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There’s an old adage that you cannot have enough disk space. It’s true, but a much cheaper option to purchasing more is to make more sense of the space you already have.

Windows doesn’t make that terribly easy, though. While you can get a decent view of the clutter in a single folder, expanding the view to cover more ground isn’t easy.

It’s not a new problem though, and there are plenty of tools around that will help you to visualize disk usage so that you can get organized.


We’ve covered some of these before. Karl reviewed a very geeky tool called Space Sniffer Find Lost Space On Your Hard Disk With Space Sniffer Find Lost Space On Your Hard Disk With Space Sniffer Read More for Windows, Beth ran a giveaway of DaisyDisk Rediscover Your Disk Usage with DaisyDisk for Mac [MakeUseOf Giveaway] Rediscover Your Disk Usage with DaisyDisk for Mac [MakeUseOf Giveaway] Read More for the Mac, and David talked us through using TreeSize Recover Hard Drive Space with TreeSize [Windows] Recover Hard Drive Space with TreeSize [Windows] Read More , again for Windows. Damien even had a set of six option for Linux 6 Great Apps to View Disk Usage in Linux 6 Great Apps to View Disk Usage in Linux Read More . I want to tell you about another Windows tool. A simple little application that can visualize disk usage called Scanner.

For a long time my favourite tool for finding more room on a drive has been Scanner, by Steffen Gerlach. It hasn’t been updated in a while, but it works just fine. Just download the .zip file, and run the scanner.exe that you will find inside it. No install needed, so you can also run it from a memory stick or external drive. You can use the other files in the folder to integrate Scanner with your right-click menu if you are so inclined.

When you start Scanner, the first thing it wants to do is to scan your whole PC and get a picture of what is stored where. It’s quite happy to scan external, removable and mapped drives.

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visualize disk usage windows

Thankfully, you can stop that sometimes lengthy process by clicking on a specific drive icon on the left if you feel the need. Whether it’s scanning the machine or a specific drive, you’ll be presented with a complex sort of pie chart indicating what you’ve got. I’m a photographer, so my concern is usually with space for photos, which are mostly on my I: drive, so let’s take a look there.

visualize disk usage windows

First things first. The interface is a little”¦ well, peculiar. I like it, but it takes some getting used to. We can walk through how it works.

The chart itself shows what is stored in the drive. Indications are that it’s about 90% full, worse luck.

As you move the mouse around, the boxes in the top left of the display show the size and number of files for that location. Mouse over the central grey area, and you’ll see a number matching the large label, but as you move out from the centre, you’re working your way down the folder hierarchy.

In the example above, it’s showing that I:\_modified\7D (and all its subfolders) contain a total of 111GB spread over 7,109 files. That’s staggering, given that I’ve only had my EOS 7D camera for a few weeks.

If you click on the section of the chart rather than just mousing over it, the screen is redrawn to drill down to that folder.

visualize disk usage

I store my photos on the basis of the date they were taken, so mousing over one of the large folders shows that I have 36GB of images for 19 March. Hot air balloons. It’s tough to resist.

There are a couple of buttons in the interface to reverse your journey. The left-pointing arrow takes you back where you were (in this case to the root of the drive), and the arrow with an elbow takes you back up one level at a time.

You can use some of the tools in the interface to delete files and clean things up if you wish, but I much prefer to just use this tool to visualize disk usage, and then go back to Windows Explorer to commit the necessary crimes.

If you do hop out and undertake any housekeeping elsewhere, Scanner won’t know what you’ve done until it gets a chance to rescan. There’s a button for that, as well.

You might well find when you start Scanner that its default size is a little small on a modern monitor. And you’d be reasonable in thinking that you could drag the corner of the window to adjust the size. You would also be wrong. You need to use the small (+) and (-) buttons to resize instead.

It’s not the most comprehensive tool out there, even amongst the free options, but I like it a lot. After all, to a photographer, a picture is worth a thousand words, right?

So if you tried it out, how did you like Scanner? Do you have a disk space tool of choice? Let me know in the comments below.

  1. Jim Henderson
    May 3, 2010 at 5:18 am

    Yeah, that one's not bad.

  2. outsourcing
    April 21, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    how come the scanner is not showing rest of the reports

    • Jim Henderson
      April 22, 2010 at 8:35 am

      I'm not sure what you mean...

  3. Nick
    April 20, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    I don't think you can beat WinDirStat (http://windirstat.info/)

  4. Scott_T
    April 20, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    Spacemonger has the old free version that still works fine http://www.sixty-five.cc/sm/v1...

  5. Nick
    April 20, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    I don't think you can beat WinDirStat (http://windirstat.info/)

    • Jim Henderson
      April 22, 2010 at 8:35 am

      Yep, and thoroughly capable it is... this just shows how everyone has different preferences. I hope Microsoft are listening. :-)

  6. Scott_T
    April 20, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Spacemonger has the old free version that still works fine http://www.sixty-five.cc/sm/v1x.php

    • Jim Henderson
      April 22, 2010 at 8:34 am

      Yeah, now see that's an interface that drives me bananas. :-)

      • Aibek
        April 22, 2010 at 8:43 am

        :-)

  7. Altzan
    April 20, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    This looks a lot like Overdisk that was featured awhile back.

    • Jim Henderson
      April 22, 2010 at 8:33 am

      Oh, so much for our cross-linking. I never saw that one. I'm not sure which I prefer...

  8. Jim Hubbard
    April 19, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    I never have liked the circular layout of tools like these. I much prefer the logical layout offered by the free SpaceSniffer (a free alternative to SpaceMonger).

    You can download a free copy at http://www.uderzo.it/main_prod...

  9. Aibek
    April 19, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Nice app but I personally prefer when the app simply shows folder size
    next to each folder, especially when it's integrated into the windows
    shell.

    MakeUseOf covered a bunch of those,
    http://www.makeuseof.com/tags/...

  10. Jim Hubbard
    April 19, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    I never have liked the circular layout of tools like these. I much prefer the logical layout offered by the free SpaceSniffer (a free alternative to SpaceMonger).

    You can download a free copy at http://www.uderzo.it/main_products/space_sniffer/index.html.

    • Aibek
      April 19, 2010 at 6:25 pm

      Nice app but I personally prefer when the app simply shows folder size
      next to each folder, especially when it's integrated into the windows
      shell.

      MakeUseOf covered a bunch of those,
      http://www.makeuseof.com/tags/disk-usage/

    • Jim Henderson
      April 19, 2010 at 6:26 pm

      Perfectly valid choice, Jim, but it doesn't work for me. :-)

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