What Is Taking Up Space on My Hard Drive on Windows?

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Deyan Georgiev
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Deyan Georgiev

Updated · Aug 17, 2023

Deyan Georgiev
Website Manager | Joined October 2021 | LinkedIn
Deyan Georgiev

Deyan is an avid enthusiast and self-proclaimed fan of the Windows operating system. His passion for... | See full bio

April Grace Asgapo
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April Grace Asgapo


April Grace Asgapo
Joined June 2023 | LinkedIn
April Grace Asgapo

April is a proficient content writer with a knack for research and communication. With a keen eye fo... | See full bio

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Your computer's hard drive stores the operating system, programs, and files like documents, music, videos, and pictures. Due to this, hard drives can quickly fill up, especially if you have been using them for a while.  

When your hard drive is full, your computer becomes susceptible to lagging, file corruption, and crashes. This happens because the congestion makes storing data and accessing previous information more complex. 

If you regularly maintain your hard drive properly, you can significantly boost your computer's efficiency, performance, security, and ease of backup. 

In this article, you will learn to determine what takes up space on your Windows hard drive. Let's begin!

🔑Key Takeaways

  • A full hard drive can slow down your computer. 
  • Media files, download files, temporary files, apps, and installation packages can quickly fill up your hard drive. 
  • Windows Explorer can help you find space-hogging files, so you can decide to delete them. 
  • Free up space by uninstalling, deleting, archiving, using cloud storage, or using third-party tools like CCleaner.
  • Cleaning your hard drive regularly can positively affect your computer's performance.  

Common File Types Taking Up Space on Hard Drive 

All types of files carry heavy loads on a PC’s hard drive. Still, the common files that take up the most memory over time are the following: 

  1. Media Files (videos, photos, and music) - Identify and delete unnecessary media files on your hard drive by checking their size and ensuring they are manageable. Alternatively, you can store them in the cloud using OneDrive, built into Windows 10 and 11.
  2. Downloaded files - These are files saved in the downloads folder on your computer, occupying space on your hard drive. Clear the folder to avoid an ample and cluttered space.
  3. Installation packages - This type of file can include numerous libraries, templates, and other elements that occupy a lot of space. Some programs or applications include applications that help them run smoothly, but they also take up more space than you might think.
  4. Temporary Files - Too many temporary files occupy your hard drive. If you are not deleting temporary files, they can eat up much of your storage.

    👍Helpful Article: Techjury has a detailed article on temporary files. Check out our article on What is TMP File.

  5. Unused Applications - Your computer has several pre-installed programs you may not want or need. These unused applications, known as bloatware, may come in large files, contributing to a lack of disk space.

📖Definition: Bloatware is pre-installed software on your computer or device. It takes up space, reduces battery life, and affects the performance of your computer. 

See the next section for ways to find space-hogging files on your hard drive. 

Methods to Identify Files Taking Up Space

Identifying which files are responsible for consuming valuable space on your hard drive can be challenging. However, you only need to check your hard drive to see these files. 

Check out these methods for identifying files taking up space on your hard drive:

Method 1: Use Windows Explorer to Identify Unnecessary Files

Windows Explorer is a tool for managing files on a Windows computer. It was introduced in Windows 95, and it’s commonly called File Explorer in Windows 10 and 11. 

Here are the steps to knowing what is taking up space on your hard drive: 

  1. Right-click your Windows Start button, then click Settings.

Window Explorer system

  1. On the left sidebar, select System.
  2. Click Storage in the right pane.

System storage installed apps

At this stage, you can see what data types are taking up most of the space on your hard drive.

  1. Click Show More Categories to display other file categories on your computer’s hard drive.

Local disk and storage usage

You can browse files and folders inside each category to see how much space each uses.


Pro tip: The best practice is to clear files from categories that take up the most space on your hard drive. If apps take up more space, you should free that first. 

Method 2: Execute the Command Prompt 

The command prompt is the Windows command processor or command shell. The CMD prompt can show how your computer allocates data and how much space each file takes up on your hard drive. 

You can quickly check the drive's storage space by entering a command. Here's how to limit your drive space using CMD:

  1. Click on Start and enter cmd in the search bar. 
  2. Right-click cmd and choose Run as Administrator

Command Prompt run as administrator

  1. Type “chkdsk C:” and press enter on your keyboard. 
  2. This command prompt will show your disk usage, including free space on your hard drive. 

command prompt chkdsk C:


📝Note: The letter C indicates a disk drive. If you want to check a different drive, replace C with the letter that goes with that drive. 

Method 3: Use Third-Party Software

You may also use third-party software to check which files take up too much space on your hard disk. These third-party tools can provide more detailed information, making detection more convenient. 

CCleaner has a built-in disk analyzer. This feature provides you with information as to what your storage is using. Here are the steps to using CCleaner to identify files eating drive space:

  1. Visit the CCleaner download page and download the software. 
  2. You can download the free version or the paid one
  3. Once downloaded, do the Smart Scan.

CCleanr Smart scan 

Now that you know what is taking up space on your computer's hard drive, take action to free it up. The following section covers ways to clear space on your hard drive. 


👍Helpful Article: Techjury has a detailed review of CCleaner to help you decide if this app is right. Check out our article on whether it’s safe to use CCleaner.

How to Clear Space on Hard Drive

You can only keep adding files to your hard drive if you remove the ones you don't need. Eventually, your hard drive will run out of space, no matter how big. 

Cleaning the hard disk helps boost the performance of your computer. Here's how to clear space on your hard drive, even if you've never done it before:

1. Uninstall Unwanted Programs and Apps

Outdated apps you have not used take up space on your hard drive. Take charge and learn how to free up storage space on your laptop by deleting unused applications and programs. Here are the complete steps to uninstall unwanted programs and apps:

  1. Click the Start button from your desktop.
  2. Select Settings, then click Apps.
  3. On the right pane, select Installed Apps.

    Settings, uninstall and manage apps

  4. Decide which app to uninstall.

    Pro Tip: Sort apps by size to see which ones take up more hard drive space, and delete any you don’t need

  5. Click the three dots to uninstall.

Installed apps, three dots

2. Discard Temporary Files

Operating systems and apps store temporary files for smoother programs, but they can accumulate over time, occupying storage space and affecting computer performance.

Here are the steps for accessing and deleting temporary files on Windows 10 and 11: 

  1. Click on the Start menu
  2. In the search bar, enter %temp% and click Open

    Open temporary files
  3. Select all the unneeded temporary files and press the Delete key


📝Note: This is a chance to delete cookies, temporary files, and cache. You can flush the DNS cache too. Learn how by checking out Techjury’s article on How to Flush DNS Cache on Windows 10 and 11 [3 Easy Method].

3. Use Third-Party Software

A quick way to free up space on your computer is by using third-party software. CCleaner is a good piece of software that can identify and delete files that are eating up space on your hardware. 

Here’s how to use this tool: 

  1. Download, install, and run the app.
  2. Click the Custom Clean feature on the left side of the app window.
  3. Next, decide which to delete under Windows and Applications.
  4. Click Run Cleaner to start the process.

Ccleaner runs cleanerSource: Techjury

4. Reduce System Restore Space

System Restore uses a considerable amount of disk space on your computer. Small hard drives may cause disk space issues, but larger hard drives may be fine for larger computers.

Here's how to reduce the system's restored space: 

  1. Press the Windows key + R to launch the Run dialogue. 
  2. Enter sysdm.cpl and click OK.
  3. Select the System Protection tab in the System Properties window.  
  4. Under Protection Settings, select your Local Drive and click the Configure button.

    System protection settings, configure button
  5. At this point, you can change the percentage of space you want to use by moving the Max Usage slider.   

System protection disk space usage


⚠️Warning: Turning off system restore is recommended because it lets you restore your computer to a working state to fix issues. Deleting backup files is a safer way to boost your computer’s performance. Check out our article on How to Delete Backup Files on Windows 10 [All the Methods].

5. Store Files in Archives

Archiving files is a valuable practice that helps save disk space while retaining essential data for future reference. Archiving will save a lot of space as it uses the process of data compression.

You can use a compression format that balances file size reduction with the level of compression required. One popular compression format is zip. Here are the steps to zip files or folders to save disk space: 

  1. Open File Explorer from the start menu and locate the file or folder you want to zip. 
  2. Right-click the file, click Show More Options,  and select Send To
  3. Select the Compressed (zipped) folder

    File sends to zip folder
  4. Right-click the folder and click Rename to rename your zip folder.  
  5. To extract files from a Zip archive, double-click the Zip file or right-click and select the Extract option. 

📝Note: Consider storing your files on an external storage to free up disk space. To learn more about external storage, read What Is External Storage? [The Only Guide You'll Ever Need]

Wrapping Up

Understanding factors affecting hard drive free space is crucial for smooth system operation. Identifying file usage and clearing space can enhance computer performance by preventing unnecessary files from occupying space.

You can free up space on your hard drive using various methods, including a third-party tool. However, if your computer is still slow after cleaning it, it could be due to other factors. It’s best to consult an expert if these issues persist. 


Can I compress the entire hard drive to save space?

Yes, you can, but compressing the whole hard drive is not recommended. Compression can lead to slower performance and increased wear on the drive.

What is the recommended free space on the hard drive?

Leave at least 15% to 20% of the hard drive empty. Windows will defragment the hard drive if there is at least 15% free space.

How often should I clean my computer's hard drive?

Clean your computer's hard drive at least once every six months to a year. Cleaning your hard drive regularly can extend the useful life of your computer.

Is it safe if I delete temporary files?

Yes, deleting temporary files on Windows is safe. Most of the time, they are deleted automatically. But when they are not, you can go in and delete them.


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