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How to Free up Space on Your Hard Drive on Windows

how to increase space on hard drive on windows

Last Updated on March 27, 2021 by Muhammad Junaid Khalid


“Your hard drive is full”. All of us have seen this flash on our screens from time to time and have come to dread these words. You might wonder what is taking up hard drive space, especially if you brought a new PC. Seeing this notification pop up on your PC is stress-inducing for sure, especially if you are busy with something important. However, fret not. We can help you free space on your hard drive! If you are in a hurry, follow our quick tips, and follow up with the rest of the article for more long-term solutions.

Quick Tips to Free Space on Your Hard Drive

  • Use the Disk Cleanup utility:

Navigate to This PC, right-click on it, select Properties and then select Disk Cleanup. Here, you can select folders to clear, and there may also be an option for deleting system files. This is the safest method to free space on your hard drive and empties the Recycle Bin as well.

  • Delete unnecessary programs

Using the Control Panel, or from Settings > Apps > Under Apps & Features. Here, you can sort apps by size, name, or install date. Select the app you want to get rid of and click on the uninstall button.

  • Delete temporary (temp) files

Open Settings > System > Storage. The app categorizes what is taking up hard drive space automatically. Click on the Temporary files tile, and the app scans and lists which temp files are safe for deletion. Carefully check the boxes for what to delete and click on “Remove files.”

  • Clear your browser’s cache

For Chrome, simply press Ctrl + Shift + Del, or open the menu from the three dots on the top right corner. Click on More Tools > Clear browsing data to view what to delete.

  • Check your Downloads folder

Plenty of browsers, torrent clients and other programs save files to the Downloads folder by default.

  • In the same vein, check other user folders (Documents, Pictures, Videos, Music) for unnecessary files such as multiple copies of the same file. If you are unsure what to delete, sort files by date modified, or by size. You might want to keep the newest version or delete large older files.
  • If you play games on your PC, try deleting some save files to free space on your hard drive. Most save files can be found in Documents or in the Program Files where the game data is stored, usually in a folder named ‘save files’.
  • When all else fails, move files to a portable storage device such as a memory stick, SD card, etc. Make sure the files you move don’t link to other projects, which may result in missing objects, etc.


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Dedicated Disk Drive Cleanup

Grab your digital shovels – time for some serious digging to free space on your hard drive! How quickly your hard drive is full depends upon your hard drive’s capacity, and yes – your habits.

Are you working with a lot of graphics? Do you test a lot of apps, or build them? Do you download a lot of media content, such as movies and music? How often do you clear your Recycle Bin and temp files? All these factors determine how soon you see that “hard drive is full” message.

What is Taking up Hard Drive Space?

Unless you pay close attention, you might be surprised at how space fills up. The main C: drive is usually home to the Windows operating system. If you installed Windows in C this is also where your Documents, Downloads, Pictures, Music, and Videos folders live.

You can see where the problem lies – the OS takes up plenty of space with updates and system files, while you install programs and accumulate files of your own.

In time, you find out that your hard drive is full, and you need to clear space on your hard drive. But first, you need to see what is taking up space on your hard drive. Instead of wasting time going through folders one by one, nail down where your files tend to accumulate.

There are two ways to go about this. The most convenient is through Windows built-in storage settings or a third-party app such as WinDirStat.

·         Using Windows Settings

Navigate to Settings > System > Storage to see a breakdown of your disk space usage. Select a category to delete.

·         Using WinDirStat

This nifty program provides a visual representation of space used, arranged according to what is taking up space on your hard drive. Click on the colored rectangles to see the files, and delete them straight from inside the program. Just be sure you know what you are deleting, and steer clear of system files!

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Clearing Up Disk Space

While these solutions can help you reclaim disk space, you will need to replace your hard drive or add storage if your hard disk is too small.

Manually deleting files

Now that you know where to look, you can recover that sweet, sweet disk space. If your main hard drive is full, head towards those spots and start deleting files. Remember not to tamper with system files – you are looking to delete temp files, old program files, and other inessential files that have piled up.

Uninstall apps and bloatware

If you haven’t trimmed your apps list in a while, now is a good time to do it! Get rid of bloatware and those annoying toolbars you accidentally downloaded. Quite a few laptops come pre-packaged with apps and games you never use. Some you can simply delete by opening Start > right-clicking on that app’s tile > Clicking Uninstall. Others are removable through Apps & Features.

The second way is through the Control Panel. Navigate to Start > Windows System > click on Control Panel > Programs > Programs and Features. Here you can uninstall unnecessary programs

Run a virus scan

You never know what your PC might have picked up. Some viruses infect your PC through the internet, while others waltz in with borrowed memory sticks. Some can make copies of themselves, which can account for your shrinking disk space.

Window’s built-in antivirus program or apps such as CCleaner and Malwarebytes can help clean your computer of junk files and malware respectively.

Shifting your files

Are things feeling a little crowded on your main hard drive? Move files to a different one. Transfer folders easily by selecting them and using the cut (Ctrl+X) and paste (Ctrl+V) keyboard combo. You can also select the folder, and use the Move to option from the ribbon menu. Choose your location and select Move – you are all set!

move folder to free hard drive space

Change the default Save location

To avoid clogging up your main folders, consider changing the default save location. For Windows, you can do this through Settings. In the search bar, type Storage Settings and then select it from the list. Here you will find the option ‘change where new content is saved’. Change destinations for different media.

This can help avoid that annoying “Your hard drive is full” message! You can also turn on Storage Sense, which clears out space periodically.


change default folder location to free hard drive space

Keep OneDrive files online only

Are you an avid user of OneDrive? For OneDrive files such as photographs or old documents, it might be ideal to keep an online version of them using Files On-Demand. This removes them from your hard drive and downloads them when you want, thus freeing up space.

Open the OneDrive menu from its icon in the notification tray, click More, and select Settings. In the Settings tab at the bottom, check the option under Files On-Demand.

Increase partition sizes

If your C drive keeps filling up, consider enlarging it, or merging it with another partition. Since you are handling data, so be sure to back up your files beforehand. You can use a program like EaseUS Partition Master, or Window’s built-in disk management tool (with limited options).

We recommend keeping the OS on a separate partition – this way if you need to reinstall Windows, other files will remain unaffected.

Window’s Disk Management

  1. To access Window’s disk management tools, navigate to This PC, and select Manage.

manage disk space

  1. A window for managing your computer opens. Select Disk Management from the navigating tree on the left.

disk managment option

  1. You will see a list of your hard drives. Right-click on the drive to see your options. If you want to increase your hard disk, click on Extend Volume, or select Shrink Volume to reduce the hard disk size. Bear in mind, to increase one partition’s size you need unallocated space, so you will need to shrink another disk.

shrink volume to allocate space

  1. When you click on Shrink Volume, the tool calculates how much you can shrink, and what size your drive becomes after the process. You can alter how much reduction takes place, then click ‘Shrink’

increase hard drive space

  1. Afterward, an unallocated space appears in the illustrated partitions. Before you can add it to another partition, it needs to become a volume disk. Right-click on it and select New Simple Volume.

add new simple volume

  1. The New Simple Volume Wizard opens, which guides you through making the new disk. Choose NTFS for the file system, and format it.

run simple volume wizard

  1. Now select Extend Volume for the chosen drive, and another Wizard will take you through the steps for adding the new volume to your other drive. Once you finish, you have successfully increased your partition’s disk space.

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