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12 best ways to free up hard drive space on Windows 10

Windows 10 free up space
(Image credit: Future)

On Windows 10, you have several options to free up space on your device. Although nowadays, laptops and desktops include drives with multiple terabytes of storage, we always find a way to fill them up with documents, pictures, videos, apps, and games, causing slowdown, problems saving files, and many other issues.

If your computer is running low on space, Windows 10 comes with tools. For example, Storage Sense, OneDrive Files On-Demand, Compact OS, NTFS compression, and other features to delete unnecessary files, apps, and games, which can help reclaim space, improve performance, and resolve problems during updates.

This guide will walk you through the best ways to free up storage space on Windows 10 to store more files and install feature updates without issues.

1. Free up space clearing Recycle Bin on Windows 10

Windows 10 doesn't erase files from the drive when you delete them. Instead, they are relocated to the Recycle Bin and marked for deletion. However, since the Recycle Bin can grow large over time, emptying its contents is the first thing you can do to free up space on your computer.

To empty the Recycle Bin to regain storage space on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Recycle Bin and click the top result to open the app.
  • Quick tip: If the app does not appear in the result, you can open File Explorer (Windows key + E), type Recycle Bin, and press Enter in the address bar.
  1. Click the Recycle Bin Tools tab.
  2. Click the Empty Recycle Bin button.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Click the Yes button.

Once you complete the steps, the system will free up around 10% of the drive capacity (assuming the bin is full).

Change Recycle Bin settings

Windows 10 reserves 10% of the available space for deleted files. Once the threshold is reached, the system will automatically delete files from the oldest to the newest. You can always adjust how much space the system should use for the Recycle Bin.

To reduce the space usage for the Recycle Bin, use these steps:

  1. Use the Windows + D keyboard shortcut to view the desktop.
  2. Right-click the Recycle Bin icon and select the Properties option.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. If you have multiple partitions, select the Recycle Bin location you want to configure. For example, Local Disk (C:) is the drive where Windows 10 is installed.
  2. Under the "Settings for selected location" section, select the Custom size option.
  3. In the "Maximum size (MB)" field, specify the maximum hard drive space in megabytes that Recycle Bin can use on the particular partition.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. (Optional) Check the Don't move files to the Recycle Bin. Remove files immediately when deleted option if you want to delete the files from the drive skipping the Recycle Bin to minimize storage usage.
  2. Click the Apply button.
  3. Click the OK Button.

After you complete the steps, the Recycle Bin will be able to keep more or fewer files from a particular location, depending on your configuration.

Mauro Huculak is technical writer for WindowsCentral.com. His primary focus is to write comprehensive how-tos to help users get the most out of Windows 10 and its many related technologies. He has an IT background with professional certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTIA, and he's a recognized member of the Microsoft MVP community.