Tame a new system’s hard-drive bloat

Susan bradley By Susan Bradley

You just bought that new Windows 7 computer, and the next thing you know — you’re running out of space.

Here are some tips and tricks to show where your hard drive space is going.

Once upon a time, I bought a computer with a 1GB hard drive and thought I’d never outgrow it. A few years later, I think nothing of buying Terabyte hard drives. The pundits might declare we’re in a post-PC era, but the size of my C: drive begs to differ. It’s not just my basic documents that are taking up space, not even those hundreds of digital photos and videos. With Windows, there can be many hidden — and unneeded — files that are choking your hard drive.

Start with the basic Windows cleanup tool

It’s always best to start with Windows’ common maintenance tools such as Disk Cleanup, shown in Figure 1. In this example, I could reclaim a whopping 39.1GB of drive space. Selecting the Clean up system files button removes old dump files, log files, queued-up Windows error reporting logs, and previous versions files as well. For more on using Disk Cleanup, see the SevenForums article, “Windows 7 — Disk Cleanup — open and use.”

Windows disk cleanup dialog box
Figure 1. You get to Windows’ Disk Cleanup tool by selecting Computer and right-clicking the target drive. Select Properties and Disk Cleanup.

Two simple ways to find space-wasting files

The typical Windows system is full of large files lurking on the hard drive and consuming an extraordinary amount of space. Some of these you want to keep — others probably not. TreeSize Free (info page) is one of my favorite utilities for hunting down these hard-drive hogs. After installation, select TreeSize Free (Administrator) and let it scan your C drive. It produces a detailed, Explorer-like window (see Figure 2) of the largest to smallest folders and files. I found 60GB of Top Gear TV show videos (a BBC automobile show) that I can either move to another drive or put on my NAS storage device.

TreeSize free
Figure 2. TreeSize Free helps you hunt down those folders and files that consume the most disk space.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2011-08-25:

Susan Bradley

About Susan Bradley

Susan Bradley is a Small Business Server and Security MVP, a title awarded by Microsoft to independent experts who do not work for the company. She's also a partner in a California CPA firm.