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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

How to reset Windows 10

So, you say your Windows 10 computer is starting to run slow and having errors. Or maybe you just got a new computer and want to recycle your old Windows 10 system. Then it may be time to reset Windows 10 on your computer.

How to reset Windows 10

Now over the years Microsoft has made resetting Windows challenging, to say the least. In most versions, you had to reinstall Windows to get a clean copy. But with Windows 10 you can actually reset the operating system without losing your files.

There are two (2) reset options built-in to Windows 10. You can either keep your user files or remove everything. Take note, either option removes all applications not included with Windows 10. This means that any programs you installed will have to be reinstalled.

Below you will find the instructions for performing a reset of Windows 10 using the built-in feature. But if you want to remove everything, you do have two (2) more options. The first is using Refresh Windows Tool, which does the exact same thing as the built-in remove everything option.

Refresh Windows Tool

The second is a little more complicated and is more suited for the advanced user. You can create the Windows 10 installation media and perform a re-installation from it. If you start the installation from inside of Windows 10, you will get the option to save your files. If you start the installation from booting up on the installation media, you will only get the remove everything option.

Windows 10 Media Creation Tool

Always remember to back-up your computer before performing any type of reset. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Backup Windows 10

How to reset Windows 10

  1. Left-click on the Start button (Windows logo) to bring up the Start menu.
    Windows 10 Reset 1
  2. Left-click on Settings (gear icon).
    Windows 10 Reset 2
  3. Left-click on Update & security.
    Windows 10 Reset 3
  4. In the left-hand column, left-click on Recovery.
    Windows 10 Reset 4
  5. In the right-hand column under Reset this PC, left-click on the Get started button.
    Windows 10 Reset 5
  6. On the Choose an option page, left-click on either Keep my files or Remove everything.
    • If you select Keep my files, you be prompted with a list of the apps you will need to reinstall. Left-click on the Next button to proceed. Once you left-click on your choice you'll come to the Ready to reset this PC screen. Left-click on Reset to proceed with the reset.
    • If you select Remove everything, you will be prompted to either Just remove my files or Remove files and clean the drive. Once you left-click on your choice you'll come to the Ready to reset this PC screen. Left-click on Reset to proceed with the reset.

If you selected Remove files and clean the drive, when the reset is complete, you will need to go through the initial Windows 10 set up. Remember that you do not have to have a Microsoft account to complete the setup. When you get to the Who owns this PC? page,
Windows 10 Reset 6
left-click on I own it and then left-click on the Next button.

On the Make it yours page, left-click on the Skip this step link down in the lower left-hand corner.
Windows 10 Reset 7
This will take you to the Create an account for this PC page where you can create a local user account. And remember that you are not required to have a password if you do not want to. Just add a user name in the Who is going to use this PC? field and then left-click on the Next button.

How to setup a mobile hotspot inside of Windows 10

Wi-Fi hotspots have become quite common with smartphone users. Having the ability to share your Internet connection can be a lifesaver at times. But did you know that you can do the same thing with a Windows 10 computer? Here's how to create a mobile hotspot in Windows 10.

How to setup a mobile hotspot inside of Windows 10

It used to be that if you wanted to share your Internet connection on your laptop or desktop computer, you had to use third-party software like Virtual Hotspot. The cool thing is Microsoft has built that feature right into Windows 10.

I know what you're thinking; "When would I ever use a Wi-Fi hotspot?". Now using the Windows 10 mobile hotspot can be extremely helpful if you have to pay for Internet access, like at a hotel or airport.

For example, when I travel I like to set up my laptop to use a wired (Ethernet) Internet connection, because normally they are faster than wireless. Once I've established a wired connection to the Internet, then I share that connection with all of my wireless devices (smartphone, tablet, etc.).

Now there are a couple of requirements that your system has to have before the mobile hotspot feature becomes available. You have to have at least two (2) network adapters and one of them has to be a wireless adapter. The connection to the Internet can be either wired, wireless or cellular.

The mobile hotspot uses WPA2-PSK security and only 8 (eight) devices can connect to it at one time. And the only thing you can share is your Internet connection. No folders, files or printers can be seen by devices connected to the mobile hotspot.

How to setup a mobile hotspot in Windows 10

  1. Left-click on the Start button (Windows logo) to bring up the Start menu.
    Windows 10 mobile hotspot setup 1
  2. Left-click on Settings (gear icon).
    Windows 10 mobile hotspot setup 2
  3. Left-click on Network & Internet.
    Windows 10 mobile hotspot setup 3
  4. In the left-hand column, look for the Mobile hotspot tab. You don't see it, your computer doesn't meet the requirements.
    Windows 10 mobile hotspot setup 4
  5. Under Network status in the right-hand column, make note of which type of connection you are using for the Internet.
  6. In the left-hand column, left-click on Mobile hotspot.
    Windows 10 mobile hotspot setup 5
  7. In the right-hand column under Mobile hotspot, make sure the connection shown under Share my Internet connection from is the same connection from Step 5. If not, use the pull-down menu to change it.
  8. Directly below the Share my Internet connection from pull-down menu is the Network name and Network password. If you want to change either of these, left-click on the Edit button below them.
    Windows 10 mobile hotspot setup 6
  9. Now go back to the top of the right-hand column and left-click on the Share my Internet connection with other devices slider switch to turn on your mobile hotspot.

How to backup and restore the registry in Windows 10

Everyone knows that when you make any major change to your computer you need to backup the registry first. But not many casual computer users know what the registry is and how to back it up. So here's how to backup and restore the registry in Windows 10.

How to backup and restore the registry in Windows 10

So what is the registry? The registry is a database that contains information on the hardware, software and user(s) installed on your computer. Even though it may sound like it is a single entity, it actually consists of several different files. The collection of these files is called the registry hive.

FYI: The information in the registry hive is stored in two (2) basic elements; Keys and Values. Keys are like folders; they can contain values and keys. Values are like files; they contain data in various formats.

Automatically backup and restore the registry in Windows 10

The System Protection tab of the System Properties dialog box inside of Windows 10
The System Protection tab of the System Properties dialog box inside of Windows 10

Now the simplest way to backup the registry is to create a restore point. Restore points contain backup copies of the registry, most drivers and files with particular extensions.

Restore points can be a life saver if your system fails to start up after a change or modification. Just make sure to create a system repair disk (instructions below) and have it on hand just in case your system won't start up correctly. You can use it to boot your computer and access a restore point.

How to create a restore point in Windows 10

  1. Bring up the System page by either:
    • Pressing the Windows logo key Windows logo key + Pause.
    • Pressing the Windows logo key Windows logo key + X to bring up the Power User menu and press Y to select System.
    • Right-clicking on the Windows logo Windows logo key on the Start menu to bring up the Power User menu and select System.
  2. Left-click on the Advanced system settings link.
  3. Left-click on the System Protection tab of the System Properties dialog box.
  4. At the bottom of the System Protection tab left-click on button under the Protection Settings section labeled Create ....
  5. Type in a descriptive title for your restore point (the date and time are automatically added).
  6. Left-click on Create.

How to use a restore point in Windows 10

  1. Bring up the System page by either:
    • Pressing the Windows logo key Windows logo key + Pause.
    • Pressing the Windows logo key Windows logo key + X to bring up the Power User menu and press Y to select System.
    • Right-clicking on the Windows logo Windows logo key on the Start menu to bring up the Power User menu and select System.
  2. Left-click on the Advanced system settings link.
  3. Left-click on the System Protection tab of the System Properties dialog box.
  4. At the top of the System Protection tab left-click on button under the System Restore section labeled System Restore ....
  5. When the starting screen appears, left-click on Next >.
  6. Highlight the restore point you want to use, then left-click on Next >.
  7. When the confirmation screen appears, left-click on Finish.
  8. A warning should appear telling you not to interrupt the system restore process. Left-click on Yes to proceed.
  9. Your computer will now start restoring the system (including the registry) to the way it was at the time the restore point was created and then reboot.

How to create a system repair disk in Windows 10

  1. Bring up the Run dialog box by either:
    • Pressing the Windows Logo key Windows logo key + R
    • 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
  2. In the Run dialog box that appears, type recdisc and select OK. If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation. Just follow the prompts and you should be good to go.

Manually backup and restore the registry in Windows 10

The Registry Editor interface inside of Windows 10
The Registry Editor interface inside of Windows 10

Another way to backup the registry is to use the built-in Registry Editor. Nice thing about using the Registry Editor is that you don't have to backup the whole registry if you don't want to. You can just backup any key or value you want.

Now there is a down-side to using the Registry Editor to manually backup the registry. To restore anything with the Registry Editor you have to be able to boot your computer in either normal or safe mode. A system repair disc doesn't have the Registry Editor included.

How to manually backup the registry using the Registry Editor in Windows 10

  1. Bring up the Run dialog box by either:
    • Pressing the Windows Logo key Windows logo key + R
    • 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
  2. In the Run dialog box that appears, type regedit and select OK. If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  3. When the Registry Editor appears either:
    • Highlight Computer in the left-hand column to backup the complete registry.
    • Highlight the key or value you want to backup.
  4. Left-click on the File pull-down menu and left-click on Export.
  5. Select the location and a descriptive file name for the backup file and then left-click on Save.

How to manually restore the registry using the Registry Editor in Windows 10

  1. Bring up the Run dialog box by either:
    • Pressing the Windows Logo key Windows logo key + R
    • 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
  2. In the Run dialog box that appears, type regedit and select OK. If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  3. When the Registry Editor appears either:
  4. Left-click on the File pull-down menu and left-click on Import.
  5. Navigate to the location of the REG file you want to import and left-click on it.
  6. Left-click on the Open button. You should get a confirmation screen telling you successfully imported the file.

How to disable or enable auto-start programs and drivers in Windows 10

In doing computer repair I often get asked "Why does my computer take so long to start up?". Quite often it turns out that there are items that are set to auto-start that don't need to or just don't exist anymore. Here's how to disable programs, drivers and services that auto-start in Windows 10.

How to disable or enable auto-start programs and drivers in Windows 10

Now this one doesn't cost any money and can dramatically improve the time it takes for your computer and programs to start up. Also by minimizing the amount programs that launch at start up, you can also free up memory that would be otherwise used by them.

Now there are three (3) programs I use to enable or disable programs, drivers or services that start up in Windows 10. The built-in programs (Task Manager and System Configuration) are pretty safe to use, but still can degrade performance if not used properly. The third program (Autoruns / Autoruns32) can be dangerous because not only can it enable or disable entries, it can also delete them.

Note: It is always recommended that you make changes one at a time and restart between them. That way you can find out if you really need that program or service you just disabled. Yes, it's time consuming, but sometimes you just have to do it.

Task Manager (Auto-start programs)

The Startup tab inside of Windows 10 Task Manager
The Startup tab inside of Windows 10 Task Manager

This is the easiest and safest way to enable or disable programs that auto-start with Windows 10. None of the programs listed here are going to prevent your computer from starting if disabled. In fact, you will not find any program listed here that Windows requires to operate.

Now for those of you that are not familiar with Task Manager, it's a built-in program that does allot of different things. It monitors running programs, system performance and active processes. And it also manages programs that auto-start with Windows 10.

How to start Task Manager in Windows 10

  1. Right-click on an empty area of the Taskbar.
  2. On the context menu that appears, left-click on Task Manager.

or

  1. Press CTRL + ALT + DEL all at the same time.
  2. From the security screen that appears, left-click on Task Manager.

The first time you run Task Manager, it only displays running apps. You have to left-click on the More details arrow to display all of the tabs. Once you have the tabs displayed, left-click on Startup.

From here all you have to do is highlight the program name and select the Enable / Disable button located in the bottom right-hand corner.

System Configuration (Auto-start services)

The Services tab inside of Windows 10 System Configuration
The Services tab inside of Windows 10 System Configuration

This program is used mainly for diagnostics, so there are no splashy graphics here. With System Configuration you can change the services that auto-start with Windows 10. Be careful making changes here, as they can have a major impact on system performance.

How to start System Configuration in Windows 10

  1. Left-click on the Start Menu and scroll down the list of applications to Windows Administrative Tools.
  2. Left-click on Windows Administrative Tools to expand the contents.
  3. Scroll down and left-click on System Configuration.

or

  1. Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + R to bring up the Run dialog box.
  2. Type in MSCONFIG and left-click on OK.

From the default dialog box select the Service tab. There you will find all of the services that auto-start with Windows 10. Remember that some of the Microsoft services listed cannot be disabled, so it's always best practice to select the Hide all Microsoft services check box at the bottom of the services section.

Once you have made your changes left-click on the Apply button then left-click on the OK button. You will be prompted to either Restart or Exit without restart. Left-click on Restart and you're ready to go. Remember to make changes one at a time and restart in between changes.

Autoruns / Autoruns64 (Auto-start programs, drivers and services)

The Everything tab inside of Microsoft Autoruns
The Everything tab inside of Microsoft Autoruns

Autoruns.exe (32-bit) and Autoruns64.exe (64-bit) are part of Microsoft's Sysinternals Suite of troubleshooting utilities and are not included inside of Windows 10. But they are free, require no installation and can be downloaded separately or with the complete suite (see links below).

This is the most complex program of them all. And the most dangerous! Why you ask? Besides being able to disable programs / drivers / services that auto-start, you can also delete their load points altogether. So be careful!

Once you have downloaded and unzip the files to a permanent location, open Windows Explorer and navigate to that folder. Now right-click on either Autoruns.exe or Autoruns64.exe (depending on your version of Windows 10) and select Run as administrator from the context menu that appears.

When you start Autoruns it automatically scans your computer for auto-start programs, drivers and services. Autoruns has multiple tabs for the different Windows auto-start locations (logon, services, drivers, etc.) including one called Everything. And if you select the User pull-down menu on the toolbar on top of the program, you can also select the different user profiles.

If you want to disable / enable a program or driver, just left-click on the check box on the left-hand side of the entry. You can also delete an entry, but I recommend that you back it up first, just in case. If you find you don't need the backup, you can just delete the file later.

To back up an entry in Autoruns you right-click on it and a context menu will appear. Left-click on Jump to entry ... and the Registry Editor opens to the location in the registry of that entry. Right-click on the selected entry in the Registry Editor and a context menu appears. Left-click on Export and select a location and file name for your backup file.

Autoruns
Sysinternals Suite

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