Storage may be more affordable these days, but that doesn’t mean it’s unlimited. With games now taking up hundreds of gigabytes, Windows updates needing significantly more space than they used to, and photos that use 22 Megapixel per photo, you may find your drive filling up more often. Emptying your recycle bin is one of the quickest ways to free up space. But it doesn't end there. Fortunately, we have a few quick tricks to help you clear clutter for whatever you need.
Uninstall unnecessary apps and bloatware
This also may seem like a simple idea, but Windows comes with a bunch of applications and features that may be useless to you. Go into the App Settings window, and you'll be able to remove applications quickly through the menu there.
Third party tools like Revo Uninstaller can help in this task, and make it a 3-click affair. These tools can also delete any leftover files after using Window's solutions ensuring that everything is cleaned up.
Going to Settings > System > Storage, will offer you a chance to see how much space is being taken up by Temporary files or Downloads. Clicking on Temporary Files allows you to get a more granular understanding of the storage usage, and you can select the checkboxes, that apply when you press the “Remove files” button.
One extra way to take control of your space is to use Windows built-in Disk Cleanup utility. Disk Cleanup is part of the Windows Administrative Tools folder in your Start Menu, or you can just search for it within the menu.
Upon launch, choose the drive to clean up and the application will show all the items you can clean up, from temporary files to thumbnails, and system files like previous Windows installations (and Windows.old folders) and files needed for updates. Select what you want to delete, and hit “OK” to finish the task.
More recent versions of Windows 10 have an automated disk cleanup utility known as Storage Sense. Find it in the System Settings > Storage.
Setting up Storage Sense allows Windows to automatically delete temporary files as well as items in your downloads and Recycle Bin after a set period.
Default Save Locations
Windows sets the default save locations for documents, videos, pictures, downloads and other items to a folder on the drive Windows is installed on. Those who use a lean drive for the operating system, but other drives for games and files, will want to change this setting to free up space on the main drive.
Clicking the “Change where new content is saved” button will allow you to do that. This page will allow you to change the default save locations and even install locations for new files and apps.
OneDrive "Files On-Demand"
Those of you relying on OneDrive can also use a handy feature known as Files On-Demand. While the cloud drive account is handy for saving files in a centralized location, OneDrive also lets you use files in an online-only format, downloading the item when you need it, and deleting the local file when space is low.
To turn this feature on, go to your OneDrive settings, and check the box under Files On-Demand. Then when you see your OneDrive files, they will be presented in three different statuses: blue cloud files are only available online, items with a green checkmark in a white circle are locally stored files that will revert to the cloud when you run short on space, and files with a white checkmark in a green circle are locally stored, which won’t get reverted to the cloud.
If you have shared your PC with someone who no longer uses the device, you can delete their account along with the files and folders associated with them. This is done through the Account Settings.
Click on the Family & Other Users item on the sidebar, then select the account that is no longer in use. From there, click the Remove button which will trigger an extra dialogue about deleting the account and data. Once you decide to delete the account, you’ll be freeing up the space used by that user on your drive.
Hibernation is an energy efficient alternative to putting your computer to sleep. It writes your current system state to the drive, and allows you to turn off the PC and return to that state when you turn it back on. It also takes up several gigabytes of space. In order to disable it, open a command prompt as a administrator and type in the following:
powercfg /hibernate off
This will help save you plenty of storage, though Hibernate will be disabled. If you want to re-enable Hibernate, just open a command prompt as a administrator again and type enter the following: powercfg /hibernate on
Beyond Windows Tools
If these tips are too simple and aren't getting the job done, then it will be wise to get a disk analysis tool. There are a few options like WinDirStat or Space Sniffer which analyze a drive, and provide a visualization of what folders and files are taking up the most space.
These visualizations can better demonstrate how much space an application, program or game is using, and you can find large folders or files in specific locations that are sometimes hidden or hard to find.
This is a great way to find and delete temporary files from specific applications, or user data that's no longer necessary. For example, within the Windows AppData folder are caches and temporary files for browsers, messengers and game clients, which might be ripe for deletion. Other folders, can include temporary installers for AMDs or Nvidia's driver package installers.
If you need ideas of places where you might be able to regain some storage space, here's a few:
Sometimes Windows has a significant number of old and unnecessary files within its System folder. Using tools like DriverStore Explorer can help clear up cached and outdated drivers.
There is also a lot of space reserved for Windows Component Store Files (in \Windows\WinSxS), used in customizing and updating Windows, and system recovery operations. If you're desperate to clear some space, enter this in a command prompt:
dism.exe /Online /Cleanup-Image /StartComponentCleanup /ResetBase
This action will remove outdated files as well as verify and repair the latest system files. Performing this will impact your ability to roll back after an update though, but it can save significant amounts of space.
Finding and Deleting Duplicate Files
Clearing out file duplicates is a great way to free up space, but it isn't always the easiest process. Fortunately, there are a few third-party tools that can make the job easier.
CCleaner includes a duplicate file finder tool, as does Total Commander. Some applications specialize in finding and deleting duplicate files including CloneSpy, Wise Duplicate Finder, Duplicate Cleaner and DupScout.