A cluttered hard the reader is a cluttered mind. (I think Albert Einstein said that.) If you’re constantly struggling with a “low disk space” warning, maybe it’s time for a little spring cleaning. Here’s how to find out what’s taking up space on your PC or Mac, and what to do with files you just can’t give up.
Scan your hard drive for storage hogs
Before you start removing things willy-nilly, you should take a step back and look for the big wins. Deleting a bunch of 50MB files here and there won’t make as big a difference as cleaning up an 80GB folder of old TV shows or uninstalling a few games. (Seriously, if you’re a gamer, erasing old titles can instantly free up huge chunks of space –be honest about what you are actually going to play. You can always reinstall later.)
If you’re using a Windows 10 computer, open Settings> System> Storage to see a breakdown of your drive and which folders are taking up the most space. You can click on any category to see more information, especially in the “Other” category, which will show you individual folders with large files. Find things you no longer need and get rid of them – it’s not always easy, but it’s the best thing you can do to free up space.
If you are on a Mac, you can scan your drive for large files by clicking the Apple menu in the top left corner and going to About This Mac> Storage. Click on the Manage button and you will see different categories in the sidebar that you can select for a list of large files. Right click on files to delete them and empty the trash when you are done.
If you find these tools a bit too basic, third-party alternatives like WinDirStat and X Disk Inventory can dig even deeper to find out exactly which folders and files are using your storage space. You can find old iPhone backups that you no longer need, videos that you may have stored in the wrong folder, or disk images from this old Raspberry Pi project. For most people, the built-in disk scanner will do the trick, but these third-party tools can be useful if you have large files hidden in more unconventional folders.
Clean up temporary and duplicate files
You’ve probably heard this advice before: Windows and macOS store temporary files like thumbnails, old update packages, or cached internet files that you can delete to free up space. And that’s true, but I’m going to be a bit of a buzz-kill here: eventually these files will come back, because that’s how the system is designed to run – these caches help your computer run faster. So while it might save you a bit of extra space at the moment, it’s not a permanent fix and it probably won’t free up as much space as cleaning your own personal file safe.
In Windows 10, click on the Start menu and search for Disk Cleanup. You will be given a list of files that you can delete, at which point you can just click OK to free up that space instantly – or click “Clean up system files” for a few more options.
A new feature called Storage Sense can do some of this automatically. Go back to Settings> System> Storage, and at the top, click the Configure storage direction link. This will give you options like deleting temporary files older than a certain age or moving infrequently used files to OneDrive (more on this in a moment). Toggle the switch at the top to On when you’re done and choose how often you want Storage Sense to run. Personally, I like to keep this and manage things myself, but to each their own.