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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.


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.

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