There is nothing more frustrating than getting the “not enough space on disk” popup when you’re trying to work, run a program, play a video game, or even just use the internet on your Windows computer. But if your hard drive is full, it is not a problem that you should just ignore. When your internal hard drive doesn’t have enough space to manage tasks, your computer will start slowing down and some programs may refuse to open or function properly until you’ve freed up some storage space.
So, are you getting a “hard drive full” message or a similar variation on your Windows computer? Is your computer slowing down for no apparent reason? Can you hear your computer working harder just to manage simple tasks? If so, the culprit could be a lack of adequate storage.
In today’s guide, we will offer you step-by-step instructions to free up disk space on Windows computers, including easy fixes and programs specifically designed to keep your computer running at peak efficiency.
Clear Disk Space The Easy Way
Every computer needs free space to be able to manage a wide variety of tasks. Consequently, when your hard drive is full (or almost full), things start to slow down and even crash. Your operating system needs a minimum amount of free space to manage regular background tasks, like minimizing excessive IP fragmentation and creating temporary files. Ironically, these actions are especially crucial when your disk space is running low.
To avoid making your computer sluggish, you should ensure that your computer has some free disk space at all times. There is no perfect amount of space required for your computer to run smoothly. That said, many IT experts recommend keeping a minimum of 500 MB to 1 GB of free space on your hard disk. Ideally, you should have more space available, as temporary files can quickly eat up this space.
On Windows, you can check your disk’s free space by using File Explorer and selecting “This PC.” This will show you a complete list of your drives and how much space each drive has left. If you want to find your main drive, it is often named “Windows (C:)” by default.
Even if you have at least 500 MB available in all of your drives, you may still find your computer running slowly. This can happen if you’re trying to run multiple programs at once or your computer is creating a lot of temporary files to prevent data from being lost. Either way, here are two easy ways to free up some space and make it easier to use your computer:
Empty The Recycle Bin
It may sound obvious, but one of the easiest ways to free up space is to simply clean up your computer. Cleaning your computer works much like cleaning your home. You take the things that you don’t need or no longer use and throw them in the trash or recycle bin. When your recycle bin is full, you throw all of the contents out.
Fortunately, this task can usually be done much faster on your computer. For example, if you already have a full recycle bin, you can go ahead and empty it by finding the recycle bin on your desktop, right-clicking the icon, and then selecting “Empty Recycle Bin.” If you’re like many people, you may accumulate a lot of unused or junk files on your desktop. To clean up your desktop and free up some space, you can drag and drop these items into the recycle bin. Just remember that emptying your recycling bin permanently deletes these files, so make sure you don’t accidentally throw away anything that you (or your computer) need.
Uninstall Programs (unused ones)
Programs typically take up a lot of space on your drive. This could be anything from a music player to a video game you installed years ago. In any case, you will need to find the programs you no longer use before you start uninstalling anything. To search for programs, open the Control Panel on the Windows search bar and select “Uninstall a Program” in earlier versions of Windows or “Programs and Features” in newer versions. This will bring up a list of programs on your computer and you can choose which ones to uninstall.
Even uninstalling one large program could free up several gigabytes of space, making it well worth the time and effort. However, it’s best to wait to uninstall any programs you don’t recognize, as they may be vital to the basic operations of your computer. Even if it’s potentially malicious software, you can always research it later and take the necessary steps to remove it from your computer. In the meantime, focus on uninstalling programs that you recognize but no longer use.
Free Up Space With Storage Sense
If your computer runs on the Windows 10 or Windows 11 operating systems, you can use Storage Sense to automatically delete unnecessary files and prevent storage-related sluggishness. The program works by deleting unused temporary files as soon as your computer’s hard disk space starts running low. This way, you don’t even need to worry about finding files or emptying your Recycle Bin. StorageSense takes care of everything for you.
While Storage Sense comes preinstalled on computers running Windows 10 or 11, it is turned off by default. To turn Storage Sense on, go to Settings > System > Storage, and then set Storage Sense to “on.” You can also manage what kind of files are automatically deleted by the Storage Sense program. Just keep in mind that Storage Sense only works on your main system drive. If you have any additional internal drives, you’ll need to free up storage manually or use a different program.
Clean Hard Drive With Disk Cleanup
The most common alternative to Storage Sense is Disk Cleanup. They both carry out the same basic function, with two important differences. First, Disk Cleanup is available on older Windows machines (unlike Storage Sense). Disk Cleanup is also available on Windows 10 and 11 as a legacy tool. And second, Storage Sense can delete files automatically in the background. With Disk Cleanup, you need to conduct a search for unneeded files and then manually choose to delete them.
To access Disk Cleanup, go to Start > Administrative tools > Disk Cleanup, and then select your system disk drive. Like Storage Sense, you can choose which kinds of files you want to delete. While Disk Cleanup only looks for temporary, unused, and non-essential files, it is still a good idea to double-check what you’re throwing out before you delete anything permanently.
Use WinDirstat To Find Your Largest Non-System Files
WinDirstat is a free, open-source disk manager for Windows. By downloading WindDirstat, you can get a visualization of your disk space, including your computer’s largest files. This makes it easier to find the culprit(s) if you are constantly running out of available storage. Once you’ve found large files that are not needed to run your operating system or other important programs, you can uninstall or delete them as needed.
Use An External Hard Drive
Thus far, we’ve covered all the ways you can delete programs and non-essential files. But what if you have large files that you want to keep? For example, you may have hundreds of photos and videos that you don’t want to delete. In this case, you can offload these files from your computer’s internal hard drive and move them to an external hard drive.
This is especially useful if your main hard drive is an SSD, as these are very fast but typically smaller in size. By moving large files to an external drive, you can get more space and less speed. Since the external drive is only used for storage, the slower speed is not much of an issue.
Alternatively, you may not want to manage one or more physical hard drives. In this case, you can move some of your files to cloud-based storage and delete them from your computer’s hard drive. This way, you can access your files whenever you need them over the internet.