed, you will know what steps to take.

  • Assuming the scan and repair operations involving the CHKDKS utility went well and your computer has restarted, you have to confirm that the work you did has had an effect on the problem.

Other things you can try to resolve the Windows is reporting the wrong hard disk free space issue

If you are yet to resolve the problem that made you come to this page, then you might want to check our final recommendations.

  1. Scan your computer for viruses and malware:

Since the most effective procedures used to resolve the Windows not showing correct free space on hard drive issue failed to resolve the problem in your case, it is time you ran comprehensive scans for malicious programs on your computer. The problem in view might be tied to their activities, which means once the threats are detected and removed, your computer will start reporting the correct figures for the storage space available.

You can fire up the Windows Defender program and try out the scan options there. If you have an antivirus, then you will do well to go to its main menu and execute the Full scan operation for threats. If you are not satisfied with the results of tests you carried out, you can get Auslogics Anti-Malware and use this security utility to run comprehensive scans for malicious items, which the other programs might have missed. In any case, after the threat detection and removal operations, you will have to restart your computer to benefit from the changes that occurred.

  1. Format your hard disk and fix partition issues:

Sometimes, regular operations fall short of doing enough to resolve problems, especially when it comes to issues affecting drives. For example, if viruses and malware did serious damage to the data on your disk, their file systems, and so on, only a formatting procedure might be able to restore normality. The same thing goes for situations where your disk partition is damaged.

Invariably, you have to use the Disk Management application to perform tasks involving the formatting of your drive or the creation and removal of partitions. Unfortunately, in the worst-case scenario (where the detected issues cannot be resolved through regular operations), you might be forced to reinstall Windows 10.

TIP:

If you are encouraged by the success you achieved in getting your computer to report the correct figure for the storage space available on your disk, then you might be interested in executing operations that result in your system functioning better than before. Here, you need to run several optimizations and repairs. The tasks (besides being voluminous) are also quite tedious to perform, so you should be better off letting a program – such as Auslogics BoostSpeed – handle everything. The recommended application will do all the hard work needed (on your behalf) to improve your computer.

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