9 Easy Ways to Free Up Your Disk Space on PC (2023)

Robert_Stark
edited August 2023 in PC Tech

Running out of space on your computer can halt productivity, interfere with system updates, and often springs up when you least expect it. A filled-up hard drive can contribute to a sluggish system, trigger sudden crashes, and be a thorn you don't need amid an office deadline or cranking out a project for school. When your laptop exhibits signs of lag, unresponsiveness, or recurrent crashes, it's time to consider a deep-dive cleanup.

First, working out your available space on a Windows 11 computer is straightforward. Here's how:

  1. Click the File Explorer icon from the taskbar,
  2. Select This PC on the left.
  3. Under Devices and drives, you'll find your drive(s) listed, with the available space displayed for each.

If your PC is running low on free space, you can tackle the issue head-on. Here are nine simple strategies to liberate that precious disk space without breaking a sweat or the bank.

1) Uninstall unnecessary applications and programs 

Are there unused applications and programs you don't use now and can remove? Uninstalling unnecessary files can help keep your computer working at peak efficiency.

If you aren't sure which files you should delete, and want some extra help working out how much space files are taking up on your hard drive, then use TreeSize Free to map your hard drive usage. This app gives you a visual chart of the files and folders to see which ones take up the most space. With this insight, you can make informed decisions about your file management strategy and effectively free up valuable disk space.

Remember, it's not just about deleting - it's about strategically pruning your digital garden to maintain a healthy, efficient PC ecosystem.

How to free up your Hard Drive: delete temporary files in Windows 11

  1. In Search on the taskbar, type 'disk cleanup' and select Disk Cleanup when it appears.
  2. Select the drive you want to clear specific files and click OK.
  3. From the Files to Delete, click on each option to get a description of the type of files, and check or uncheck the checkbox on files you would like deleted.
  4. Click OK to delete the group of files.

You can also delete system files by opening Disk Cleanup and choosing 'Clean up system files' to find those you wish to delete.

How to remove apps & programs in Windows 11 from the Start Menu

  • Select Start and find the app or program you have decided to remove. 
  • Right-click on the icon.
  • Select Uninstall and follow the prompts.

How to remove apps in Windows 11 from Settings

  • Select Start and then Settings > Apps > Apps & Features. 
  • Select the app you want to remove.
  • Select Uninstall and follow the prompts.

How to remove programs in Windows 11 from Control Panel

  • In Search on the taskbar, type Control Panel and from the results,
  • Select Programs > Programs & features.
  • Right-click on the program you have decided to remove.
  • Select Uninstall or Uninstall/Change and follow the prompts.

2) Use Storage Sense to sort your files

Storage Sense by Microsoft is a helpful Windows 10 and 11 tool that automatically sorts your files and free up space on your hard drive. This helpful tool is available on Windows 10 and 11 and can help improve your computer's overall performance.

Configure Storage Sense

  1. Storage Sense is off by default. To enable, select Start and then the Settings icon. 
  2. Choose System, then Storage
  3. Click on Configure Storage Sense or run it now
  4. Choose the settings you prefer, including whether it is turned on/off, how often to run Storage Sense, when to clean up files, and more.

To delete unnecessary files, do the following: 

  • In Storage Sense, go to Temporary Files
  • Select any files you want to remove and press Remove Files.

Just be cautious when purging your Download or Recycle Bin folders to avoid accidentally deleting important files. By staying organized and using Storage Sense regularly, you can maintain a clean and efficient digital workspace.

3) Leverage OneDrive to free up more space

Free up space on your hard drive by saving files to the cloud. OneDrive Files On-Demand allows you to access all the files in your cloud storage in OneDrive without downloading them and using storage space on your computer. It also means you can access these files on all your devices, provided you have an internet connection.

How to turn on Files on Demand

In Windows 11, Files On-Demand should be enabled in OneDrive, but if it is not, do the following:

  1. Click the OneDrive icon located in the taskbar's bottom-right corner. 
  2. Select the Help & Settings option. 
  3. Click the Settings option. 
  4. Select the Settings tab. 
  5. In the Files On-Demand section, check the Save space and download files as you use them. 
  6. Click OK.

To make files available only online: 

  1. Open File Explorer. 
  2. Select the OneDrive folder on the left. 
  3. Select the files and folders that take up the most space. 
  4. Right-click those and choose the Free up space option.

OneDrive’s free version provides up to 5GB of file storage. Purchasing a Microsoft 365 subscription raises this to 1TB and includes Office apps and services like Skype, Microsoft Teams, and Stream.

4) Defragment and optimize your hard drive

Defragmentation is unnecessary if your computer runs on a solid-state drive (SSD), as there's no benefit. Windows 11 optimizes SSD by trimming, which marks unused drive areas to speed up writing data to those segments.

However, defragmenting could offer noticeable speed improvements if your system still operates on a Hard Disk Drive (HDD). This process allows your computer to organize data more logically instead of scattering it randomly, resulting in faster, more efficient file access.

Regardless of your drive type, Windows' built-in disk optimization tool is designed to automatically perform defragmentation or optimization tasks tailored to your specific drive type (SSD or HDD).

How to run Windows 11 Defragment and Optimize Drives

  1. In Search on the taskbar, type Defragment. Select the Defragment and Optimize Drives option. 
  2. Choose the drive you want to optimize or defrag.
  3. Click Analyze to check if the drive needs optimizing or defragmenting. If it does, click Optimize.
  4. Keep in mind that this process could take some time. If you're defragmenting an external drive, ensure it remains connected until the process is complete.

You can also automatically schedule optimization via the Defragment and Optimize Drives tool.

5) Empty your Recycle Bin 

Whenever you delete a file from File Explorer or your Windows desktop, it remains on your hard drive until you empty the Recycle Bin located on the desktop.

The Recycle Bin can be set to a schedule of when it is automatically emptied by following the steps outlined in the Storage Sense section above.

How to empty the Recycle Bin on an ad hoc basis

  1. Right-clicking on the Recycle Bin icon on the desktop and choosing Empty Recycle Bin, or
  2. Opening the Recycle Bin and selecting the files you no longer need and wish to delete from your computer.

6) Transfer files to external drives 

If you don't like needing the internet to access your files, you could transfer large files from your hard drive to an external drive. To do this, connect the external drive to the computer, and once it is recognized, follow these steps

  1. Open File Explorer. 
  2. Select the files you plan to move. 
  3. Click the Move to button from the "Home" tab. 
  4. Select the Choose location option. 
  5. Select external storage as the new destination. 
  6. Click the Move button.

Follow these instructions to set the external drive as a permanent location to save files and other applications:

  1. Select Settings > System > Storage.
  2. Under More Storage Options header, select Change Where New Content Is Saved
  3. From the available selections, choose the external drive to install future apps or any other files by default. 
  4. Click Apply.

7) Clean your desktop 

Using your desktop as a catch-all storage place for quick access is tempting. However, excessive clutter can bog down your computer. Each icon on your desktop consumes a slice of your system memory (RAM) and CPU's processing power. While a few icons or folders won't significantly impact your computer's speed, a sea of them can lead to sluggishness, particularly on older machines with limited resources.

It's better to neatly sort and archive your documents and images into designated folders within File Explorer or OneDrive. This practice keeps your desktop clean and ensures your files are systematically organized for efficient access and improved PC performance.

8) Third-party PC cleaners 

Windows' built-in system maintenance tools do the same tasks as third-party PC cleaners, but these apps are convenient and may make you feel more in charge.

Professional PC cleaners help free up space by:

  1. Removing cookies that could slow down your computer. 
  2. Identifying and removing duplicate files. 
  3. Deleting junk files that cause your computer to slow down or to become unstable. 

Iolo System Mechanic:

  • Use detailed analysis and a choice of scans with the Iolo System Mechanic. This is an award-winning PC optimization software that helps free up space on your hard drive and clean up computer systems. 
  • Free or subscription options are available.

CCleaner: 

  • CCleaner is a well-known and popular PC optimizer that helps free up hard drive space and clean up registries.
  • The free and paid versions are easy to use.

9) Last resort options

The following tips can free up significant disk space but turn off crucial Windows features. Exercise caution when considering these options, as they are recommended only in dire need of disk space:

  1. Disable Hibernation: During hibernation, your system saves RAM contents to your hard drive, preserving the system state without power usage. Upon reboot, you pick up where you left off. You can turn off hibernation completely to free up space, but this will remove the hibernation option.
  2. Disable System Restore: You can disable System Restore entirely. However, this eliminates the possibility of using System Restore to revert your system to a previous state. Proceed with caution.

Regular maintenance 

The steps outlined above will help keep your computer in good condition, so that it works efficiently to help you achieve your goals with less hassle. The key is regular maintenance. Stick to it, and your computer will stay in top shape, making your work easier and hassle-free. It's as simple as that.

Robert is a Taiwan-based writer and digital marketer at iamrobert design. He has a passion for helping people simplify their lives through tech.

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