You’re down to less than 1GB on your hard drive and disk access is really slowing down as Windows struggles to write new data to it. What should you do? Well, resist the temptation to start randomly deleting files, here are some tips and free utilities to retrieve some valuable disk space without regretting anything afterwards.
First things first – backup
Make sure all your documents, pictures, videos, music and anything else of value are backed up. If you don’t already have one, invest in a backup external hard drive. They’re not too expensive these days and well worth the investment. I’ve written about my backup procedure before. Make sure you have at least two independent data backups, for example, an external drive and online storage. Then you won’t regret any ‘accidental’ deletions on your hard drive as you reclaim some space.
If you don’t already have it, download and install the free utility CCleaner to remove temporary files, internet history, cookies etc. to free up some space. If you’ve never run disk maintenance utilities, you may be surprised how much space this gives you straight off. If you’re really stuck for hard disk space and can’t download anything, portable CCleaner can even be directly downloaded to a USB drive, then extracted and run from there to free up some space on your hard drive.
Uninstall unused programs
If you’re running Windows 7, Go to Control Panel, Programs and Features and uninstall all the programs you never or rarely use. There’s bound to be a few.
Clear out your Downloads folder
Take some time to systematically go through all the files in your Downloads folder and decide which you want to keep. You’ll find that some files here, particularly documents, can be moved to more appropriate locations or deleted. Programs you’ve downloaded here before installing can probably be deleted. No need to keep most of these installers, because if you ever need to reinstall a program, chances are that there will be a more up to date version available online anyway.
Look for directories hogging disk space
Use a free program like TreeSize Free, WinDirStat or WizTree to give you a graphical view of the folders on your hard drive. I use TreeSize Free and came across a folder with 6GB of video files I rarely watched. Once they’re safely backed up, you can delete these and get back some more valuable space.
Remove duplicate files
Use a free program like Auslogics Duplicate File Finder to remove duplicate files. A couple of words of advice here. First, in the left panel, make sure it’s set to check just your important directories such as My Pictures or My Music, not the complete C: drive, otherwise you will probably be overwhelmed with duplicates. Let’s say we start with My Pictures. In the search criteria, you can specify to search only for files greater than say 1MB or 5MB so as just to find the larger duplicates.
You can also ignore file names if you wish, so that only the file contents are checked for duplicates. That way two files with different names but the same content will be spotted and one removed.
Next you can specify if you want duplicates moved to the Recycle Bin, the Rescue Centre where they are archived (in case you want to retrieve something), or permanently deleted. Once it has listed the duplicates, let it automatically check all duplicates but if you have time, look through the list to make sure you are keeping the duplicate in the location you prefer. Having deleted the duplicates in your My Pictures folder, move on to say your My Music folder and so on.
Remove similar images
It’s up to you whether you go this far, but there are programs like SimilarImages which will find then remove similar images. The program lets you configure the “similarity” threshold which enables you to configure which image pairs should be shown after the scan. Another option is Awesome Duplicate Photo Finder. You don’t need to input any comparison criteria with this one.
So that should help retrieve some valuable disk space without losing something valuable in the process. Have I missed something? How do you free up space? Do you bother now we’re in the age of 1TB and 2TB drives? Drop a comment below.