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See what your drive contains with Space Sniffer

Got a video or music library and want to see how large it is? Maybe you downloaded a really big file and cannot remember where it is? If so, Space Sniffer may just be what you need.

See what your drive contains with Space Sniffer

Windows built-in File Explorer works great when it comes to accessing files or folders. But when it comes to finding large files and/or folders, it can be cumbersome, to say the least. This is where Space Sniffer comes in handy.

Space Sniffer is a graphic visualization tool that uses blocks in a treemap to display the contains of a drive. The larger the block, the more space it is taking up.

Now if you are running low on disk space, Space Sniffer is just what you are looking for. Space Sniffer, with its block treemap, can show you exactly what is taking up space on your drive.

I personally have used graphic visualization tools for years now. They are the fastest way to find a space hog on an internal / external hard drive or USB flash drive.

One of my favorite stories is when I used a graphic visualization tool to find a space hog on a network. It turned out to be a network ant-virus client that wasn't deleting old virus definitions and affected about 75% of the network computers.

Getting started with Space Sniffer could not be any easier. Just download the ZIP file and extract it to a folder of your choice. That is it, no installation required. It works great on a USB drive!

When you start Space Sniffer you are prompted to choose a drive or path you want to view. Once you have selected one, click Start and Space Sniffer performs a full scan. This could take a minute or two on really large drives.

When the treemap appears, you can just hover your cursor over a file or folder to get more information about. And to zoom into a folder all you have to do is double-click on it.

The main screen inside of Space Sniffer
The main screen inside of Space Sniffer

The first time you run Space Sniffer it opens with default settings, which can be overwhelming to allot of users. But if you go into the configuration menu (Edit > Configure), you can really customize the display to your liking.

For example, you can change the colors used for files and folders, the look of the boxes (drop shadow, halo, etc.) and the zoom animation. You can also change the font and element size.

The configuration screen inside of Space Sniffer
The configuration screen inside of Space Sniffer

There are a couple of configuration settings I highly recommend you activate. To ensure you are seeing everything in a drive or path, make sure the Show free space on new views and Show unknown space on new views are selected.

And when you are done configuring Space Sniffer, it writes your preferences to a configuration file. That way it will appear the same way from now on. Or until you erase the config file.

Another cool feature is that you can also export the current view in Space Sniffer to a text file. This is also customizable, with several built-it configurations.

Space Sniffer is freeware but donations to the project are always welcome. Just use the link on the toolbar or the Help pull-down menu. For more information on Space Sniffer, just follow the link below.

SpaceSniffer, find lost disk space the easy way

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.

What is a Bit? What is a Byte?

You hear these all the time when you talk about computers: Megabyte, Gigabyte, Terabyte, 32-bit, 64-bit. For a novice computer user, these can be quite confusing. So, here's an explanation of a Bit and a Byte.

What is a Bit? What is a Byte?

The terminology is familiar to almost everyone, but do you really know what they are? To understand it, we have to go break it down to the basic 0's and 1's.

What is a Bit?

A Bit is the basic unit in computer information and has only two different values, normally defined as a 0 or 1. These values can be interpreted as on or off, yes or no, true or false, etc. It just depends on the binary code.

What is a Byte?

A Byte is just 8 Bits and is the smallest unit of memory that can be addressed in many computer systems. The following list shows the relationship between all of the different units of data.

0 (Off) or 1 (On) = 1 Bit
8 Bits = 1 Byte
1,024 Bytes = 1 Kilobyte
1,024 Kilobytes = 1 Megabyte
1,024 Megabytes = 1 Gigabyte
1,024 Gigabytes = 1 Terabyte
1,024 Terabytes = 1 Petabyte
1,024 Petabytes = 1 Exabyte
1,024 Exabytes = 1 Zettabyte

Let's take a look at a simple text file I created called sample.txt. It contains only eight (8) characters, four (4) upper case and four (4) lower case letters. I created my text file using Notepad, so it is encoded using the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard binary code.

A sample text file with only eight characters opened in a text editor
A sample text file with only eight characters opened in a text editor

Now the closest we can get to viewing raw binary code is to open my sample text file in a hexadecimal file editor. Hexadecimal digits allow for more human friendly representation of binary code.

A sample text file with only eight characters opened in a hexadecimal editor
A sample text file with only eight characters opened in a hexadecimal editor

Since the ANSI code standard is actually a revision of the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) code, we'll need to use that standard for references to binary information. Using the table of ASCII printable characters on Wikipedia we can find the binary code equivalent.

Character Hexadecimal Binary
A 41 01000001
a 61 01100001
B 42 01000010
b 62 01100010
C 43 01000011
c 63 01100011
D 44 01000100
d 64 01100100

So, as you can see, each character contains 8 bits or 1 byte and the whole sample.txt file is 8 bytes in size. Now to put this in perspective, I created a Microsoft Word document (sample.docx) with the same characters as the sample text file.

A sample Microsoft Word file with only eight characters opened in Microsoft Word
A sample Microsoft Word file with only eight characters opened in Microsoft Word

A sample Microsoft Word file with only eight characters opened in a hexadecimal editor
A sample Microsoft Word file with only eight characters opened in a hexadecimal editor

Here you can see all of the underlying formatting and the size has increased significantly. The sample.docx file is almost 12 kilobytes (11,513 bytes) in size, but contains only eight (8) characters.

What is 32-bit / 64-bit?

The terms 32-bit and 64-bit define the fixed-size piece of data a processor can transfer to and from memory. So, in theory, 64-bit computers can handle data twice as fast 32-bit systems.

The 32-bit computer architecture is most commonly known as x86 and was based on the Intel 8086 / 8088 processor. The Intel 8086 / 8088 processor was found in the original stand-alone Pac-Man video arcade console. The term for 64-bit computer architecture is x64, a little more straight forward.

The following Wikipedia articles were used for reference:

Bit - Wikipedia
Byte - Wikipedia
American National Standards Institute (ANSI) - Wikipedia
American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) - Wikipedia
Binary code - Wikipedia
Hexadecimal - Wikipedia

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