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Free Up Space on Windows 10Source: Windows Central

When the hard drive fills up, Windows 10 includes quick ways to free up space. Although hard drives with multi-terabyte are now ubiquitous on desktops and laptops, it doesn't take much time until we fill them up with tons of files, pictures, videos, apps, and games. Then before you know it, you start noticing slow performance and problems installing new versions of Windows 10.

If your computer is running low on space, Windows 10 includes several features and options to free up space that allows you to delete unnecessary and temporary files and apps and games to optimize the storage. Using these tools will not only help reclaim space to store more important files, but it'll improve system 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 the best tips to free up storage space on your device to make room to store more files and install feature updates without issues.

  1. Free up space emptying Recycle Bin on Windows 10
  2. Free up space deleting junk files using Storage Sense on Windows 10
  3. Free up space deleting temp files using Disk Cleanup on Windows 10
  4. Free up space making OneDrive files available on-demand on Windows 10
  5. Free up space uninstalling non-essential apps and games on Windows 10
  6. Free up space moving files, apps, games to external drive on Windows 10
  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 on Windows 10
  11. Free up space disabling Reserved Storage on Windows 10
  12. Free up space rebuilding search indexer on Windows 10

1. Free up space emptying Recycle Bin on Windows 10

When deleting files, the system doesn't immediately erase them from the hard drive. Instead, they're sent to the Recycle Bin in case you need to recover them. However, over time, the bin can grow significantly, wasting a lot of valuable space, which makes emptying the Recycle Bin among the first things you should complete to reclaim some of the drive storage.

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 bin.
  3. Click the Recycle Bin Tools tab.
  4. Click the Empty Recycle Bin button.

    Windows 10 empty recycle binSource: Windows Central

  5. Click the Yes button.

Once you complete the steps, you'll free up close to ten percent of the drive capacity (assuming the Recycle Bin is at capacity).

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2. Free up space deleting junk files using Storage Sense on Windows 10

Storage Sense is a feature available on Windows 10, which offers the necessary settings to delete junk files from the system drive as well as secondary drives. Using this feature, you can quickly clean up previous installation files after an upgrade and temporary files to free up space to store more important data and improve the drive efficiency.

Remove 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" section, click the Configure Storage Sense or run it now option.

    Windows 10 Storage Sense configure optionSource: Windows Central

  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 already deleted files you don't need.
  7. Use the Downloads drop-down menu to specify how to clean up files you downloaded from the internet.

    Quick tip: If you need to delete the most amount of files, use the 1 day option. Also, the Downloads folder may contain essential files, which means that it's recommended to back up those important files manually 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 the device becomes online-only.

    Storage Sense advanced settingsSource: Windows Central

    Quick note: This option is part of OneDrive Files On-Demand, which allows you to access your documents, pictures, videos, and other files using File Explorer, but without the need to sync them, significantly reducing the storage usage on your device. When your computer is running low on space, you can use it to make files only available in the cloud. You'll still be able to see them using File Explorer, but their content will download only when you need them with an internet connection.

  9. Under the "Free up space now" section, check the Delete previous versions of Windows option (if applicable).

    Storage sense delete previous version of Windows 10Source: Windows Central

    Quick note: If this option is available, you may be able to free up anywhere from 10GB to 20GB of space if you recently upgraded to a new version of Windows 10.

  10. Click the Clean now button.

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

Enable 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" section, click the Configure Storage Sense or run it now option.

    Windows 10 Storage Sense configure optionSource: Windows Central

  5. Turn on the Storage Sense toggle switch.
  6. Use the Run Storage Sense drop-down menu and select the best option for your situation:

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

    Storage Sense enable optionSource: Windows Central

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

Remove temporary files with Storage Sense

Storage Sense allows you to delete temporary system and apps files, which help you 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 "Local Disk (C:)" section, click the Temporary files item. (If the item isn't available, click the Show more categories option.)

    Storage Sense Temporary files itemSource: Windows Central

  5. Check all the items you want to clear to free up space. For example:

    • Downloads.
    • Delivery Optimization Files.
    • Temporary files.
    • Thumbnails.
    • Microsoft 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. If you want to select 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.

    Windows 10 delete temporary filesSource: Windows Central

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

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 which files are using the most space to know the data that you need to clean up.

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

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click on Storage.
  4. Under the "Local Disk C:" section, click the Show more categories option.

    Storage Sense show more categories option for temporary filesSource: Windows Central

  5. See how the storage is being utilized.

    Windows 10 hard drive usage viewSource: Windows Central

  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 see how much space the installation of Windows 10 is using. Also, how much space virtual memory, hibernation files, system restore, and the amount of storage the system is reserving for updates (if applicable) are occupying on the local drive.

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3. Free up space deleting temp files using Disk Cleanup on Windows 10

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

Remove 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 (if applicable).
  4. Click the OK button.
  5. Click the Cleanup system files button.

    Cleanup System Files Windows10 ButtonSource: Disk Cleanup settings

  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. For example:

    • Microsoft 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.
    • Language Resource Files.
    • Previous Windows installation(s).
    • Recycle Bin.
    • Temporary files.
    • Temporary Windows installation files.
    • Thumbnails.
  9. Click the OK button.

    Disk cleanup free up space on Windows 10Source: Windows Central

  10. Click the Delete Files button.

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

Delete System Restore and Shadow Copies using Disk Cleanup

If you use System Restore and Shadow Copies (volume snapshot that allows you 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 (if applicable).
  4. Click the OK button.
  5. Click the Cleanup system files button.

    Cleanup System Files Windows10 ButtonSource: Disk Cleanup settings

  6. Click the More Options tab.
  7. Under the "System Restore and Shadow Copies" section, click the Clean up button.

    System Restore and Shadow Copies settingsSource: Windows Central

  8. Click the Delete button.

    Windows 10 free up space deleting System Restore and Shadow CopiesSource: Windows Central

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 on Windows 10

While 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 files available on-demand manually.

Enable OneDrive Files On-Demand

On Windows 10, OneDrive Files On-Demand should be already enabled, but if it's not, you can use these steps:

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

    OneDrive taskbar menuSource: Windows Central

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

    OneDrive enable files on-demand optionSource: Windows Central

  6. Click the OK button.

Once you complete the steps, you can move files to the OneDrive folder and make them available only online to free up space (see steps below).

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.

    Onedrive Free Up SpaceSource: Windows Central

In addition to making synced files available only with an internet connection, you can free up even more space by moving other files to the OneDrive folder and use the above steps to make them available on-demand.

After you complete the steps, you'll be able to access all of your content 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. However, we recommend getting a Microsoft 365 subscription, as you'll get 1TB of cloud storage, plus access to the suite of Office apps and other services, such as Microsoft Teams (consumer) and Family Safety.

Get subscribed

Microsoft 365

Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) gives you full access to all the apps and perks, such as 1TB OneDrive storage and Skype minutes. You can also install Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and other apps on up to five devices, and depending on the subscription, you can share the account with up to six people.

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

Removing apps you rarely use is another way to reclaim space on your computer. Games can also eat up a lot of storage quickly, which means that keeping them to a minimum can significantly reduce storage usage, and it'll even improve the overall gaming performance.

To uninstall apps and games on Windows 10, 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.

    Windows 10 uninstall apps to free up spaceSource: Windows Central

  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.

If you've previously enabled the Windows Subsystem for Linux, it's likely you have one or more distros of Linux installed on your device. You can always uninstall them to reclaim between one or two gigabytes.

Delete unused languages

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

To uninstall languages on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Time & Language.
  3. Click on Language.
  4. Select the language you don't use.
  5. Click the Remove button.

    Windows 10 remove languages to free up spaceSource: Windows Central

After you complete the steps, you may need to repeat the instructions to delete other languages.

Delete maps

It doesn't apply to everyone, but you can also free up some space by deleting offline maps on Windows 10.

To remove maps, use these steps:

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

    Windows 10 delete maps to free up spaceSource: Windows Central

  5. Click the Delete all button.

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

Uninstall optional features

If you have optional features installed (such as Windows Media Player, Windows Hello Face, Math Recognizer, Windows Fax and Scan, and others), you can remove them to gain some extra space.

To remove optional features on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Apps.
  3. Click on Apps & features.
  4. Under the "Apps & features" section, click the Optional features option.

    Optional features optionSource: Windows Central

  5. Click the "Sort by" menu and select the Install Size option to find the feature using the most space.
  6. Select the feature and click the Uninstall button.

    Windows 10 remove optional featuresSource: Windows Central

After you complete the steps, you may need to repeat the instructions to remove additional optional features.

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

If the device is still running low on storage, you should set up an external drive to move and store your current and future files. You can even configure Windows 10 to save files in the new location by default for future data.

Move local files to external drive

To move existing files to a new drive, connect the external drive that you'll dedicate to this 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 Move to button from the "Home" tab.

    File Explorer move files optionSource: Windows Central

  5. Select the Choose location option.
  6. Select the external storage as the new destination.
  7. Click the Move button.

    File Explorer transfer files new location settingsSource: Windows Central

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

Save future files to new drive by default

To configure Windows 10 to save files, and install apps on an external drive 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.

    Storage settings change location of new saved filesSource: Windows Central

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

    Change default save location for filesSource: Windows Central

  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.

Relocate 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 reduce storage usage on the main drive.

To move apps and games to another location, connect a new drive to the computer, 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 relocate.
  6. Click the Move button. (If the option isn't available, then the feature doesn't support the item.)
  7. Use the drop-down menu to select the location.

    Windows 10 move installed app to new driveSource: Windows Central

  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

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

While it's a useful feature, Hibernation requires 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 critical files.

To disable Hibernation on Windows 10, use 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

    Windows 10 disable hibernationSource: Windows Central

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

Also, you can use the lightweight compression feature built into the Windows 10 NT File System (NTFS) to reduce storage usage while retaining normal access to your files without the need to zip 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 using a process that requires extra resources. You should use this option only if it's necessary or if you have a very capable system.

Enable folder compression

To enable Windows 10 NTFS compression in a folder, use these steps:

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

    Folder properties advanced optionSource: Windows Central

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

    Compress content to save disk space optionSource: Windows Central

  7. Click the Apply button.
  8. Select the Apply changes to this folder, subfolders and files option. (If the folder already contain a lot of files, the initial compression can take some time.)
  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.

Enable drive compression

To enable Windows 10 NTFS compression on an entire 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.

    Windows 10 hard drive NTFS compression optionSource: Windows Central

    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.

    Windows 10 apply NTFS compression to folders and filesSource: Windows Central

    Quick tip: Usually, you want to enable compression on a new empty drive. If the hard drive already contains a lot of files, the initial NTFS compression can take a long time.

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

Once you complete the steps, the file system 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 includes Compact OS, a tool designed to compress and reduce the installation and apps' footprint.

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

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

Warning: This is a friendly reminder that modifying system files are 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

    Windows 10 enable CompactOS to free up spaceSource: Windows Central

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

If you share the device with other people, you can free up space by deleting accounts no longer in use.

To delete user accounts and data to free up space, 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.

    Windows 10 delete account to free up spaceSource: Windows Central

  6. Click the Delete account and data button.

    Windows 10 delete user account and dateSource: Windows Central

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.

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11. Free up space rebuilding search indexer on Windows 10

Sometimes, the search indexer database can grow very large, causing the drive to run out of space. If this is the case, rebuilding the database and modifying the index items can significantly reclaim storage space.

To rebuild the index of Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Search.
  3. Click on Searching Windows.
  4. Under the "More Search Indexer Settings" section, click the Advanced Search Indexer Settings option.

    Advanced Search Indexer SettingsSource: Windows Central

  5. Click the Advanced button.

    Indexing Options Advanced ButtonSource: Windows Central

  6. Click the Index Settings tab.
  7. Under the "Troubleshooting" section, click the Rebuild button.

    Rebuild search index free up spaceSource: Windows Central

  8. Click the OK button.

Once you complete the steps, Windows 10 will clear and rebuild the index database. However, during the database rebuild, searches using the taskbar, File Explorer, and across the experience might be incomplete until files are re-indexed.

Reducing index items

You can also reduce the space usage for the indexer database by excluding specific locations.

To exclude locations from indexing on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Search.
  3. Click on Searching Windows.
  4. Under the "More Search Indexer Settings" section, click the Advanced Search Indexer Settings option.

    Advanced Search Indexer SettingsSource: Windows Central

  5. Click the Modify button.

    Indexing Options Modify ButtonSource: Windows Central

  6. Click the Show all locations button.
  7. Clear the options for apps you don't want to index. (Usually, you don't want to index any app.)
  8. Expand the C drive and clear the folder you want to index.

    Exclude index location on Windows 10Source: Windows Central

  9. Click the OK button.
  10. Click the Close button.

After you complete the steps, the indexer will update the database, hopefully reducing its footprint on the hard drive.

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12. Free up space disabling Reserved Storage on Windows 10

Since the May 2019 Update, Windows 10 includes a feature known as "Reserved Storage," which sets aside several gigabytes of space for updates, system cache, and temporary files. When a new update is available, the system will automatically clean up the storage to prevent problems during the installation of new updates.

If you understand the feature and prefer not to use it, you can disable the Reserved Storage to reclaim additional storage space. However, there's one catch, once you disable the feature, the changes won't be reflected until after the installation of the next version of Windows 10.

To disable Reserved Storage, use these steps:

Important: Only disable this feature if you know what you're doing. Otherwise, it's not recommended to modify these settings, as the changes to run into issues when installing new updates could increase.

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for PowerShell, right-click the top result, and select the Run as administrator option.
  3. Type the following command to confirm if the feature is enabled and press Enter:

    Get-WindowsReservedStorageState

  4. Type the following command to disable the feature and press Enter:

    Set-WindowsReservedStorageState -State disabled

    Disable Reserved Storage to free up spaceSource: Windows Central

After you complete the steps, Reserved Storage will disable, allowing you to reclaim around 7GB of space after the next upgrade of Windows 10.

More Windows 10 resources

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

We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more.

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