We’ve all seen tiny installations for previous Windows versions. Some users pride themselves in stripping back anything they deem obsolete, creating minute Windows installation packages that can be stored practically anywhere. For others, the size of the operating system is dictated by the device it is installed on.
You can use several tools to strip Windows 10 back. Some remove the cursed bloatware that afflicts each fresh install. Some pare back seemingly useless services that only apply in very specific circumstances.
Let’s take a look at how you can keep your Windows 10 installation to a minimum.
Make It Smaller
The Windows 10 installation size is actually smaller than its predecessor, Windows 8. The period between the two operating systems allowed Microsoft to streamline aspects of code making the transition, and introduce new features to keep the operating system footprint down. Despite Windows 10 arriving with a healthy smattering of new features, the onus had to be on working with limited capacity mobile devices.
However, some of the cutbacks weren’t instant hits with desktop and laptop users. While it made sense to remove features such as default recovery image creation for mobile devices (while also boosting boot time by a few seconds), those using laptops or desktops would probably have preferred this to remain intact.
That said, it does come down to user preference. I have a 1 TB hard drive, and a 128 GB SSD installed in my laptop. The operating system is installed on the SSD, so it boots quicker than Usain Bolt leaping out of the blocks, but I also have the extra space needed for any recovery backups. A user with a single 64 GB hard drive installed on a tablet is unlikely to feel the same.
Windows 10 also “leverages an efficient compression algorithm to compress system files,” meaning you’ll get back “approximately 1.5 GB of storage for 32-bit and 2.6 GB of storage for 64-bit Windows.” Microsoft designed a system that works around your system hardware. Instead of compressing a standardized file list, Windows 10 uses the amount of installed RAM to determine how often a file is likely to be recalled. Similarly, if your system has a fast CPU for decompressing files, more files will be compressed to begin with – offering further space savings.
Part of the compression success for smaller devices comes through updates to WIMBOOT (Windows Image Boot), which “enabled specially prepared Windows 8.1 devices to have all the goodness of an efficient compression algorithm without compromise to responsiveness.”
While only a small number of Windows 8.1 were WIMBOOT prepared, the compression algorithm has been fully integrated into Windows 10, granting those devices upgrading further savings through compression. This new version is actually known as CompactOS, and Kannon Yamada has expertly explained how you can best make use of this tool.
Windows 10 comes with a reasonable (or unreasonable, as it were) amount of bloatware. Some of the pre-installed apps are Microsoft 3D Builder, Groove Music, Fresh Paint, as well as Microsoft apps for Money, Weather, Xbox, Music, Sport, and so on. Most of the time, people have their own preferences for these apps, but nonetheless, Microsoft still bundles them up. Removing them is time consuming, and in reality, only relieves a fraction of space.
The Windows 10 Start Menu can be equally vexing, providing a container for those bits of bloatware to grab your attention or, in some cases, ask for your money.
Windows 10 arrived on your system with the hibernation feature turned on by default. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially for those with masses of storage. Hiberfil.sys is the hibernation storage file keeping track of your system vitals. It stores key settings required by the operating system to turn on, quickly.
The size of this file relates directly to the amount of installed RAM on your system, and can take up to 75% of that amount. For instance, if you have 8 GB RAM installed, your hiberfil.sys could take up to 6 GB of storage. The more RAM you have, the more space the file will consume.
If you have no need for hibernation, you can easily turn it off.
Open an elevated Command Prompt by right-clicking the Start-menu and selecting Command Prompt (Admin). Now type powercfg /hibernate off. And that’s it. Done. If you wish to re-enable hibernation mode, simply type powercfg /hibernate on.
The hiberfil.sys file should immediately disappear, granting you some extra space on your hard drive.
Windows has an inbuilt feature called a Paging File. It works like a sort of virtual memory relief.
Your system has a set amount of installed RAM it can use to store pieces of information. If your system usage exceeds this installed amount, Windows will attempt to use a paging file. This is where some of the important information stored in the RAM is temporarily moved to a file on your hard drive. Hard drive memory is much slower than super-fast RAM, and recalling this information takes longer.
You can control the size of the paging file, or eliminate it entirely.
Head to Control Panel > System and Security > System. In the left-hand panel select Advanced system settings. Select the Advanced tab. Under Performance, select Settings.
Head to the Advanced tab. You should now see a Virtual Memory panel. Select Change.
You now have three options:
- Custom size
- System managed size
- No paging file
You can completely eliminate the paging file, but I wouldn’t advise that. Similarly, even though the paging file exists, it isn’t necessarily taking up space, especially if you are not using all of the RAM available to your system. If you want, reduce the size of the paging file.
When you upgraded from Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 to Windows 10, your old system settings were moved into the Windows.old folder. It likely sat in your C:\ drive for a month (now only 10 days), before self-destructing. After it removed itself, you gained a massive chunk of your hard drive back. At one point, for various reasons, I had three Windows.old files, lurking, taking up unfathomable amounts of space.
If for any reason yours is still intact, you can delete it.
However, this comes with the warning that once it is gone, it is gone, as it is usually too large to send to the Recycle Bin. If you have an intention to head back to your previous version of Windows, do not delete this file. It contains all of your system settings and old files, and deleting it without properly backing it up could ruin your life.
At the very least, you might cry and be angry at me, and I wouldn’t like that.
Free Up Disk Space
To free up the hostage disk space, you can use the inbuilt Windows Disk Cleanup tool.
Type free up into your Start Menu search bar or Cortana. Select the first option. It should look like the image below, albeit with a Windows 10 menu:
Once open, select Previous Windows Installation(s) from the list. If you like, you can take this opportunity to clean other system tools hogging all of your precious hard drive space. When you’re ready, select Clean up system files, and wait for the process to complete.
Windows 10 Anniversary Update
Did you just install the Windows 10 Anniversary Update? Windows treats this as an entirely new operating system and as such creates a brand spanking new Windows.old folder. Of course, this folder is still taking up space. So long as everything is working okay and you have no crippling bugs or errors, use the above process to delete the newly created Windows.old file.
We Must Go Smaller!
Once you’ve installed your operating system, the natural reaction is to begin installing your favorite software. I’m sure you head straight for some security software, a new browser and, at least for me, Steam, so I can begin installing games.
If you are pressed for space, you could do things differently. If your device has space for an SD card, can you install your applications or other useful things to a card and run them from there? Similarly, if you are using a laptop with minute storage, why not install applications and games to a USB stick and run them when you need them, keeping your storage free for other important files.
WinReducer grants you full control over your Windows installation. The app has been used with Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 to provide streamlined, stripped-back versions of Microsoft operating systems throughout the years, and Windows 10 is no different.
I’m not going to give you a detailed tutorial on how to strip your Windows 10 installation back, because there are numerous options available to you, and you should be able to figure most of it out yourself.
That said, I will leave you with one caveat: be careful of which services you strip out. Some services are tied to others, and if you’re not careful, certain parts of Windows 10 just will not work, to the point where reinstalling Windows 10 is the only option.
If you really want to strip it all back, I would suggest finding a tutorial, and following it carefully.
Okay, That’s Small Enough!
Windows 10 requires 16 GB of space. You can delete additional applications, keep your temporary files clean, delete your caches every day, and not install any other system specific files – but you’ll still struggle to get under 14 GB.
Windows 10 is already streamlined. When Microsoft set its goal of 1 billion devices running Windows 10 by the end of 2018, ensuring the operating system could be updated on as many devices as possible was always going to be a primary target. And, despite Microsoft’s acknowledgement that this is rather unlikely to happen in the given timeline, it still means that the 350 million Windows 10 users have a streamlined operating system at their disposal.
“Windows 10 is off to the hottest start in history with over 350m monthly active devices, with record customer satisfaction and engagement. We’re pleased with our progress to date, but due to the focusing of our phone hardware business, it will take longer than FY18 for us to reach our goal of 1 billion monthly active devices. In the year ahead, we are excited about usage growth coming from commercial deployments and new devices — and increasing customer delight with Windows.”
If you want to strip things out, do, but as I said, be careful of what you strip out!
Have you made your Windows 10 installation any smaller? What did you strip back? Let us know below!