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How to quickly free up space on your hard drive

Are you getting a low disk space warning in Windows? Or maybe you have been prompted to delete a previous version of Windows to gain some disk space? If so, here's how to quickly free up space on your drive.

How to quickly free up space on your hard drive

We have all been there. You are working along and all of a sudden, a little dialog box pops out and tells you that you are low on disk space. It used to happen a whole lot more years ago, when drives were smaller. But it is scary when it does pop up.

Disk Cleanup

Disk Cleanup user options in Windows 10

Now one way to free up some disk space quickly is to use the built-in Disk Cleanup utility. In fact, if you click on the Low Disk Space warning, it brings up Disk Cleanup with default settings.

The default settings for Disk Cleanup are pretty good and will do the job. But there are more advanced settings that can clean up even more files, you just have to know how to get to them. You can even run Disk Cleanup as a Scheduled Task. Check out the links below.

Clean up Windows 7 with Disk Cleanup
Clean up Windows 8.1 with Disk Cleanup
Clean up Windows 10 with Disk Cleanup

Manually delete temporary files

The Run dialog box inside of Windows 10

But if you are looking to quickly delete the temporary files / folders on your computer, here's a down-and-dirty quick way to do it. All you have to do is bring up a Run dialog box.

How to open a Run dialog box

All versions of Windows:
On the keyboard, press the Windows Logo key Windows logo key + R

Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10:
Right-click on the Windows logo Windows logo key on the Start Menu or press the Windows Logo key Windows logo key + X and then select Run

In the Run dialog box that appears, cut and paste or type either

  • %temp%
    (user temporary folder)
  • %systemroot%\temp
    (system temporary folder)
and then select OK. If you get a prompt telling you that you do not currently have permission to access the folder, just click on the Continue button. File Explorer will open and display the contents of that folder.

Now just highlight one of the files and then press the CTRL + A keys at the same time to select all of the files / folders. Right-click on the files and select Delete. If you get a prompt about permanently deleting the files, just left-click on Yes. If you get a prompt telling that a file is still in use, make sure the Do this for all current items check box is selected and then left-click on Skip.

Turn off hibernation

Turn of hibernation

Now if you still need to free up some space, you can disable hibernation and delete the hilberfil.sys file. That should give you a few more gigabytes of free space. You will need an administrative command prompt to run these.

How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 7
How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 8
How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 10

Once you have an administrative command prompt open, just cut and paste or type the following into it:

  • powercfg.exe /hibernate off
    (turn off hibernation)
  • powercfg.exe /hibernate on
    (turn on hibernation)

Graphic Visualization Tools

Now when it comes to finding large files or folders, nothing can beat a good visual treemap. Instead of the usual file / folder data like you see in File Explorer, a graphic visualization tool shows folder / file information using blocks. The larger the block, the bigger the file / folder.

SpaceMonger version 1.4.0

I started using a graphic visualization tool years ago, when I had a client that all of the desktops started running out of disk space. Using a visualization tool, I found the network deployed anti-virus clients were downloading new virus definitions, but they were not deleting previous versions.

Now there are a couple of different graphic visualization tools out there. I first started using SpaceMonger but have since moved over to SpaceSniffer. It does not require any installation (just unzip and go) and is completely free (but donations are recommended).

SpaceSniffer Version 1.2.0.2

Now right out-of-the-box SpaceSniffer can be a bit overwhelming with all of the information it provides. But with a couple of changes to the configuration, SpaceSniffer can open up just the way you like.

Now be careful not to go crazy and start deleting folders / files in the Windows folder. I know that it is one of the largest folders on the C: drive, but resist the urge to delete anything inside of the Windows folder. I would focus on the size of the user(s) folders / files. For more information on SpaceSniffer and how to use it, just follow the link below.

SpaceSniffer, find lost disk space the easy way

Disable Windows hibernation and free up disk space

If you're a hard core computer user like me, you have your system running 24/7. No screen saver or power saver options (I just turn off the monitors when not in use). I need to be able to walk into my office and have it ready to go. So when I noticed that my version of Windows 7 still had the Hiberfil.sys file and I am not using hibernation, it was time to remove this file and regain that hard drive space back (in my case, 8 Gb).

The Hiberfil.sys is a hidden system file located in the root folder of the drive where Windows is installed. The Windows Kernel Power Manager creates this file when you install Windows. The size of this file is approximately equal to how much Random Access Memory (RAM) is installed on the computer.

The computer uses the Hiberfil.sys file to store a copy of the system memory on the hard disk when hibernation is turned on. If this file is not present, the computer cannot go into hibernation.

To delete the Hiberfil.sys file and make hibernation unavailable, follow these steps:

  1. Click Start, and then type cmd in the Start Search box.
  2. In the search results list, right-click Command Prompt, and then click Run as Administrator.
  3. If you are prompted by User Account Control, click Continue.
    Disable Windows Hibernation at the Command Prompt
  4. At the Command Prompt, type powercfg.exe /hibernate off, and then press ENTER.
  5. Type exit and then press ENTER to close the Command Prompt window.

To recreate the Hiberfil.sys file and make hibernation available, follow these steps:

  1. Click Start, and then type cmd in the Start Search box.
  2. In the search results list, right-click Command Prompt, and then click Run as Administrator.
  3. If you are prompted by User Account Control, click Continue.
    Renable Windows Hibernation at the Command Prompt
  4. At the Command Prompt, type powercfg.exe /hibernate on, and then press ENTER.
  5. Type exit and then press ENTER to close the Command Prompt window.

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