How to Upgrade to the latest Windows 10 Feature Update on a Drive with Limited Space

Technical Level : Basic


Microsoft continues to refine Windows 10 since its launch in 2015. The next revision of Windows 10 is even easier for users to install. Previously, we covered upgrading earlier versions of Windows 10 on devices with limited space. Earlier versions of Windows 10 did not define this option clearly. In the Creators Update, when Windows 10 detects an installation on a drive with limited space, it will prominently let the user know there is not enough space. In this article, we show you how it works.

PSA: Create Backup Reinstall Media for Your Current Version of Windows 10 Before Upgrading to Windows 10 Creators Update

Before setup starts copying files to the drive, one of the pre-requisite tasks performed is determining how much space is available. Windows 10 Creators Update requires a minimum 10 GB’s of free space. If you don’t have enough, setup will recommend a couple options.

  • Free Up Disk Space – Windows 10 setup will give you the option of running the Disk Cleanup wizard, which you can use to free up space in a number of areas. This includes removing previous versions of Windows, temporary files and old system restore points. Users should note, recent versions of Windows 10 such as the Anniversary Update, includes a comprehensive storage management interface, which you can use to determine what is using your disk space.

  • Attach an external storage device – if you have an external hard disk or USB thumb drive with a minimum 10 Gbs of free space, you can utilize it to facilitate the installation. Windows 10 setup will maximize the drive to store, archive and move around temporary files during installation. If you already have files on the drive, no need to worry, they will not be deleted; Windows 10 will move files to a folder on the drive called Windows.old. If in the near future, you decide you need to go back to your previous version, you will need to utilize the drive to restore it.

For the purposes of this article, I am going to use the second option. After connecting on an external hard disk or USB thumb drive, click the refresh button or click in the list box then select the attached storage device. Thats it, click Continue to begin the installation. Please note, setup can take longer to complete if you are using a mechanical drive. Using a flash drive might be faster.

Remember, if you do decide to go back to your previous version of Windows, you must attach the external storage device in order to facilitate the rollback.

Check out our previous article to learn more about using this feature if you are currently attempting to upgrade to the Windows 10 Anniversary Update.

If you are updating through Windows Update

If you experience a limited space issue through Windows Update while updating to Windows 10 1703, an error message will appear with the option to Fix issue. Click the 'Fix issue' button; this will start a wizard to help you facilitate the upgrade using an external storage device. Click the link I want to use external storage instead

Connect your external hard disk, then click in the second list box, choose your external hard disk.

Click the Refresh button to make sure that it is detected then click Continue.

Click the close button, Windows Update will pick up from where it left off then continue with the installation.

Click Restart when prompted to continue with the installation, do not disconnect the external hard disk.


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Excellent articel, but this seems not to work for the Windows Creators Upgarade: the second option - Attach an external storage device - is missing!

Please see my post Windows 10 Creators Upgrade - Not Enough Space and no option to Attach an external storage device

Geez, I don't even have enough space to even install the recent very large KB4019472 "Patch Tuesday" update on my 32GB HP Stream.  I wonder if it is possible to bypass that patch and install the Creators Update (if it gives the option for an external drive like the Anniversary Update eventually did). In other words is the Creators Update cumulative and would include KB4010472, at which point I could manually download and install it?  Unfortunately regular Patch Tuesday updates don't give the option to use external storage. 

Thanks for the link.  however, unlike previous upgrades I am not being offered the opportunity to attach an external drive, only being told to free up more space.  The only folder which would benefit me is the "users" folder and sub folders, but windows wont let me move it.

Windows Explorer recognises my connected external drive and I can copy and paste "ordinary" files to and from it.  Most of my files are on the cloud so I don't have any other folders I can empty to create enough space.  Can anyone advise how I make windows offer me the option of attaching an external hard drive rather than just telling me to delete files please?


Can you confirm if these instructions are for Windows 10 Home edition.

My screens look totally different to these.

Also, like others, I am trying to update a 32GB tablet which can only have 6 GB of free space unless I start uninstalling lots of stuff. So any ideas gratefully received.

After trying every known method known to man to free up space on the 32GB drive of my laptop and being unable to perform any more Windows Updates, I installed Linux Mint 18.3. Problem solved as I have plenty of room now, it solved several other problems I was having, and my laptop is blazingly fast now.

All that is well and good, but Win10 does not see the USB stick.

VirtualBox sees it, and says it is enabled.  

The controller is OHCI, with the choices of USB 2 and 3 grayed out.

My guess is Win10 cannot see and read from the OHCI controller.

Whatever the reason, I cannot get Win10 to go to external storage.

What to do now?

Same problem here. Windows 10 explorer sees the USB stick, but Windows Update does not. I've tried many different things, moving the stick to a different USB slot, removing the other USB devices, formatting the drive to NTFS, but I am not offered the opton of using the external USB drive.

I have the exact same problem.. deleted everything of my hard drive but still get lack of space update error and no option to add external storage... any solutions?

This is what worked for me. I was about to give up because I was doing it for my Mom remotely Via TeamViewer and couldn't get to the computer to ad a drive. Just follow the directions to clear the softwaredistribution folder. That gave me the space I needed.

Then run MediaCreationTool and update.

Good luck


I get the error after the picking the USB option and it runs for a good long time.

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Last updated October 20, 2020 Views 120,284 Applies to: