Recovering disk space in Windows
By Jay Dougherty Mar 26, 2010, 14:48 GMT
Washington - Large hard drives may be plentiful these days, but you can still face storage constraints.
You could be coping with a small hard drive provided by your company. Or maybe you're trying to squeeze some life out of an older hard drive that you aren't ready to upgrade.
Those splurging on today's fast solid state drives (SSDs) are pleased with their performance, but must constantly worry about running out of disk space, as SSDs have a lower capacity than traditional drives.
Bottom line: it's still important to know how to recover some disk space, while retaining the applications that you need. Here's a checklist of how to proceed.
--- What's eating your drive?
You cannot begin to know how to recover hard-drive space until you can get an overview of which files and folders are occupying the most space.
Windows doesn't give you any built-in tools for seeing, at a glance, just how large some folders are relative to others. Luckily, you can turn to the free FolderSize (http://sourceforge.net/projects/foldersize).
Install this open source program and your Windows Explorer file manager will be enhanced with a 'folder size' option in the file and folder display area. Just click on a drive, and right-click one of the column headings in the file pane (name, date modified, type, etc.).
There, in the right-click menu, you'll see a folder size option. Select it and a new folder size column appears. In it, Windows will calculate and display the total size of the folders on your hard drive. Double-click a folder to drill one level down, activate folder size, and you'll see the sizes of the subfolders.
You can use this tool to quickly hone in on disk-eating files and folders. Without it, you're largely left guessing about where all of your disk space has gone. Once you've located the problem areas on your hard drive, you can determine how to proceed.
--- Delete hibernate files
When Windows is set up to hibernate, it creates a hidden file called Hiberfil.sys that's large enough to hold the contents of installed memory. That means the file could be big - multiple gigabytes - and therefore consume extra disk space that you might need for other purposes.
To get rid of the file and free up disk space, you'll need to turn the hibernation feature in Windows off. To do so in Vista or Windows 7, open the Start menu and type 'power options.' Select the Power Options entry.
In the resulting Select a Power Plan dialog box, click 'Change plan settings' for the currently selected power plan. In the next dialog box, click 'Change advanced power settings.'
From the Power Option dialog box that appears, expand the Sleep entry, followed by the Hibernate entry, and then change the Hibernate setting to 'Never.' Click OK. Windows will delete the Hiberfil.sys, and you should notice considerably more disk space almost immediately.
--- Delete internet files
The temporary internet files folder can start to overflow with thousands of tiny files, easily sapping multiple gigabytes on your main drive.
It's easiest to use the Windows Disk Cleanup utility, which is included with every copy of Windows, to delete these. The added benefit is that you can use the tool to delete other types of files as well.
Open the Start menu and type 'disk cleanup.' Click the first entry you see, which will start the Disk Cleanup wizard. Select the drive you wish to clean, and in the following dialog box, you'll be able to select the types of files you want to remove. Temporary internet files will be among them.
--- Restrain the Recycle Bin
If you find yourself deleting files constantly in an attempt to conserve drive space, but feel like you're fighting an uphill battle, the problem could be that the Windows Recycle Bin is reserving too much space for keeping track of deleted files. Right-click the Recycle Bin and select Properties to remedy the situation.
In the Recycle Bin Properties dialog box, you can do two important things: determine the maximum amount of disk space per drive that is reserved for tracking deletions and establish whether to have the Recycle Bin active on a particular drive. Adjust or disable the Recycle Bin on a per-drive basis, and you should see and retain more usable disk space.
--- More obvious choices
There are plenty of other ways you can free up disk space. For instance, move your data files to another drive or partition. Segregating your files by type is a wise move anyway, since you'll then be able to back up just certain types of files with ease.
Also, you might want to consider employing Windows' little-used disk and file compression feature. It's available only at the drive level.
To use it, right-click your C drive (or another drive, if appropriate) and click Properties from the pop-up menu. On the General tab in the resulting Properties dialog box, select the option labeled 'Compress this drive to save disk space.'
From that point forward, Windows will use compression techniques to reduce the amount of disk space that files require. The downside will be some extra processing overhead, but on fast machines this should not result in much of a performance hit.
You can also use a free tool such as 7-Zip (http://www.7-zip.org) to compress individual files or folders. This approach to increasing disk space works best when you have a lot of highly compressible files on your drive.
Some types of files, such as those created by standard office applications, are good candidates for file-level compression. Other types such as jpg images, which are already compressed, will not benefit much from additional compression.