Windows 10 Hard Drive Cleanup

Category: Windows-10

A computer is much like a car in one respect: both tend to accumulate junk in hard-to-reach places. Cleaning out your car can be a messy, sweaty job with plenty of opportunities for back injuries. Cleaning out a PC is a more civilized affair, and Windows 10 makes it easier. Here's what you need to know...

Windows 10 Hard Drive Maintenance

There are many sources of wasted disk space. Windows 10 creates some when it is installed, including updates, rollback files, hibernation and paging files, and multiple Restore Points. Some apps create temporary files during installation and uninstallation, and fail to clean up after themselves. Apps also generate log and data files that may not be necessary. Temporary download files tend to become permanent, unless occasional pruning is done.

If you upgraded from Windows 7 or 8, Windows 10 saved a copy of your old operating system and its settings in a file named Windows.old. This file can be several gigabytes in size. If you have decided to fully commit to Windows 10, here is how to recover that space:

Type “cleanup” in the search box and click on “Disk Cleanup” in the results. Select the drive you want to clean up (usually your C: drive). On the next screen, click the “cleanup system files” button in the lower-left corner. After the disk scan, a list of items you can remove is shown. Check the box next to “previous Windows installation(s)”

Windows 10 Cleanup tools

Before clicking “OK” to start the cleanup, review the whole list of items that can be removed. Check the box next to any other item(s) you wish to remove. Then click “OK.”

Windows 10 includes Storage Management features that can help you see where all your disk space has gone and recover some of it. To access this tool, enter “storage” in the search box and click on “Storage Settings (system settings).” Note the “Storage Sense” button on the Storage main menu. When enabled, it automatically deletes temporary files and empties the Recycle Bin. Click the "Configure Storage Sense" link to fine-tune what gets deleted and when. The default is to jettison the detritus only when storage is very low. But I like a more aggressive approach, so I chose the run Storage Sense "every week" instead of "during low free disk space" and to delete files in my Recycle Bin if they are more than 14 days old.

The Storage app categorizes the types of files on your system drive, and shows how much storage each category is consuming. Click on a category to see what specific files are in it and how much space they consume. For example, in the Apps and features category, when you click on a specific item, buttons appear next to it: "Modify" and "Uninstall" or “Move” and “Uninstall.” If a button is greyed out, you can’t perform that function on this file. In general, apps built into Windows 10 cannot be uninstalled, i.e., the Camera app or Groove Music app. The Modify button will open the installer for that app, and the Move button lets you move an app to another disk. (I found that the Move button was always greyed out, even though I have multiple disks on my PC.)

Clicking on some of the other categories, such as Temporary Files, Documents, or Pictures, may reveal some large files that can be deleted. Don't delete files if you're not sure what they are. Photos, music and video files can take up a lot of space on your hard drive. Open the Pictures folder, switch to the Details view, then sort by size to find the biggest files. Then you can review and delete the ones you don't need.

Drilling Down for Space Hogs

As soon as I typed that heading, I couldn't help but think of "Pigs in Space," a recurring feature on "The Muppet Show" in the 1970s. So of course I did a quick search and found that not only are the old episodes available on Youtube, there are also some new ones! This has nothing whatsoever to do with the topic at hand, but that's how my brain works. You're welcome, and I'm sorry. :0)

Another space-hog is pagefile.sys, the file in which Windows temporarily stores parts of apps and data files when the whole things won’t fit in RAM. Generally, you should let Windows manage the amount of space devoted to pagefile.sys; it will grow and shrink as needed. But if you are really tight on disk space, you can adjust the maximum size of pagefile.sys or even delete it entirely (not recommended). Here is how to manage pagefile.sys:

  • Click Start and search for “advanced system settings.”
  • Select the Advanced tab on the resulting screen.
  • Click on the “Settings” button in the Performance section of the Advanced screen.
  • On the Performance Options screen, click “Advanced.”

Finally, there is “Total paging file size for all devices.” Click “Change” to see your options. “Automatically manage…” is the default option. Uncheck it to manually adjust things. You can set custom initial and maximum sizes; let the system manage the pagefile.sys size; or do without a pagefile.sys file altogether (not recommended). Whatever you change, you’ll need to reboot before the changes take effect.

Another potential waste of space is duplicate files. Windows doesn't have an easy way to find and zap these dupes, but the free Auslogics Duplicate File Finder can do the job. It will help you sort through images, music, videos and other personal files to remove duplicate copies and free up disk space.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Windows 10 Hard Drive Cleanup"

Posted by:

14 Jul 2020

I have always read that one should never delete duplicate files as they may be needed! And as one can never (?) find out which ones that can safely be deleted I have never done so.

Any solution to this quandary?

Posted by:

14 Jul 2020

I remember there used to be a program called CCleaner. I remember it doing a good job cleaning junk files and the registry.

Posted by:

Karl Gregg
14 Jul 2020

Bob, I am impressed by the tip on the duplicate file finder/remover from Auslogics that you recommended.
It was fast, efficient and provided a great report at the end of the process.

Posted by:

14 Jul 2020

For john. Yes, there is a program called ccleaner and it works great. Both a free version or paid (of course paid does more and automatically).

Posted by:

14 Jul 2020

I find that "Cleaning out your car" feels more therapeutic, despite the "opportunities for back injuries".
"Cleaning out a PC" never achieves a sense of accomplishment, due to that lingering question mark.
I trust my Win10Pro butler-in-chief to keep the bits (and the bytes) civilized more than I trust some hack going under the hood of my car.
I recently promoted GlaryUtilities (as the sous-chef) to assist with system maintenance duties.

Posted by:

14 Jul 2020

Thank you for the info about The Muppets and Pigs in Space. Oh, and the rest of the article.

Posted by:

Alan Miller
14 Jul 2020

There is no disk clean up on windows 10. It keeps taking me to a web page with same instructions you gave. I type in cleanup or disk clean up and it takes me to various pages with the SAME instructions. There is NO disk cleanup in "10"

Posted by:

Jay R
14 Jul 2020

Well. I downloaded this and sent duplicates to the place of safety. My PC took a long time to boot up, but everything seems to be working fine.

Posted by:

15 Jul 2020

@AlanMiller - 1)this link visually shows how to get access to this 'Disk Cleanup app' utility. 2)Windows10 updates have also introduced a few new-ish features. 'Storage Sense' is one example which can delete and clean TempFiles/RecycleBin, at a set schedule. StorageSense first requires that it be turned-on.
3)Windows10 also has a 'Storage SpaceS' management feature, which may wreak havoc with duplicate file finders. This feature's mission is to save files in 2 or more drives for protection from hardware failures. Press the ^Windows keyboard key, then click on ^Settings, followed by clicking on ^System and ^Storage, to access these and other new disk/drive/data maintenance features.

Posted by:

15 Jul 2020

Oooops: cleanmgr.exe

Posted by:

15 Jul 2020

The free version of CCleaner works very well at removing unneeded files.

Posted by:

18 Jul 2020

Ccleaner identifies the duplicates and gives you the choice to keep or not

Posted by:

19 Jul 2020

I use CCleaner too and it seems to work well.

Posted by:

Mike Davies
09 Oct 2020

I pay a man to clean my car, valeted to within an inch of its life, outside and in.
I keep my laptops, etc, clean myself.
Wouldn't trust anyone else.

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