How to Free Up and Recover Hard Drive Space in Windows 7
This will show you several options on how to free up and recover lost space on your hard drive (HDD or SSD) in Windows 7.
You can pick and choose from within the options below that you would like to do and best fits your needs.
This can be handy if the hard drive is running out of space or you are losing hard drive space for no apparent reason.
WinDirStat is a free disk usage statistics viewer and cleanup tool that will help you to see exactly what total of system and user files are using up your hard drive's space.
1. See: WinDirStat - Windows Directory Statistics
This is especially a problem with OEM computers that come with a ton of programs preinstalled that you may not need.
1. Uninstall programs that you do not use or want on your computer.
Using Disk Cleanup
Disk Cleanup finds and removes unnecessary files on your hard disk to free up disk space and can help your computer run faster. For better maintenance, it is recommended to run Disk Cleanup every so often to help keep junk off your computer.
1. Open Disk Cleanup or use extended Disk Cleanup, and select what items that you would like to have deleted.
Like Disk Cleanup, but much better, CCleaner
cleans junk and temp files for Windows and most other programs installed in Windows. CCEnhancer
is a small tool which adds support for over 270 new programs into the popular program CCleaner. For better maintenance, it is recommended to run CCleaner as often as you like to help keep large amounts of junk off your computer.
1. Run CCleaner with the CCEnhancer add-on (optional) to clean up junk files from your computer.
See also: How to Use CCleaner to Clean Out Junk Files in Windows
Delete C:\Windows.old Folder
If you performed a repair install
, upgrade install
, or custom install
without formatting the drive for a clean install
and selected to install Windows 7 on the same partition of the previous Windows installation, then you may have a C:\Windows.old
folder left over in your new installation. The C:\Windows.old
folder contains all folders and files from the previous Windows installation as a backup. Deleting the Windows.old
can free up and recover a large amount of space on your system hard drive (Windows 7 drive).
1. For how, see: How to Delete the Windows.old Folder in Windows 7
If you performed a repair install
or upgrade install
, then you may have the C:\$INPLACE.~TR
folders left over in your new installation. These folders contain the left over files and folders from upgrading your previous OS to Windows 7. Deleting these folders can free up and recover a large amount of space on your system hard drive (Windows 7 drive).
1. Run Disk Cleanup, click on the Clean up system files button, and then check the Files discarded by Windows upgrade box to delete.
Move Files to Folder on Another Drive and Include Folder in a Library
To save hard drive space on your Windows drive, you could do this below to be able to access the files from your libraries with the files actually located (saved) where you like instead. This way you will not have to worry about any potential issues that come with moving user profile or folder locations using OPTION 8
or OPTION 9
1. Create a new folder at any location you want.
2. Move any files you want into the new folder.
3. Include the new folder into a library of your choice.
4. If you like, you can also set the new folder to be the default "save" to location for the library as well.
Move User Profile Folder to New Location
A user profile is the main C:\Users\(user-name)
folder of a user account that contains all of the account's settings, shortcuts, information, and user folders (ex: My Music) with the files in them. Moving this user profile folder to another hard drive location will free up space on your Windows 7 system hard drive (Windows 7 drive).
1. For how, see: How to Change the Default Location of a User Profile in Windows 7 and Vista
2. How to Create User Accounts on another Partition or Disk During Windows 7 Installation
Move User Folders to New Location
If you did not want to move the entire user profile folder
(Option 6), then you could move your choice of individual user folders (ex: My Music) of a user account to a new location instead. Moving user folders to another hard drive location will free up space on your Windows 7 system hard drive (Windows 7 drive).
1. For how, see: How to Change the Default Location of Windows 7 User Folders
Disable Hibernation and Delete hiberfil.sys File
If you do not hibernate your computer, then you could disable hibernation and delete the hiberfil.sys
file to save the space it allocates on your system hard drive (Windows 7 drive).
By default, the size of the hiberfil.sys file will be the same as the amount of installed RAM on your computer.
1. For how, see OPTION TWO here: How to Enable or Disable Hibernate in Windows 7
Turn Off System Protection for a Hard Disk
uses a feature called System Protection
to regularly create and save restore points
of selected hard disks in your computer. These restore points contain information about registry settings and other system information that Windows 7
uses, but can use quite a bit of hard drive space.
It is not recommended to turn off system protection for your C: system drive
(Windows 7 drive) since it is a great tool to easily undo a mistake, for example one that may have crippled Windows 7, by just doing a system restore
to go back to a previous restore point of your system dated before the mistake. You could also use previous versions
to restore older copies of files and folders.
If you had turned on system protection for other installed hard disks, then you could turn off system protection for them to free up space on them.
1. For how, see: How to Turn System Protection On or Off in Windows 7
Change Amount of Disk Space Usage by System Protection
Since turning off system protection
(OPTION 9) for a hard disk is not really a good idea if you wanted to be able to do a system restore
or use previous versions
for it, you could just change how much maximum space can be used by system protection on each hard disk that you have system protection turned on for.
By default, Windows 7 will allocate 10%
of the total space of a hard disk that has system protection turned on for.
1. For how, see: How to Change the System Protection Disk Space Usage in Window 7
Delete System Restore Points
You can delete all, all but the most recent, or individual system restore points for a selected hard disk that has system protection
turned on for it to be able to free up space for that hard disk.
1. For how, see: How to Delete System Protection Restore Points in Windows 7
Change Amount of Disk Space Usage by Offline Files
When you make a network file
, or all files in a network folder available offline
, Windows 7 Professional
, or Enterprise
editions will create a copy of the file or folder on your computer so that you can work with them when you're not connected to the network or when the network folder that the files are stored in is not available. This is called an offline file.
You can change the maximum hard disk space usage limit for these offline files to prevent to much space to be used on a hard disk.
1. For how, see: How to Manage the Offline Files Disk Space Usage in Windows 7
Using Windows 7 SP1 Disk Cleanup Tool
When the final Windows 7 SP1
version is released sometime in the first quarter of 2011
and you have installed it, you can run the Windows 7 SP1 cleanup tool
to permanently remove the backed up files created during the installion of the Windows 7 SP1 to gain back around 1.5 GB
of space on your system drive (Windows 7 drive).
1. For how, see: How Use the Windows 7 SP1 Disk Cleanup Tool to Recover Lost Disk Space
Move or Shrink the Page File
For better performance, it is always recommend to have the virtual memory page file managed by the system and to not turn it off. By default, the page file is stored on your system drive (Windows 7 drive).
If your system drive is low on free space, then you could move the page file to be stored and managed on another internal hard disk instead to free the allocated space used by the page file on the system drive, or shrink the page file to reduce the amount of allocated space used.
1. For how, see: How to Change the Virtual Memory Paging File in Vista and Windows 7
Compress Files or Folders
If you have older large files that you do not use often, then you might consider using NTFS Compression
to save some hard drive space by compressing the files and folders to reduce their size.
1. For how, see: How to Compress and Decompress a Folder or File with NTFS Compression in Vista and Windows 7
Delete Old "User and System File Backups" and "System Images"
If you have old user and system file backups and system images
that are out of date, then you can delete them to free up space on the hard drive that they were saved on.
1. For how, see: How to Delete Windows 7 User and System Backup Files
Manage how Windows 7 Retains Older System Images
When you create a system image while you are creating a user and system file backup
, you can either let Windows manage the space used for backup history
to have a maximum size of up to 30%
of the total free space on the hard drive that you have the system image saved to used for system images, or have Windows keep only the latest system image and minimize space used by the backup
1. For how, see OPTION TWO here: How to Delete Windows 7 User and System Backup Files
Delete Unneeded or Unwanted Shadow Copies
Shadow Copies (Previous versions
) are copies of files and folders created by Windows Backup
when you back up your files, and copies of files and folders that Windows automatically saves as part of a restore point
You can delete all, the oldest, or individual shadow copies on a selected drive/volume that has system protection
turned on for it to be able to free up space for that hard disk.
1. For how, see: How to Delete Shadow Copies in Vista and Windows 7
Temporary Internet Files
Change Amount of Disk Space Usage by Temporary Internet Files
is where Internet Explorer
stores copies of webpages, images, and media of sites that you have visited in Internet Explorer for faster viewing later in Internet Explorer by not having to redownload them. By default, Temporary Internet Files
is set to use 250MB of disk space. You can change this to be any amount (8 to 1024MB) of disk space that you want to be used for Temporary Internet Files
instead if you like.
1. For how, see: How to Change Disk Space to be Used by Internet Explorer "Temporary Internet Files"
Delete Internet Explorer Browsing History
As you browse the web, IE9 stores information about Temporary Internet Files
, Websites Visited History
, Download History
, Form data
, and ActiveX Filtering and Tracking Protection data
. For Firefox
, click on “Clear Private Data” and delete “Cache” and “Cookies”.
1. For how, see:
How to Delete the Browsing History in IE7 and IE8
How to Delete the Browsing History of Internet Explorer 9 (IE9)
Check in Disk Management for "Unallocated Space"
If you have recently deleted a partition
or shrunk a partition
on the hard drive, then this will leave it as unallocated space until you either format
it or extend
it back into the partition to the left of it so that space is available for use again.
Remove Outdated Windows Updates
Microsoft has now released an update for Windows 7 that adds a Windows Update Cleanup
option to Disk Cleanup that allows you to remove outdated Windows Updates from your hard drive to free up quite a bit of space. Some have reported over 4 GB.
1. For how, see: How to Remove Outdated Windows Updates in Disk Cleanup in Windows 7