Over time, your computer hard drive is likely to fill up with all manner of personal and system files, leaving you short of storage space and faced with a slow performing computer.
So if your Windows hard disk is bursting at the seams, try these easy tips to remove clutter and free up tons of valuable storage space. Make cleaning up your hard drive part of your regular housekeeping routine – particularly if your computer uses a solid-state drive (SSD) for storage, as these offer less storage space than traditional hard drives.
Once your hard drive becomes more than 85 per cent full, your computer’s performance will suffer. Clearing out your hard drive will result not only in a much leaner computer but a faster one too.
TIP 1 Ditch unwanted programs
For most users, the biggest chunk of hard disk space is taken up with unused and unwanted programs. These may include trial versions of software, unwanted and out-of-date anti-virus programs, old software, videos or games that you no longer play. So the first step to decluttering your hard disk is to uninstall these space hogs.
To open the Control Panel: in Windows 7 click Start, and then click Control Panel; in Windows 8, right-click in the screen’s bottom-left corner and choose the Control Panel from the pop-up Power Users menu.
Then in the Control panel, click Uninstall a program. Select the program, and then click Uninstall.
TiP 2 Remove unnecessary system files
Window’s built-in tool Disk Cleanup frees up hard disk space by removing unnecessary files that are safe to delete, such as temporary Windows files.
In Windows 7, click Start. In the search box, type disk cleanup, and from the results click Disk Cleanup.
In Windows 8, move your mouse cursor to the top right of the screen and click the Search charm. In the search box, type disk cleanup, and from the results click Disk Clean-up.
If prompted, click the drive you want to clean and click OK. Select the files to be deleted and click OK, then click Delete files. You can also remove system files by clicking Clean up system files.
TIP 3 Remove temporary files
A fair chunk of hard disk space may be taken up with temporary files from third-party programs and other system files. Use a system-cleaning tool such as the free CCleaner to remove these files. Download CCleaner from www.piriform.com/ccleaner. Once installed, launch the program and click Analyse to run a system scan. You’ll then see a long list of files no longer used by Windows or other programs on your computer – all of which are selected by default. Click Run Cleaner to clear out these unwanted files and regain some hard disk space.
TIP 4 Spring clean your web browser
When you visit a webpage, your web browser stores or ‘caches’ information about each page in your Temporary Internet Files folder. This allows the browser to quickly display that page when you visit it again, helping to speed up your browsing. Yet over time, the volume of these cached files can build up, hogging significant amounts of hard disk space.
To delete these files in Internet Explorer 9 and 10, click Tools and from the drop-down menu, click Safety and then Delete browsing history….. Tick the checkbox next to Temporary Internet files and then click Delete.
To clear your browser cache in Windows 8′s Metro version of Internet Explorer, open Internet Explorer and move your mouse cursor over the top right of the screen to see the Charms menu. Click the Settings charm, then click on Internet Options. Then under Delete Browsing History, click the Delete button.
TIP 5 Clean out your Downloads folder
It’s likely that your web browser’s Downloads folder is full of files that are no longer needed – such as software you’ve installed, documents you’ve dealt with and videos you’ve watched. You can free up some precious hard disk space by ditching these files. In Windows 7 click Start > Computer > Username > Downloads. In Windows 8, open File Explorer on the Desktop and click Computer > Username > Downloads. Right click the files you wish to remove and from the pop-up menu, click Delete.
TIP 6 Delete all old restore points
Windows System Restore creates restore points so you can return your system to an earlier state should you experience computer problems. Stored restore points, however, take up valuable disk space, so consider deleting all but the last one.
To do this, open Disk Cleanup as described in Tip 2. If prompted, click the hard disk drive that you want to clean (usually the C: drive) then click OK. Click Clean up system files. Select the drive and click OK.
Click the More Options tab, under System Restore and Shadow Copies, click Clean up. In the Disk Cleanup dialog box, click Delete. Click OK, then click Delete Files.
TIP 7 Reduce space used by System Restore
Deleting restore points frees up disk space only in the short term. As new restore points are created, disk space is used again. You can, however, reduce the amount of hard disk space Windows System Restore uses to store these restore point, but be aware that the trade-off is less restore points to reset your system to.
To reduce the amount of disk space used by System Restore, open File Explorer and right-click Computer, and from the pop-up menu, click Properties. In the left pane, click System protection. Under Protection Settings, click the disk, and then click Configure. Under Disk Space Usage, move the slider to the left to decrease the amount of disk space used.
TIP 8 Delete old emails
Deleting old and unwanted emails is time-consuming but you’ll regain lots of precious hard disk space. Select more than one message at a time by clicking the first message, then holding down the Shift key, click the last. Then click Delete to move them into a Deleted Items or Trash folder. To completely delete emails, right click the folder and click Empty Deleted Items or Empty Trash.
TIP 9 Empty your Recycle bin
Deleted files are kept in the Recycle bin and even here they still take up valuable hard disk space. So empty this folder regularly. Double click the icon on your desktop and click Empty Recycle Bin. Click Yes to permanently delete files.
TIP 10 Get rid of duplicate files
Duplicate files take up a ton of hard disk space. Use a duplicate-file-finder utility to scan your hard drive for duplicate files that you can then delete. There are lots to choose from including SearchMyFiles, Duplicate Cleaner Free, Anti-Twin, Auslogics Duplicate File Finder, CloneSpy and Exact Duplicate Finder.