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Clutter can be a big downer on productivity, whether it’s your workstation, your home, or your computer. Entropy is the reason why clutter builds up over time, and entropy takes many forms in the context of computers. Files get lost, programs go unused, and little by little various nooks and crannies in your computer are taken up by stray bits of data. Suddenly, your once spacious hard drive is packed with useless things and you have to clean it up. But how?

It’s not enough to delete things left and right. You need to find the big space hogs, identify which ones are worth deleting, and make sure you aren’t causing harm to your system in the process. Fortunately, there are a few methods you can use to maximize space cleaning on your Windows computer. Open up your technical toolbox and add these to your repertoire because they’ll come in handy every few months during your routine clean.

1. Analyze Disk Space

The first thing you want to do is analyze your disks to see which items are taking up the most space and where they’re located. The reasoning for this is simple: if you want to clean up space as much space as you can in the shortest amount of time, the quickest way is to get rid of big sized items.

But the disk analyzer is also useful for finding hidden or forgotten files. Remember those files you downloaded months ago yet couldn’t find where they’d gone? Or maybe you stockpiled a bunch of files that were useful to you a year ago but now mean nothing? Well, they’ve been taking up space all this time. A disk analyzer will tell you that they exist and you can then go ahead and delete them.

free-space-windows-windirstat

For this, I use the program called WinDirStat, which stands for Windows Directory Statistics. It scans your entire system and organizes everything into an easy-to-navigate tree that shows you which folders take up the most space Visualize your Hard Drive Usage with WinDirStat Visualize your Hard Drive Usage with WinDirStat Read More and what items are taking up that space. Hard drive visualization tools WizTree Can Help You Find What Is Hogging Your Disk Space [Windows] WizTree Can Help You Find What Is Hogging Your Disk Space [Windows] Some users prefer visuals and need charts and graphs, or others need as much numerical data as possible, and then some of us just want the information on our screen as fast as we can... Read More like WinDirStat or WizTree make it even easier to see where the big problems lie. I highly recommend it.

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2. Clear Temporary Files

Temporary files are exactly what their name implies: files that temporarily useful. This means you can go ahead and delete them without much fear of breaking any critical procedures on your system. Most temporary files are used during program installations (having to unpack all of that data before moving it onto your system) and by browsers (for cache reasons), so it’s pretty safe.

On the topic of browsers, you may want to check out Browser Cleaner. On the one hand, every browser has a built-in option for deleting temporary data Delete Temporary Files Quickly & Discreetly With Browser Cleaner [Windows] Delete Temporary Files Quickly & Discreetly With Browser Cleaner [Windows] Life with multiple browsers, numerous applications and a constant use of IM and file sharing programs leaves our computers cluttered with temporary files, histories etc. There are many tools out there that solve this problem.The... Read More like history, downloads, cache, cookies, etc. But with Browser Cleaner, you can clean out more than one browser at a time and all it takes is one button. On top of that, Browser Cleaner can clean application-related temporary data, such as IM logs, program caches, etc. Very easy, very fast, and very convenient.

3. Remove Duplicate Files

I don’t know about you, but there have been many times when I’ve downloaded a file and moved it off to some place for safe keeping only to forget where I’ve put it. Fastforward a few days later and I don’t see the file anywhere, so I download a new copy of it. If this happens a few times – especially if the file is a big size thing, such as the installation file for a large program – then it can really eat up valuable space.

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Fortunately, there are a number of tools designed to remove duplicate files Delete Duplicate Files Quickly With These Tools Delete Duplicate Files Quickly With These Tools One of the fastest ways to clog up your hard drive is to store duplicate files. Most of the time, you probably aren’t even aware that you have duplicate files. They come from a variety... Read More in a flash. Check them out, find one that looks like it interests you, download it and give it a go. Deleting duplicate files is a great way to free up lost space, and the best part is that you don’t actually lose any content in the process since they were duplicates. I’m personally favorable towards dupeGuru.

4. Wipe Unused Feature Space

Did you know that some of the features in Windows, like System Restore and Hibernation, require hard drive space to operate? That’s right. A lot of your hard drive might be eaten up by space that’s been reserved for these features – even if those features haven’t been used in ages.

There are two ways to tweak System Restore: reduce the amount of reserved space OR delete past System Restore points. We’ve answered how to delete system restore points before, so look there for specific directions on how to do that. Just know that you can save on gigabytes of data with this depending on how much of your computer settings are dedicated to System Restore.

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Hibernation, on the other hand, is a system feature that lets you save the state of your computer before you “shut it down,” then restores that state when you “turn it back on.” All of this information is saved to the hibernation system file, which takes up a lot of space. If you disable hibernation and delete that file, you can reclaim that space. For specific instructions, How-To Geek has a post on deleting hiberfil.sys.

Note: Do these system alterations at your own risk. MakeUseOf claims no responsibility if you damage your system in any way. If you aren’t sure of what you’re doing, don’t do it!

5. Upload to Cloud Storage

One of the newer advancements in technology has been the cloud. More importantly, cloud storage The Cloud Storage Showdown - Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive & More The Cloud Storage Showdown - Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive & More The cloud storage scene has heated up recently, with a long-awaited entry by Google and a revamped SkyDrive from Microsoft. Dropbox has gone unchallenged by the major players for a long time, but that’s changed... Read More . With it, you can upload your files to a server and have them keep it safe and sound so you can free up space on your local hard drive 5 Things That You Should Be Using Your Cloud Storage For 5 Things That You Should Be Using Your Cloud Storage For Cloud storage services are great in that they offer a nice chunk of free storage that anyone should be able to put to use. With the cloud's rising popularity and on-the-go computing as popular as... Read More . Most cloud storage services will automatically sync your data between cloud and computer. Just go with a well-known service, like Dropbox or Sugarsync, and there will be minimal risk of losing your files.

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One word of warning, though: you may not want to put your sensitive data on a cloud 3 Tips To Stay Safe From The Dangers Of Cloud Computing 3 Tips To Stay Safe From The Dangers Of Cloud Computing Cloud computing is the big buzz these days and we have more choices available to us now than ever before. How many of us use Dropbox, SkyDrive, or Google Drive on a daily basis? How... Read More . There’s been a lot of talk recently about security, PRISM What Is PRISM? Everything You Need to Know What Is PRISM? Everything You Need to Know The National Security Agency in the US has access to whatever data you're storing with US service providers like Google Microsoft, Yahoo, and Facebook. They're also likely monitoring most of the traffic flowing across the... Read More , eavesdropping, and all that jazz. If you don’t want anyone – and I mean anyone – reading your data, then don’t upload it to the cloud. Otherwise, feel free to use cloud storage as extended storage or even just as a backup.

6. Uninstall Programs

Of course, don’t forget that you can uninstall programs to free up space. If you have any programs that you haven’t run in years, go ahead and uninstall them, but make sure you have some way of reinstalling them if you ever need them. For web downloaded stuff, don’t fret, but I’m talking about CDs and DVDs for paid software – make sure you still have those before you wipe them from your drive.

While the Windows default uninstaller works fine for most programs, you can try a third party tool like GlarySoft’s Absolute Uninstaller to completely remove all traces of installed software Absolute Uninstaller: Don't Settle For The Default, A Better Solution For Software Removal [Windows] Absolute Uninstaller: Don't Settle For The Default, A Better Solution For Software Removal [Windows] When was the last time you wanted to uninstall something from your computer? Was it easy to do? Could you find the program to uninstall in the Windows default uninstall tool? Could you even find... Read More .

Space Cleared

Don’t let your computer devolve into a smattering of stray programs and files that clog up your space. If you find yourself always on the verge of running out of disk space, frantically looking for files to delete here and there to tide you over until next week, then maybe you ought to sit down and really clean out some space. These methods and tools will help you there.

What tips and tricks do you use to clean out your computer? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Image Credit: Windows Cleaner Via Flickr, Files & Folders Via Shutterstock

  1. Nikita
    November 21, 2016 at 8:19 am

    I would highly recommend using MalwareFox software. All you have to do is install the software and it will scan, detect and fix all the files and data which are affected by malware.

  2. Mubashra S
    August 29, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    hey Joel i really liked your article. I installed dupeguru on my laptop. I scanned C drive/windows for duplicate files and i found thousands of duplicate files. I am sending you a few to ask you if its okay to delete them n deleting them won't create any problem. Filename Folder Size (KB) Match %
    0x0404.ini C:WindowsSystem32DriverStoreFileRepositoryhpqlb.inf_x86_neutral_442fe32a2db19e9d 11 100
    0x0404.ini C:WindowsQLB 11 100
    0x0405.ini C:WindowsSystem32DriverStoreFileRepositoryhpqlb.inf_x86_neutral_442fe32a2db19e9d 22 100
    0x0405.ini C:WindowsQLB 22 100
    0x0406.ini C:WindowsSystem32DriverStoreFileRepositoryhpqlb.inf_x86_neutral_442fe32a2db19e9d 23 100
    0x0406.ini C:WindowsQLB 23 100
    0x0407.ini C:WindowsSystem32DriverStoreFileRepositoryhpqlb.inf_x86_neutral_442fe32a2db19e9d 25 100
    0x0407.ini C:WindowsQLB 25 100
    0x0408.ini C:WindowsSystem32DriverStoreFileRepositoryhpqlb.inf_x86_neutral_442fe32a2db19e9d 26 100
    0x0408.ini C:WindowsQLB 26 100
    0x0409.ini C:WindowsSystem32DriverStoreFileRepositoryhpqlb.inf_x86_neutral_442fe32a2db19e9d 21 100
    0x0409.ini C:WindowsQLB 21 100
    0x040a.ini C:WindowsSystem32DriverStoreFileRepositoryhpqlb.inf_x86_neutral_442fe32a2db19e9d 24 100
    0x040a.ini C:WindowsQLB 24 100
    0x040b.ini C:WindowsSystem32DriverStoreFileRepositoryhpqlb.inf_x86_neutral_442fe32a2db19e9d 22 100
    0x040b.ini C:WindowsQLB 22 100
    0x040c.ini C:WindowsSystem32DriverStoreFileRepositoryhpqlb.inf_x86_neutral_442fe32a2db19e9d 25 100
    0x040c.ini C:WindowsQLB 25 100
    0x040e.ini C:WindowsSystem32DriverStoreFileRepositoryhpqlb.inf_x86_neutral_442fe32a2db19e9d 22 100
    0x040e.ini C:WindowsQLB 22 100
    0x0410.ini C:WindowsSystem32DriverStoreFileRepositoryhpqlb.inf_x86_neutral_442fe32a2db19e9d 24 100
    0x0410.ini C:WindowsQLB

  3. Patrick Saunders
    August 27, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    I once typed 'format c:' in DOS
    Don't ever do that

  4. Kim M
    August 27, 2013 at 3:05 am

    To free up WINSXS space after a service pack install, run the following from an administrator command prompt:

    DISM /online /Cleanup-Image /SpSuperseded

    NOTE: You will not be able to uninstall the SP after running this.

  5. Kim M
    August 27, 2013 at 3:01 am

    To clean up WINSXS space after a service pack install run the following from an administrative command prompt:

    DISM /online /Cleanup-Image /SpSuperseded

    NOTE: You will not be able to back out of the service pack after this.

  6. Pratyush R
    August 27, 2013 at 1:03 am

    How about the default methods like performing Disk Cleanup and Disk Defragmentation at regular intervals?

    • Joel Lee
      August 27, 2013 at 9:59 pm

      Good point on the Disk Cleanup, though deleting Temp Files is probably the biggest reclamation of space using Disk Cleanup. As for Disk Defrag, I don't think it actually frees up any space.

      • Pratyush R
        August 27, 2013 at 10:35 pm

        Disk Defrag does cleans up disk space. I've tried it many times for defragmenting my C: (Win) .. let the cycles of Defragment disk run once, until all the pass are complete, it alligns the fragments and around 2-10% of disk space frees up. #TryItOnce

        #Note: Dont ever defrag the System Reserved (Disk space)

      • Pratyush R
        August 27, 2013 at 10:38 pm

        * doesnt cleans up but it actually frees up the unallocated disk space.

      • Pratyush R
        August 27, 2013 at 10:46 pm

        do correct me if I'm wrong, about defrag freeing up disk space.

        #Defragmenter rearranges fragmented data so your disks and drives can work more efficiently. (Win-Help)

  7. Zhong J
    August 26, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    Is it just me or have you guys have nothing more to write? Covering the topic about cleaning Windows system is nothing new but if I may suggest regarding a topic about powersaving on a Linux box then it's an idea for you guys to write about.

    • DA
      August 27, 2013 at 3:28 am

      I believe this website also caters to not so computer savvy folks, so these things need to be reposted from time to time so they can be seen. It is even helpful for me just to see if there is anything new or to refresh my memory on certain things. Usually we just search for something when we need it though if we can't remember.

      • Joel Lee
        August 27, 2013 at 9:57 pm

        Yes, we try to cover topics that would interest both types of readers: the tech-savvy and the not-so-tech-savvy. :)

    • John
      August 27, 2013 at 2:16 pm

      Any limited scope publication will have everyday articles that will repeat. People need to be reminded of the techniques, and new readers are always coming along who will be hearing this stuff for the first time. Even newspapers, which don't have a limited focus, will have content that is a rehash of stories done previously...for the same reasons.

  8. Kristian A
    August 26, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    In Linux Temporary files are deleted automatically and please tell to everyone how to make files stay at cloud and deleted from computer because if you delete something from dropbox folder,the file will delete from cloud too.

    • Joel Lee
      August 27, 2013 at 9:57 pm

      I believe what you're looking for is either "desyncing" or "disabling cache" for the cloud, but I'm not 100% sure on that. You may want to ask your question over at MUO Answers.

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