How to clear Windows PC storage to free up space on your hard drive

Having not enough storage space may not be a critical issue but can still be a nagging problem if left unaddressed. If you constantly get a reminder or error that your #Windows10 PC is running low of space but can’t decide what action to take first, our brief guide may help.

Before we proceed to the main topic though, we would like to remind you that we accept requests for assistance regarding their Windows computers. If you have a problem that you can’t seem to find a solution to, send us your issue by following the link at the bottom of this page. Just remember, windows problems can sometimes be difficult to diagnose so kindly make sure that you give us very detailed description of the problem. You want to mention relevant history that may have led to the issue. The more information that you can provide, the higher the chance of us diagnosing the issue more efficiently. We also expect that you mention whatever troubleshooting step/s that you may have done before contacting us in order to prevent repeating them in our article. Again, the more details you can give us, the faster it is for us to pinpoint the cause and its corresponding solution.


Uninstall apps and other programs

This should be the first consideration that you should do. Many Windows users tend to install apps or programs in their computer, then forget about them days later. Unused games, for example, can take several GBs out of your hard drive so if you no longer play one or more, be sure to remove them from the system. Today’s games can expand considerably once installed so if you have a limited hard drive space, a couple of them can easily eat up 100GBs.

Uninstalling a program is easy. Here’s how:

  1. Click on Start button.
  2. Click Settings.
  3. Click System.
  4. Click Apps & features.
  5. Go over the list of apps and click on the program you want to remove.
  6. Then, click on Uninstall button.

If the buttons below an app or program are greyed out, that means that said item is part of the pre-installed applications. You won’t be able to uninstall them.

You can sort the apps by size, name, and install date,  by clicking the second box below the Search box.

Use USB flash drive or external hard drive for music or downloaded contents

If you haven’t adapted streaming services like Pandora or Spotify to listen to music at this time and still continues to store your favorite tracks locally, we suggest that you transfer them to a removable media like a USB stick.Such devices come in variety of sizes and capacity and can be useful tools in freeing up more space in your hard drive.

If you tend to download large files all the time such as movies, you may want to consider saving them directly to a secondary storage device like a hard drive or USB flash drive instead of keeping them in your computer.

Turn off Windows 10 Hibernation feature

We only recommend this option if you badly need a few GBs of space in your computer. If your intention to free up space is more of maintenance rather than need, you can simply let Hibernation feature enabled.

Hibernation is a Windows feature that moves content in RAM to the hard drive. This allows a user to shut down the computer without losing the current session. Content in RAM can vary depending on your machine but it should be a minimum of a couple of GBs. Contents from RAM are moved to  the hiberfil.sys file located on the hard drive. Turn off Hibernation only if you have virtually no GBs left in your device.

To disable Hibernation in Windows 10, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click the Start button.
  2. Find and click Command Prompt (admin).
  3. If you set User Account Control setting to high, you may prompted if you want to open Windows Command Processor or not. Hit Yes.
  4. In the screen that shows, type the following command to turn off Hibernation: powercfg /hibernate off
  5. Hit Enter key.

Use OneDrive Files On-Demand

Another good alternative to save space in your hard drive is to use Microsoft’s OneDrive Files On-Demand. OneDrive Files On-Demand allows you to access your files without having to download them to your hard drive. This means that the files don’t physically take up precious space on your drive at all. All your files are saved in a remote server somewhere so they’re basically online-only types. As long as you have internet connection, these files will be accessible to you anytime.

To use OneDrive Files On-Demand, follow these steps:

  1. Sign in to your OneDrive account.
  2. If you deleted the OneDrive icon in the taskbar, you can look for it using the Search icon.
  3. Right-click the OneDrive cloud icon in the notification area, and select Settings.
  4. Click on the Settings tab.
  5. Under “Files On-Demand,” check the Save space and download files as you use them to enable the feature.
  6. Click OK.

Once you’ve enabled OneDrive Files On-Demand, you can then opt to keep your files online only. Online-only files won’t take up space in your hard drive. Online-only files are indicated by a cloud icon in File Explorer. You won’t be able to access online-only files when you’re offline.

Keep in mind though that when opening an online-only file, your computer will automatically download it to the OneDrive folder so you can then continue using it even when you don’t have internet connection. To free up space in OneDrive folder, follow these steps:

  1. Open your OneDrive folder.
  2. Select the files and folders to keep only in the cloud.
  3. Right-click the selection, and select Free up space.

Save local files or documents to the cloud

Aside from freeing space in OneDrive folder, you can also move (not copy) your local documents to OneDrive folder first. Doing so syncs them up to the cloud, making them online-only files as well. Once you’ve synced all of them, you can then do the Free up space procedure to clean up OneDrive folder.

Remember, OneDrive not only supports documents but other files types like photos, videos, music, etc. If you want, you can save these other files types to the cloud if you badly need more space. Microsoft only offers up to 5GB of free OneDrive storage. If you need more, visit Microsoft’s website for pricing schemes.

Delete cache and other temporary files

Windows can pile a lot temporary files if left unchecked for a long time. It’s not unusual for the Temp folder, where temporary files are kept, to balloon to several GBs. Temporary files are files used by the operating system to load files quickly or to retain temporary settings or customizations. To free up space in the Temp folder, kindly do these steps:

  1. Turn on your PC.
  2. Right-click on the Start button.
  3. Click Run.
  4. In the Run window that appears, type %temp%. Depending on the size of the Temp folder, it may take some moments to load the files fully.
  5. Highlight everything in the Temp folder by pressing CTRL+A.
  6. Delete all highlighted files and folders.
  7. Tap or click Skip if you’re presented with a File In Use or a Folder In Use warning during the temporary file deletion process. This is the way Windows remind you that the file or folder being deleted is being used by another program. Selecting Skip tells Windows to let the file or folder stay so you can move along with the deletion of other files or folders.
  8. Wait until all temporary files are deleted. This can take seconds or minutes, depending on the total size of the files and folders.
  9. Finally, locate Recycle Bin on your Desktop, right-click or tap-and-hold the icon, and then choose Empty Recycle Bin.

Use Disk Cleaner to erase unnecessary system files

Another easy way to get rid of junk files is by using Disk Cleaner. This procedure erases a lot of often-forgotten files tucked in the system somewhere. These files can include:
Windows Update Cleanup.

  • Windows upgrade log files.
  • Downloaded Program Files.
  • Temporary Internet Files.
  • System created Windows Error Reporting.
  • Delivery Optimization Files.
  • Recycle Bin.
  • Temporary files.
  • Temporary Windows Installation Files.
  • Previous Windows installation(s).

To use Disk Cleanup tool, you can do the following:

  1. Launch File Explorer by opening any folder.
  2. On the left panel, find This PC and right click on it.
  3. Select Properties.
  4. Click the Disk Cleanup button.
  5. Click the Cleanup system files button.
  6. Delete the files you want to delete.
  7. Click OK.
  8. Click Delete Files.

Erase junk files with Storage sense

Microsoft recognizes the fact that a lot of Windows 8 and 8.1 users may find themselves short of available space following their Windows 10 upgrade so they equipped their latest OS with Storage sense. This new feature scans the system and identifies possible junk system files that a user can delete easily. Such junk system files can include the old version of your Windows OS, which can take about 10GBs.

To use Storage sense:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click on Storage.
  4. Under “Storage sense,” click on Change how we free up space link.
  5. Under “Temporary files,” check the files you want to delete, including:
    • Delete temporary files that my apps aren’t using.
    • Delete files that have been in the recycle bin for over 30 days.
    • Delete files in the Downloads folder that haven’t changed in 30 days.

Once you’ve completed the steps above, hit the Clean now button.

If you want, you can delete the previous version of Windows under Free up space now section. This option is only available during the first ten days after installing a new feature update.

Use Compact OS

Windows 10 has brought a lot of new things that were absent from previous iterations. One such novel features is a tool called Compact OS. What it does is to allow a user to compress file size of installation files and programs.

Before you decide on using this tool, make sure that you create a full backup of your system. Compact OS will modify core system files and programs and may potentially bring risks with it.

  1. Right-click the Start button.
  2. Find and click Command Prompt (admin).
  3. If you set User Account Control setting to high, you may prompted if you want to open Windows Command Processor or not. Hit Yes.
  4. Type the following command to compress the Windows 10 and applications and press Enter: Compact.exe /CompactOS:always

Once you’ve hit the Enter button, Compact OS will begin doing its job. It may take 20 to 30 minutes depending on how fast your PC can speed things up.

If you want to undo the changes, follow the same instructions but on step 4, use Compact.exe /CompactOS:never.

Transfer non-system files to hard drive

If all the above tweaks won’t help, or enough in providing the space you need, you should consider getting an external hard drive. If you tend to pile up stuff rather fast, an external hard drive can be a handy alternative. Hard drives are now getting thinner in size, gaining significant capacity but at the same time becoming more affordable.

Once you have the hard drive, make sure to format it first using the computer you’re connecting it to. Here’s how:

  1. Connect the external hard drive to your Windows 10 PC.
  2. Right-click the Start button.
  3. Open Control Panel.
  4. Click Administrative Tools.
  5. Click Computer Management.
  6. Click Disk Management.
  7. Right-click on the drive or partition to format and click on Format.
  8. Select the file system and set the cluster size. Click OK to format the drive.

Now that you’ve prepared the hard drive, you can begin moving (don’t use copy) non-system files such as photos, videos, music, etc. to it.


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