How to free up disk space in Windows

Technical Level : Basic


If you have been using your computer for a while, you will notice your storage device (hard disk or SSD) will begin losing space over time. Factors for this includes the data we store on the drive such as our documents, photos, music, videos and other files. Limited space is especially an issue if you are using a Ultrabook which often comes with a low capacity SSD drive. There are some common work arounds for this which includes archiving older files to an external hard disk. For some persons though, this is not an option. So whats eating up that space and how can I free it up to get back some of it? Lets find out.


Instructions for this article can be applies to Windows Vista and later versions.

Windows over time will accumulate data outside of the normal types of data we store. This can include things like copies of Windows Updates, memory dump files used to diagnose and troubleshoot error messages, temporary internet files for web pages we often visit and Windows Upgrade files, commonly used to assist with installing updates for Windows. Sometimes we don't need this type of information and removing it can free up precious disk space inaddition to improving overall system performace.

Computer Explorer displaying the amount of disk space available

The above screenshot displays amount disk space I have remaining on my system drive.

Windows setup checking for available disk space.

Having enough disk space is especially important if you are performing task such as upgrading to the new Windows 10. It is one of the the first things Windows setup checks before it starts copying files. Large programs too will often require that you have enough disk space available.

Lets start.

Launch Disk Cleanup, the quickest way is this:

Press Windows key + R then type: cleanmgr.exe

Then hit Enter

Windows 7/Vista/XP > Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup

Windows 8/8.1/10 > Windows key + S > type disk cleanup > hit Enter on your keyboard

Windows 10 > Start > All Apps > Windows Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup

Once Disk cleanup opens, select the drive where Windows is installed if its not already.

Windows will scan your hard disk for files it can clean up.

Note some of these files too can include older installations of Windows. For example, if you upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 10 a copy will be kept at the root of the hard disk in a folder called Windows.old. Please becareful though, this folder can actually be useful if you need to go back to your previous version of Windows for whatever reason. So be mindful before deleting it. Removing it though can significantly free up disk space.

After Disk Cleanup is finished scanning, you will see the Disk Cleanup window. This window provides a list of areas of the system you can clean up safely. Before we start cleaning up the system, you will notice appears on the window called Clean up system files. Clean it and the Disk Cleanup will run a thorough check of the system again to include every file that can be removed.

Location/Type Description Safe to Delete
Downloaded Program Files Downloaded Program Files are ActiveX controls and Java applets downloaded automatically from the Internet when you view certain pages. They are temporarily stored in the Downloaded Program Files folder on your hard disk. YES
Temporary Internet Files The Temporary Internet Files folder contains webpages stored on your hard disk for quick viewing. Your personalized settings for webpages will be left intact. Personally, I suggest you keep this if you are on a slow connection and need the basic elements of web pages you often visit to load faster. Keep It
Offline Webpages Offline pages are webpages that are stored on your computer so you can view them without being connected to the Internet. If you delete these pages now, you can still view your favorites offline later by synchronizing them. Your personalized settings for webpages will be left intact. I also recommend you leave this alone since you might be on a slow connection and need quick access to a webpage with some specific content. Keep It
Recycle Bin The Recycle Bin contains files you have deleted from your computer. These files are not permanently removed until you empty the Recycle Bin. Sometimes you might inadvertently delete a file that you didn’t intend to delete permanently, so before you empty the contents of the Recycle Bin, do a thorough check before. YES
Temporary files Programs sometimes store temporary information in the TEMP folder. Before a program closes., it usually deletes this information. You can safely delete files that have not been modified in over a week. You can view the contents of the temp directory and see if there is anything in there you might need. Open the Run Command (Windows key + R), type in %temp% > hit OK. Sometimes program installers for common applets are stored there that you can use to reinstall such as Adobe Flash for instance if you don’t want to redownload it every time. YES
Thumbnails Windows keeps a copy of all your picture, video, and document thumbnails so they can be displayed quickly when you open a folder. If you delete these thumbnails, they will be automatically recreated as needed. I don’t see any problems deleting it if its gonna be recreated, but deleting it sometimes can correct problems with previews of photos and videos. YES
Debug Dump Files When your computer experiences a system hang because of a poorly written application or device driver, Windows intelligently creates a log of what happened. This log can be used along with other logs such as System error memory dump files to help diagnose the problem when sent to Microsoft or the developer for review. Keep It
System error memory dump files Similar to the Debug Dump files, memory error dumps happen when poorly written drivers or applications crash. It is very handy for utilities built into Windows such as Troubleshooters which help in diagnosing problems that occur in Windows. Keep It

 The most common locations are Temporary files, Temporary Internet Files, Recycle Bin to name a few. Other not so common locations include the Thumbnail Cache which stores previews of your images allowing you load them faster when you open the Pictures Library or Windows Live Photo Gallery. This I do not recommend you delete for obvious purposes. Lets dig a little deeper. Disk Cleanup provides a list of areas where you can free up disk space and gain additional speed in some cases.

In addition to these common locations, Windows will also store information related to Error reporting and solution checking, leave these for diagnosis that can help resolve issues with applications or devices. Also, if you do an upgrade from Windows Vista or clean install, Windows 7 might store information related to servicing which are logs used to assist the installation of the operating system. Once you have checked these locations for clean up, click the OK button and these locations will be cleaned out.

As I noted earlier, the Windows.old folder is basically a backup of your old installation of Windows, which you can use to reinstall Windows if you decide to return to your previous installation. Also, its used as a last resort in case you didn’t backup your files and need to recover personal files and settings. The Windows.old folder can use up a considerable amount of your hard disk space. Its normally stored at the root of your hard disk where Windows 7 is installed. Before you delete it, make sure you check through the directories and ensure that everything migrated successfully to your current version of Windows.

Once you have determined what to remove, click OK then click the Delete Files button to begin.

Click Yes if you are ok with the action that will be taken.

System Restore – System Restore keeps a large collection of System Restore Points in addition to storing them in your System Images of Windows 7. A friend had recently upgraded to Windows 10 and he asked me why he was low on hard disk space. He had a 320 GB drive and only had about 70 GBs of free disk space left after doing a disk cleanup. It was then I discovered that System Protection had been configured to use about 200 GBs of  disk space to keep System Restore Points.

Configuring System Protection settings

To configure System Protection, click Start, type: System Protection, hit Enter. Under Protection Settings, click the Configure button. A dialog will appear with various settings for configuring Restoration and Disk space usage. Under the Disk space usage tab, you will see the current amount of space in use by System Restore while the Max usage displays the amount allocated. Use the Max usage knob to configure how much disk space you want to allocate to System Protection. In the above screenshot, you will see that I am using 21.05 GBs for Restore Points, while I have allocated 22.36 GBs of disk space for System Protection. You also have the option of deleting all Restore Points which stores System settings and previous versions of files. I suggest you leave this, since you will be able to individually restore changes to files you are working on. So for instance, if you edited an image and would like to restore it to a previous version or original version of the file. 


What are the editions of Windows 10 available?

How to: Rollback to a previous version of Windows from Windows 10

Frequently Asked Questions: Windows 10

What are the editions of Windows 10 available?

How to: Do a custom installation of Windows

How to: Do a clean install of Windows 10

How to: upgrade from previous versions of Windows using Windows 10 ISO file

* Please try a lower page number.

* Please enter only numbers.

* Please try a lower page number.

* Please enter only numbers.

Halfway through the "check to see how much space will be made" the calculating gets stuck and takes me back to start the process again. What to do please?

Halfway through the "check to see how much space will be made" the calculating gets stuck and takes me back to start the process again. What to do please?

Lot of good information here but unfortunately after completing all those steps I still don't have enough room to install Win 10 due to limited space on 32GB SSD is reduced to 23.2GB after OEM formatting & required programs to operate the device uses most of that space which gives you about 5GB to work with.

Lot of good information here but unfortunately after completing all those steps I still don't have enough room to install Win 10 due to limited space on 32GB SSD is reduced to 23.2GB after OEM formatting & required programs to operate the device uses most of that space which gives you about 5GB to work with.

This is my issue too.  I'd love to know some workarounds, although it would seem the only option at this point would to be to wipe the SSD and do a fresh install through boot. :-[

This isnt cleaning up or removing point64.sys from Windows.old folder

Useful information, but doesn't clear much space. Hey Microsoft, how about a way to get rid of built in programs and apps you don't use or want? That'll free up a lot of space.

Hi, I am using windows 10 with 150 GBs of disk space. I found that the windows' folder is about 50 GBs, which is far greater than the listed in the system specification. I did disk cleanup and limited the disk usage by system restore to 6 GBs and still has the great size of windows on the disk. can you help me with this, please?
I'm having a really bad time updating my HP tablet due to the space issue. I think that Microsoft just put so much focus in making this release awesome, that forgot to make it usable. One thing is promoting these unexpensive tablets and another thing is to fully support them. Requesting more than 50% of my tablet disk space considering that when I started it for the first time it had 12 GB free is simply putting users in the spotlight. All the suggestions I found online makes reference to general wwindows tools that offer little hope. I read before in this post that it can use as little as 8 GB, that would be great for default if it has such capability. I hope in the future the algorithm to install won't require to uncompress all the stuffs. 

I posted earlier about this a year ago, see above, and later on I was able to update my tablets without a problem due to the limited memory because I was able to select my memory chip which has much more memory than the extremely limited memory of the tablet itself.

When trying to update it will tell you that you don't have enough memory but if you look closely it should give you the option to change location to a memory chip if you installed one.  This option wasn't available when Win10 first came out but a couple months later it was.

Hopefully you are able to install a memory chip to get the option I mentioned.

Windows Insider MVP
MVP-Windows and Devices for IT

Hi, I have had this issue so first I done a clean install after formatting C drive, then changed settings to install all new apps to 3.0 flash drive.

On my 32 GB Emmc drive this resulted in having 11.3 GB free and the Apps from flash Drive worked well.

Now after September patch Tuesday updates the free space was reduced to 9.8 Gb free !!!!.

So now I have used Windows inbuilt" COMPRESS System Files" and now I have 13.1GB free and all works well.

Hope my history with this issue helps.

* Please try a lower page number.

* Please enter only numbers.

* Please try a lower page number.

* Please enter only numbers.


Forum Article Info

Last updated November 28, 2020 Views 157,787 Applies to: