Guides Windows

How to Free Up Space on Windows 10

Learn all the tips and tricks you need to properly free up space on Windows 10.

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Are you running out of space on Windows 10 but you aren’t quite sure why?  I understand.  It happened to me.  Thankfully, Microsoft has made it easy to troubleshoot and free up space on your machine without you having to go through the file system line by line to find the files that you need to get rid of.  Of course, knowing where to go to do that can be tough and once you get there you need to know what you should and should not get rid of.  Thankfully, that is why you have me.

Today we will look at what you can do if you are getting messages about being low on space in your notification center and what you can do to free up space on your system to store more files that you really do need.  In most cases, these tweaks are easy to do but they will take a little bit of time to perform.  Once you start this process, it is a good idea to see it through until the end so make sure you have a little extra time on your hands before you begin.

What Happens When You Run Out of Space

Not only can you no longer save anything to your computer, but you will also begin to notice that your machine doesn’t perform quite as well as it used to.  That is because there is no room for the swap file on your hard drive that is used by the operating system to boost its performance.  This can happen on any type of system, particularly budget laptops with lower storage or also higher-end laptops that only come with a low storage SSD.  A slow machine is frustrating at best and can paralyze you at worst meaning you will need to address the problem quickly or you will find that your machine could become almost impossible to use.

Check Out Your Storage

storage usage

If you are curious how your storage breaks down, all you have to do is go to Start > Settings > System > Storage > This PC and have a look.  It will break down exactly how much space each type of category is taking up on your system.  This is quite handy to get started cleaning your system.  On one screen you can easily identify the culprit or culprits behind your lack of storage space.

Freeing Up Hard Drive Space

First, let’s talk about the easy and most obvious things you should do if you are running low on space.  Once we cover those, we will talk about a few settings specific to Windows 10 to help you free up space on your machine.

Delete Unwanted Files

Go through your system and delete any unwanted file or files that you have no use for anymore.  Try to focus on videos, music and larger files as they will free up the most space, but if you are really short on space any file will help.  If you need to back them up, copy them to the cloud or to an external hard drive so you can access them later.  If not, just move them to the Recycle Bin and empty it to free up that space quickly.

Uninstall Unused Apps


Applications can take up quite a bit of space on your hard drive.  If you have had your machine for a while, I’m betting there are a tons of apps that you just don’t use anymore.  Go through your system and uninstall any apps that you no longer need.  Focus both on the modern apps as well as the traditional desktop apps.  To remove the apps, go to Start > Settings > System > Apps & features and remove any app that you aren’t using.

Remove Old Games

Games, like applications, can take up A LOT of space.  If you have played the game and beaten it or find that you just don’t play the game anymore, there is no real reason to keep it, is there?  I’m assuming you have the install disks or at least access to it online using services such as Steam and Origin, so why keep a copy on your hard drive just to take up space?  You can always install it again later if you decide you want to play it again.  Add these old games to your uninstall list and get rid of them to free up that valuable hard drive space.

Temporary Files

temporary files

Now here is where it gets interesting.  If you visit Start > Settings > System > Storage > This PC and then click on Temporary Files, you will find several different sections containing files that you can manage and delete.  Let’s take them one by one.

Temporary Files

This is the first section you will encounter and it contains all types of temporary files designed to make Windows faster and some files that it uses just occasionally such as files from websites you have visited, etc.  This section will just continue to grow and grow so if you are looking to clean up a little space, this is a good section to delete.


The next section is just a quick look at your Downloads folder and how large it is.  From here you can actually open the folder to see what is in there.  This folder is where everything you download from the Internet goes and if you don’t take care of it, it can grow uncontrollably.  Click on the View downloads button, go through the folder and remove anything in there that you no longer have need for.  This could be images you have downloaded or even large applications you’ve installed or movies you have watched.  Whatever you don’t need, blow it away and empty the Recycle bin.

Recycle Bin

This next section just provides a snapshot into what is in the Recycle bin and how much space it is taking up on your hard drive.  Many people forget to empty the Recycle bin so it just grows out of control until one day it is so large it is taking up more space on your machine than even your largest of apps.  To get this under control, you can go ahead and empty it from this window by clicking on Empty recycle bin.

Previous version of Windows

This is another biggie that can really eat up a lot of space on your hard drive.  If you are like most people today, you upgraded to Windows 10 for free.  But, to make sure that everything still worked for you after the upgrade, Microsoft left a copy of the old Windows install, either Windows 7 or Windows 8, on your system.  That way you could revert back to it if you did have a problem with compatibility in Windows 10.  Nice thinking on Microsoft’s part, but that copy of Windows takes up a lot of space.

If Windows 10 is running good for you and you see no reason to ever revert back to the old installation of Windows, then it is time to remove it once and for all.  This can quickly free up gigabytes of space that you can then use for your files.  To remove it, simply scroll down to the Previous version of Windows section and then click the Delete previous versions button.  This deletion will take some time so make sure your machine remains on through the entire process.

Once you have completed gone through all of the different process we have highlighted here, you should have freed up quite a bit of space on your laptop.  If you haven’t, then you need to double check your files and learn how to let go or invest in an external hard drive and offload some of your larger files to it instead of keeping it on the main drive.

Final Thoughts

You need free space on your laptop, not just to store more files and other types of data, but for your computer to function properly and run at its optimal speed.  Sometimes, in order to make sure that you do, sacrifices must be made.  You can always try other backup services such as the Cloud or a simple external hard drive to store files you aren’t quite ready to part with just yet.  I would recommend keeping at least 5GB free on your machine at all times.  This will ensure that you have plenty of space for a large download or installation while giving your machine the free space it needs to operate efficiently.

Do you have trouble keeping your hard drive clean?  Try making it a habit.  Once a week, set aside some time to clean up your system and get rid of anything you don’t need.  In the long run, it will make the process that much easier and you will actually spend less time cleaning up your machine that you would if you just wait and do it every now and then when you think about it or run into a problem.

So what do you think?  Do you think it’s a good idea to clean up your hard drive on occasion?  Do you like the way Microsoft has made it easier for you to keep track of all your files?  Let me know in the comments below.  Personally, I think this new way is great.  It is easy to keep track of and you can remove everything from basically one place, but let me know what you think in the comments and we can talk more about it if you wish.

By Matt Garrett

Matt is an IT professional with over fifteen years experience supporting network infrastructure and computers. An avid gamer, Matt enjoys his time playing and writing about his experiences both in the IT world and in the gaming communities. You can find more of his writing on our sister ShopNinja sites where he enjoys talking about anything and everything tech.

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