Dealing with Low Disk Space in Windows

Problem Description - Getting low on hard disk space:

Dealing with Low Disk Space in Windows

This section explains how to determine what disk space you have left and how to increase your hard disk space.

Low disk space can cause the following problems / symptoms:

  • Errors on some software updates / upgrades, or installing programs
  • Windows Operating System is running slowly (typically begins when free space matches the total memory size).
  • The Windows 7 system may crash if the disk space is extremely low (less than 500Mb)
  • You start seeing "Low Disk Space alerts!"

When the free space of a specific partition is lower than 10% of the total storage space, that partition will present itself with a red bar.

Older computers will accumulate enormous amounts of (usually) hidden useless temporary files over time. I have seen this waste value go as high as 15Gb.

Warning! DO NOT use (any) Registry Cleaner tools, as these may cause potential problems for non-technical users. These tools are best for skilled users.

Resolution Process - determining your hard disk space:

Follow these steps to determine what hard disk space is available on your computer.

  • Double-click My Computer.
  • Click the drive to which you are installing the software.
  • Right-click the drive to which you are installing the software (usually, this is C:) and select Properties.
  • On the General tab, note the amount of free space.

My Computer

  • Keep the Properties dialog open as you read the following information.

It is possible that you need more space to install your new software than the minimum system requirements states in the software product documentation. A good rule of thumb is you need twice as much space as stated. To increase hard disk space follow the instructions in the next section below.

If you are certain you have enough space to install the software on your computer, something other issue is causing the error. Click OK to close the Properties dialog, and visit our Contact page for a workshop service and booking.

Make Decisions:The very first step is to find out how much space the operating system and your data and programs are using on your system. Once you know that, you can decide what to remove.

An excellent tool for helping you see this visually is TreeSize free. It is small windows program that does not need to have a complex install and it shows you what files and folders are using the most space on your computer. See an example below:


TreeSize Free scan and view disk space hogs


Increase your hard disk space:

There are several ways you can increase your hard disk space. One easy way is to use the Windows utility "Disk Cleanup". Disk Cleanup searches your drive and then walks you through the process of deleting:

  • Temporary Internet files
  • Downloaded program files
  • Files in the Recycle Bin
  • Files in your Temp folder
  • Optional Windows components that you do not use
  • Installed programs that you do not use

You can direct "Disk Cleanup" to delete some or all of the files it identifies.

To use Disk Cleanup:

  • Click Disk Cleanup in the Properties dialog. The Disk Cleanup dialog opens and your drive is scanned.

Windows Disk Cleanup

  • After you drive has been scanned, a dialog for the drive you are scanning opens.

Disk Cleanup Options

  • On the Disk Cleanup tab, select the items you want to remove from your hard drive. Usually, Downloaded Program Files, Temporary Internet Files, Recycle Bin, and Temporary Files. To view the files that will be deleted, click View Files. If you want to keep a file, create a folder and drag and drop the file you want to keep into it.
  • Click OK to start cleanup.

Optionally, you can clean unused Windows components and installed programs using the "More Options" tab of the Disk Cleanup dialog. For more information, search the Windows Help by selecting Start > Help or double-clicking My Computer and selecting Help > Help Topics. Search for Disk Cleanup, Windows Components, or Add/Remove Programs.

If you do not want to use Disk Cleanup, you can do use the following items to free up space on your hard drive.

  • Empty the Recycle Bin:On your Desktop, right-click the Recycle Bin, and then click Empty Recycle Bin. If you are prompted to confirm that you want to delete the files, click Yes.
  • Delete files in your Temp directory:See Clean Disk Cleanup.
  • Remove Installed Programs:Uninstall programs that you do not use:

    1. Click Start > Settings > Control Panel > Add/Remove Programs
    2. Select any programs that you do not used and click Change/Remove.

Note: It may be necessary to restart your computer after uninstalling the programs you do not want. If you are uninstalling more than one program, you can choose not to restart until you have uninstalled all programs.

  • Delete temporary Internet files:

    1. Click Start > Settings > Control Panel > Internet
    2. On the General tab, click Delete Files

removing temp internet files


Reduce / Trim the System Restore Points:

Free up more disk space by reducing the number of 'System Restore' points.

  • Windows 7: Select Start/Control Panel/System, then in the System Properties window click on the System Restore tab (see image)
  • Windows 10: Search for system restore in the Windows 10 Search box. When the System Properties dialog box appears, click the System Protection tab and then click the Configure button (see image)

Windows 7 System Restore example

Windows 7 System Restore Settings

Windows 10 System Restore example

Windows 10 System Restore Settings

On Windows 10, System Restore is turned off by default, but you can use the following steps to enable it:

  • Click the result System Properties (shown above)
  • Under "Protection Settings," select the main system drive, and click the Configure button.

Windows 10 System Restore Settings

Enable Windows 10 system protection option and use the slider to set the amount of storage

Windows 10 System Restore Settings

Summary: Reducing the ‘Disk space to use’ down to 5% will free up some disk space. Typically, restore points more than a two weeks old are of minimal value. If the space you currently have allocated is set to the typical default value of 12% reducing the size to about 5% will not only free up space but it will also remove a (large) number of the older restore points that are wasting space.


Information