How to Save Disk Space in Windows 10
As far as disk space requirements go, Windows 10 is downright gluttonous with its minimum requirement of 16 GB (for the 32-bit version) and 20 GB (for the 64-bit version).
On top of this, Windows permanently reserves 7GB of disk space to make sure it can install any future updates. Fortunately, Windows 10 offers several features and ways to reduce the operating system’s footprint and reclaim some of that space.
1. Storage Sense
Storage Sense is a Windows feature designed to help you manage your offline and online files. It saves space on your computer as it periodically removes internet and apps temporary files, junk files, empties Recycle Bin, and more. Storage Sense can free you from the responsibility of organizing and deleting files yourself.
Here’s how you can enable it:
- Launch the Settings app.
- Navigate to System > Storage > Storage Sense.
- Toggle On.
2. Remove Windows Old Versions
Even if you update to a new version, Windows still keep data from older versions. This way, you can roll back to a previous version if needed. While this saves you from being stuck with a glitchy Windows version, it takes up a lot of disk space. Fortunately, you can delete old Windows update files.
3. NTFS Compression
Did you know that Windows can selectively compress individual files and folders while letting you use them as you would normally? The feature is called NTFS Compression and may be a better option than using an app like 7-Zip to compress and decompress files on demand.
- Launch File Explorer (Windows key + E) and navigate to any file or folder.
- Right-click on the file or folder and select Properties.
- In the General tab, click Advanced.
- Enable the checkbox for Compress contents to save disk space.
- Click OK.
Note that there is a trade-off to NTFS compression. In exchange for reducing disk space usage, files and folders will use more CPU when accessed because they need to be decompressed. How much more? It’s hard to say because it depends on the file type. However, if you have a modern system with a relatively fast CPU, you probably won’t notice much of a performance hit.
We only recommend NTFS compression for infrequently used files, such as backup documents, reference materials, etc. Avoid using it for audio and video files because they’ve likely been compressed already according to their codecs. Do NOT use NTFS compression for system files or folders!
The first major update to Windows 10 introduced the ability to install Windows Store apps to external storage devices, including USB drives, SD cards, and external data drives. While most of the default Windows apps aren’t great, there are plenty of awesome Windows Store apps worth trying.
It also works with media files, such as images, audio, video, etc. This can help free up a lot of space on your main drive. But before you do anything, make sure you plug in an external storage device and set up the media redirection:
- Launch the Settings app.
- Navigate to System > Storage > More storage settings.
- Click Change where new content is saved.
- For the file types you want redirected, change the storage device from This PC to the name of the plugged-in external storage device.
- Click Apply to save your changes.
5. Cloud Storage
You probably don’t use OneDrive — not many people do — but you may want to reconsider that. Microsoft offers a free plan that comes with a total capacity of 5 GB, but if you have a Microsoft 365 subscription you’ll get 1TB of storage space.
If you want to make the most out of OneDrive storage capacity, you should disable all syncing options, so you can use it as a separate storage feature.
- In the system tray, right-click the OneDrive icon and select Settings.
- In the Account tab, click Choose folders.
- Uncheck all the folders you don’t want to sync.
- Click OK.
You can manage your files through the desktop app, or you can access them on the web. However, you can do more with OneDrive than save disk space on Windows 10.
6. Reserved Allocations
There are three major features in Windows 10 that reserve large chunks of your data drive for storing data: Hibernation, System Restore, and Page File. We don’t recommend tampering with the page file, but the first two can be adjusted to reclaim disk space.
Saves a snapshot of your current system state, saves it to a file called hiberfil.sys, then powers down the display, the ports, the data drive, and RAM. This is useful for when you want to step away for a few hours without shutting everything down, since waking up from hibernation is much faster than booting up cold.
But the hiberfil.sys file is big — by default, it’s about 75 percent of your total RAM. If you have 4 GB of RAM, then the file is 3 GB! And this file exists all the time, reserved in case you want to hibernate. To get rid of it, you have to disable hibernation altogether.
- Press Windows key + X and select Command Prompt (Admin).
- To disable hibernation, type: powercfg.exe /hibernate off
- To enable hibernation, type: powercfg.exe /hibernate on
Windows 10 lacks a system recovery partition. Instead, it relies on System Restore, a feature that creates and saves snapshots of your entire system that you can use to restore your system in case something ever goes wrong. Even if it might take precious space, you should make sure that System Restore will work when you need it.
The problem is that these snapshots take up a lot of space, and the amount reserved is based on a percentage of your data drive’s capacity. By default, Windows 10 reserves 15 percent. For a 500 GB HDD, that’s a whopping 75 GB. You can either reduce the percentage or turn off System Restore altogether.
- Launch the Control Panel app.
- In the top right, search for system restore.
- In the results, under System, click Create a restore point.
- In the System Protection tab, click Configure.
- To disable System Restore altogether, select Disable system protection. Otherwise, under Disk Space Usage, move the Max Usage slider to however much space you want to reserve for System Restore.
Note that an average restore point takes up about 600 MB. We recommend reserving enough space for at least five of them, which is about 3 GB minimum.
7. Disk Cleanup
Running Disk Cleanup once every month can help keep your system clean by getting rid of unnecessary files. However, we also recommend running the system version of Disk Cleanup after every successful Windows Update.
When Windows updates, it keeps a backup snapshot of your system prior to the update in case something goes wrong, and you want to revert. You can manually delete restore points, or you can use Windows Disk Cleanup.
How Do You Save Space in Windows 10?
Windows 10 has plenty of features to help you save disk space. You can use Storage Sense or Disk Cleanup to delete unnecessary files. Also, using an external device or taking advantage of OneDrive storage capability will help you clear some space.
But if you need more help, you could use an app to compress your games and programs.