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Although nowadays hard drives come in multi-terabyte options, it doesn't take a lot of time until we fill them up with tons of files, pictures, videos, apps, and games, and before you know it, you start noticing slow performance and problems installing a new version of Windows 10.

If your device is running low on space, Windows 10 includes a number of features and options to clean up unnecessary and temporary files as well as apps and games to optimize the storage. Using these tools will not only help to free up space to store more important files, but it'll improve performance and reduce the chances of problems as you install updates.

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In this Windows 10 guide, we'll walk you through several tips to free up storage space on your computer to make room to store more files and install feature updates without issues.

  1. Free up space emptying Recycle Bin
  2. Free up space deleting junk files using Storage sense
  3. Free up space deleting temp files using Disk Cleanup
  4. Free up space making OneDrive files available on-demand
  5. Free up space uninstalling non-essential apps and games
  6. Free up space moving files, apps, games to external drive
  7. Free up space disabling Hibernation on Windows 10
  8. Free up space using NTFS compression
  9. Free up space compressing installation footprint of Windows 10
  10. Free up space deleting users no longer sharing device
  11. (Bonus) See hard drive usage on Windows 10

1. Free up space emptying Recycle Bin

Although it may be obvious, when you delete most files, they're not immediately erased from the hard drive, they're sent to the Recycle Bin, in case you need to get them back. However, over time, the bin can grow in size wasting a lot of space, as such emptying the trash should be among the first things you should do to reclaim some of the storage back.

To empty the Recycle Bin on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Recycle Bin and click the top result to open the experience.
  3. Click the Recycle Bin Tools tab.
  4. Click the Empty Recycle Bin button.

  5. Click the Yes button.

Once you complete the steps, depending on the deleted content, you may be able to free up close to ten percent of the drive capacity.

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2. Free up space deleting junk files using Storage sense

On Windows 10, Storage sense offers an easy way to delete junk files from the system drive as well as for secondary and external drives. Using this feature, you can quickly get rid of previous installation files after an upgrade and temporary files to free up space to store more important files and improve the drive efficiency.

Removing junk files using Storage sense

To free up space using Storage sense, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click on Storage.
  4. Under the "Storage sense" section, click the Change how we free up space automatically option. (If you're running the Windows 10 May 2019 Update, then click the Configure Storage Sense or run it now option, under the "Storage" section.)

  5. Under the "Temporary Files" section, check the Delete temporary files that apps aren't using option.
  6. Use the Recycle Bin drop-down menu to specify how to clear deleted files.
  7. Use the Downloads drop-down menu to specify how to clean up files that you downloaded from the internet.

    Quick tip: If you need to delete the most files, use the 1 day option in the drop-down menus. Also, the Downloads folder may contain important files, as such it's recommended to manually backup those important files before running Storage sense.

  8. Under the "Locally available cloud content" section use the drop-down menu to specify how long OneDrive content synced to your device becomes online-only.

    Note: This option is part of OneDrive Files On-Demand, which is a feature that allows you to access your documents, pictures, videos, and other files using File Explorer, but without the need to sync them to your device reducing the storage usage. When your device is running low on space, you can use this option to make files only available in the cloud, and download them only when you need them with an internet connection.

  9. Under the "Free up space now" section, check the Download previous versions of Windows option (if applicable). If this option is available, you may be able to free up anywhere from 10GB to 20GB of space.

  10. Click the Clean now button.

After you complete the steps, Storage sense will run and delete the unnecessary files from the device to reclaim additional space.

Enabling Storage sense

Although you can use Storage sense manually, you should enable the feature to run the storage maintenance automatically to prevent running out of space quickly.

To set up Storage sense to run automatically, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click on Storage.
  4. Under the "Storage sense" section, click the Change how we free up space automatically option. (If you're running the May 2019 Update, then click the Configure Storage Sense or run it now option, under the "Storage" section.)

  5. Turn on the Storage sense toggle switch.
  6. Use the Run Storage sense drop-down menu and select when the feature should run automatically:

    • Every day.
    • Every week.
    • Every month.
    • During low free disk space (recommended).

Once you complete the steps, Storage sense will run automatically at the schedule that you specified.

Removing temporary files with Storage sense

Using Storage sense, you can also delete temporary system and apps files (just like using Disk Cleanup) to reclaim several gigabytes of space.

To delete temporary files with the Settings app, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click on Storage.
  4. Under the "Storage sense" section, click the Free up space now option. (If you're running the Windows 10 May 2019 Update, then click the Temporary files item, under the "Local Disk (C:)" section.)

  5. Check all the content that you want to clear to free up space, including:

    • Downloads.
    • Delivery Optimization Files.
    • Temporary files.
    • Thumbnails.
    • Windows Defender Antivirus.
    • Recycle Bin.
    • Temporary Windows installation files.
    • DirectX Shader Cache.
    • System created Windows Error Reporting Files.
    • Temporary Internet Files.
    • Previous Windows installation(s).

    Quick tip: The available items may vary in your installation. Also, if you're selecting the Downloads item, before clearing these files, make sure to understand that this option deletes everything stored in your "Downloads" folder.

  6. Click the Remove files button.

After you complete the steps, the feature will delete the temporary files that you selected freeing up space for more important files.

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3. Free up space deleting temp files using Disk Cleanup

Although Storage sense is the experience that replaces Disk Cleanup, you can still use the legacy tool to free up space on your computer, laptop, or tablet.

Removing temporary files with Disk Cleanup

To delete temporary files using Disk Cleanup on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Disk Cleanup and select the top result to open the experience.
  3. Use the "Drives" drop-down menu and select the (C:) drive.
  4. Click the OK button.
  5. Click the Cleanup system files button.

  6. Use the "Drives" drop-down menu and select the (C:) drive.
  7. Click the OK button.
  8. Check all the content that you want to clear to free up space, including:

    • Windows Defender Antivirus.
    • Windows upgrade log files.
    • Downloaded Program Files.
    • Temporary Internet Files.
    • System created Windows Error Reporting Files.
    • DirectX Shader Cache.
    • Delivery Optimization Files.
    • Device driver packages.
    • Downloads.
    • Language Resource Files.
    • Previous Windows installation(s).
    • Recycle Bin.
    • Temporary files.
    • Temporary Windows installation files.
    • Thumbnails.

    Quick tip: The available items may vary in your installation. Also, if you're selecting the Downloads item, before clearing these files, make sure to understand that this option deletes everything stored in your "Downloads" folder.

  9. Click the OK button.

  10. Click the Delete Files button.

Once you complete the steps, similar to Storage sense, the temporary files will be removed from your computer freeing up space on the hard drive.

Delete System Restore and Shadow Copies using Disk Cleanup

In the case that you're using System Restore, and Shadow Copies (volume snapshot that allows to backup files even when they're open), you can also delete older files to reclaim additional storage.

To delete all but the most recent restore points, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Disk Cleanup and select the top result to open the experience.
  3. Use the "Drives" drop-down menu and select the (C:) drive.
  4. Click the OK button.
  5. Click the Cleanup system files button.

  6. Use the "Drives" drop-down menu and select the (C:) drive.
  7. Click the OK button.
  8. Click the More Options tab.
  9. Under the "System Restore and Shadow Copies" section, click the Clean up button.

  10. Click the Delete button.

After you complete the steps, you'll reclaim some additional space to store more files.

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4. Free up space making OneDrive files available on-demand

Although you can use Storage sense to make unused OneDrive content available only online, if you need to free up space immediately (and every megabyte counts), you can make any files available on-demand manually.

Enabling OneDrive Files On-Demand

OneDrive Files On-Demand should be enabled by default, but it's not, you can use these steps:

  1. Click the OneDrive icon in the bottom-right corner of the taskbar.
  2. Click the More option.
  3. Click the Settings option.

  4. Click the Settings tab.
  5. Under the "File On-Demand" section, check the Save space and download files as you use them option.

  6. Click the OK button.

Once you complete the steps, you can start using Files On-Demand to move files to the OneDrive folder and make them available only online to free up space.

Making local content available online

To make local files available on-demand, use these steps:

  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Select the OneDrive folder from the left pane.
  3. Select the files and folder taking up space.
  4. Right-click the selection and choose the Free up space option.

In addition to making synced files available only with an internet connection, you can free up even more space by moving other files and folders to the OneDrive folder, and use the above steps to save drive space.

After you complete the steps, you'll be able to access all of your contents using File Explorer, but you'll only be able to open them with an internet connection.

The free version of OneDrive only allows you to store up to 5GB worth of files, but you can always get a subscription to lift the limit to 1000GB.

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5. Free up space uninstalling non-essential apps and games

Removing apps that you don't need and never use is another way to reclaim additional space on your device. In addition, games can also eat up a lot of storage quickly, which means that keeping games to a minimum number can significantly reduce storage usage, and it'll even improve gaming performance.

To uninstall apps and games, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Apps.
  3. Click on Apps & features.
  4. Use the "Sort by" filter and select the Size view to quickly identify the apps and games using the most space.
  5. Select the app or game that you want to remove.
  6. Click the Uninstall button.

  7. Click the Uninstall button again.
  8. Continue with the on-screen directions (if applicable).

Once you complete the steps, repeat the same instructions to remove additional apps and games from your device.

Removing unused languages

Uninstalling secondary languages that you don't use can also help to reduce storage usage:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Time & Language.
  3. Click on Language.
  4. Select the language that you no longer use.
  5. Click the Remove button.

After you complete the steps, you may need to repeat the instructions to delete additional languages that you don't use.

Removing maps

You can also free up some additional space by deleting offline maps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Apps.
  3. Click on Offline maps.
  4. Click the Delete all maps button.

  5. Click the Delete all button.

Once you complete the steps, the maps previously cached on your device will be removed to free up space.

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6. Free up space moving files, apps, games to external drive

If you're still running low on storage, you should connect an external drive to move and store your current and future files. In addition, you can even configure Windows 10 to save files in the new location automatically for future files.

Moving local files to new drive

To move existing files to a new drive, connect the external drive to your device, and use these steps:

  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Browse to the folder with the content you want to move.
  3. Select the items.
  4. Click the Home tab.
  5. Click the Move to button.

  6. Select the Choose location option.
  7. Select the new destination.
  8. Click the Move button.

After you complete the steps, you may need to repeat the instructions to move additional files and folders to a new location as necessary to reduce the storage usage in the drive running out of space.

Saving future files to new drive automatically

To configure Windows 10 to save files and install apps on the new location automatically, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click on Storage.
  4. Under the "More storage settings" section, click the Change where new content is saved option.

  5. Use the drop-down menus, select the new location to save files automatically for each content type.

  6. Click the Apply button.

Once you complete the steps, new files and apps you download from the Microsoft Store will save in the new location by default.

Moving apps and games to new drive

Windows 10 lets you move many Microsoft Store apps and games already installed on your device to an external storage without reinstallation, which can help to reduce the storage usage on a drive.

To move apps and games to another location, connect a new drive, and use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Apps.
  3. Click on Apps & features.
  4. Use the "Sort by" filter and select the Size view to quickly identify the apps and games using the most space.
  5. Select the app or game that you want to migrate.
  6. Click the Move button.
  7. Use the drop-down menu to select the location.

  8. Click the Move button again.

After you complete the steps, you may need to repeat the same instructions to move additional apps or games to the new location.

When using this feature, you must keep the external drive always connected to your computer. Otherwise, you won't be able to launch the apps or play those games you moved to the new location.

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7. Free up space disabling Hibernation on Windows 10

On Windows 10, Hibernation is a nifty feature that saves the data in memory onto the hard drive allowing to shut down a computer preserving the current session. When the device comes back online, you can pick up just where you left off.

Although it's a great feature, it may require many gigabytes of space to save the information loaded in memory inside the hiberfil.sys file.

If you're running low on space, you can disable Hibernation to make room for more important files using these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Command Prompt, right-click the top result, and select the Run as administrator option.
  3. Type the following command to disable Hibernation and press Enter:

    powercfg /hibernate off

Once you complete the steps, you'll no longer be able to hibernate your device, but the available storage will increase to save other files.

In the future, you can revert the changes using the same instructions, but on step No. 3, make sure to use the powercfg /hibernate on command.

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8. Free up space using NTFS compression

In addition to all the above recommendations, you can use the lightweight compression feature built into NTFS to reduce storage usage while retaining normal access to your files. Using the NTFS feature, you can compress files, folders, or an entire drive.

Important: Using compression can impact system performance as the system needs to compress and decompress files on the fly on a process that requires extra resources. You should use this option only if it's necessary.

Setting up folder compression

To enable NTFS compression in a folder, use these steps:

  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Browse to the folder with the content that you want to compress.
  3. Right-click the folder and select the Properties option.
  4. Click the Advanced button.

  5. Check the Compress contents to save disk space option.
  6. Click the OK button.

  7. Click the Apply button.
  8. Select the Apply changes to this folder, subfolders and files option.

  9. Click the OK button.
  10. Click the OK button again.

After you complete the steps, the file compression feature will enable in the folder reducing the size of existing and future files you save in this location. (The above steps focus on folders, but the same instructions will apply to compress files individually.)

If you no longer need compression, you can undo the changes using the same instructions, but on step No. 5, make sure to clear the Compress contents to save disk space option.

Setting up drive compression

To enable NTFS compression in a drive, use these steps:

  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Click on This PC from the left pane.
  3. Under the "Devices and drives" section, right-click the drive you want to compress and select the Properties option.
  4. Check the Compress this drive to save disk space option.

    Quick tip: Usually, you only want to use this option on a secondary drive or partition, as compressing the Windows 10 installation drive may affect performance.

  5. Click the Apply button.
  6. Select the Apply changes to drive (drive letter), subfolders and files option.

  7. Click the OK button.
  8. Click the OK button again.

Once you complete the steps, NTFS will compress the drive and any content stored on it.

When the feature is no longer required, you can use the same instructions to undo the changes, but on step No. 4, make sure to clear the Compress this drive to save disk space option.

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9. Free up space compressing installation footprint of Windows 10

Windows 10 also comes with Compact OS, a tool designed to compress and reduce the footprint of the installation and apps.

Usually, it's a feature reserved for devices with limited storage, but it's an option that can come in handy when you need additional space immediately, and you don't have an external storage.

To shrink the size of the Windows 10 installation and apps, use these steps:

Warning: This is a friendly reminder that modifying system files is risky, and it can cause irreversible damage to your installation if you don't do it correctly. It's recommended to make a temporary full backup of your PC before proceeding.

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Command Prompt, right-click the top result, and select the Run as administrator option.
  3. Type the following command to compress the installation of Windows 10 alongside apps and press Enter:

    compact.exe /compactOS:always

After you complete the steps, the process will reclaim around 2GB of storage without affecting performance significantly.

When the feature is no longer needed, you can always revert the changes using the same instructions, but on step No. 3, make sure to use the compact.exe /compactOS:never command.

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10. Free up space deleting users no longer sharing device

You can also free up space by deleting accounts from users who are no longer using the computer.

To delete user accounts on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Accounts.
  3. Click on Family & other users.
  4. Select the account you wish to remove to free up space.
  5. Click the Remove button.

  6. Click the Delete account and data button.

Once you complete the steps, the user profile and data will be deleted from your device freeing up additional space. If you have multiple unused accounts, repeat the steps for each account to reclaim the most storage.

11. (Bonus) See hard drive usage on Windows 10

While you're probably already aware that your device is running low on space, you may still be wondering what files are using the most storage, which can come in handy to know the data that you need to clean up.

To view the storage usage on your computer, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click on Storage.
  4. Under the "Local storage" section, select the drive running out of space. (If you're running the Windows 10 May 2019 Update, click the Show more categories option.)

  5. See how the storage is being utilized.

  6. Select each category to see even more details and actions that you can take to free up space.

After you complete the steps, you'll have a better understanding of the storage usage on your device and the areas of focus to free up space.

For example, clicking the System & reserved category, you'll be able to see how much space the installation of Windows 10 is taking, as well as how much space virtual memory, hibernation files, and system restore are occupying on the local drive.

More Windows 10 resources

For more helpful articles, coverage, and answers to common questions about Windows 10, visit the following resources:

Mauro recommends all these affordable accessories

Hi, I'm Mauro Huculak, Windows Central's help and how-to guru. I wrote the post you're reading now, and I know the Windows OS inside and out. But I'm also a bit of a hardware geek. These are some of the affordable gadgets on my desk today.

Logitech MX Master Wireless Mouse ($72 at Amazon)

I know mice, and this is the one I use every day. The MX Master is a wireless high-precision mouse that's very comfortable to use and has many great features, including the ability to connect with multiple devices, an infinite scroll wheel, back and forward buttons, all of which you can customize.

Ktrio Extended Gaming Mouse Pad ($12 at Amazon)

If you spend a lot of time typing, your palms and mouse will leave tracks on your desk. My solution was to start using gaming mouse pads, which are big enough for you to use the keyboard and the mouse comfortably. This is the one I use and recommend.

Supernight LED light strip ($20 at Amazon)

You could just use a regular light bulb in your office, but if you want to add some ambient lighting with different colors, an RGB LED strip is the way to go. This one is Mauro-approved.

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