How to Free Up Disk Space

Ten Tips for Cleaning Up Disk Space on Your Windows PC

Tip #5: Manually Remove Unwanted Files

Ready to do a little spelunking? Sometimes your hard drive becomes cluttered with files that you just don't need any longer. This tip outlines several techniques for finding and removing such files. Please note that

Note: The screenshots and steps outlined in this tip focus on Windows 7, although you can achieve similar results on Windows XP by starting Windows Explorer and clicking the Search toolbar button.

Find Large Files with Windows Explorer

Occasionally your system can accumulate a number of large, space-wasting files that are no longer of value to you. There are many potential reasons for this, and such files often need to be reviewed manually to determine if they are still of any value (or if they can be safely removed).

Fortunately, Windows Explorer can help you to locate large files fairly easily. To do so, start Windows Explorer, type size:>500MB into the search bar and press Enter. You can change this value to be anything that you want, but 500MB if often a good starting point.

Searching for Large Files with Explorer

Depending upon the size of your hard drive(s), the search might take a while to execute. When the search finishes, you'll be presented with a list of large files (with the largest sorted to the top of the list). This process can create the occasional "ah-ha" moment when you realize that a massive, space-hogging file just doesn't need to be there. In such cases, right-click the file and choose Delete from the pop-up menu.

Tip: Make sure you know the purpose of any file on your system before you permanently remove it.

Find and Remove Temporary Files

Programs often create temporary files for backup or data processing purposes. These temp files are usually removed automatically when programs are closed, but if the program crashes or quits unexpectedly (due to a power outage, for example), the temp files are not deleted.

Finding and removing temporary files with Windows Explorer is similar to the large file search process outlined above, but in this case we're going to focus on finding files with names matching a specific set of patterns.

Using Windows Explorer, you can search for files with these extensions one at a time by simply entering them into the search bar. You can also combine them into a single search phrase like this:

"*.bak" OR "*.tmp" OR "~*.*"

Finding Temnporary Files with Explorer

Tip: It's best to close all running applications on your computer before searching for (and removing) temporary files, thereby helping to ensure they aren't in active use.

Find and Remove Old Files

Finally, let's take a look at finding old files with Windows Explorer. For this tip, we recommend that you constrain your search to specific locations within the file system. For example, finding old files within your Documents folder will often be more useful than searching across an entire hard drive. To limit your search to a specific folder, just select that folder within Windows Explorer prior to running the search (as shown in the screen shot below).

Finding Old Files with Explorer

To find old files within Windows Explorer, we enter a datemodified expression into the search bar:

datemodified:<1/1/‎2003

The above expression will find any file with a last modification date prior to January 1st, 2003. To find files created prior to this date, use an expression of datecreated:<1/1/‎2003.

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