Free up drive space in Windows 10

Content provided by Microsoft

If your PC is running low on free space, you might not be able to install important Windows updates, and your PC’s performance may be affected. Here are some ways to free up space so you can keep your PC up-to-date and running smoothly.

If you’re getting a Low Disk Space error because of a full Temp folder

If you used Disk Cleanup to free up space on your device and then see a Low Disk Space error, it’s possible that your Temp folder is quickly filling up with application (.appx) files that are used by Microsoft Store.

Free up space with Storage sense

You can use Storage sense to delete unnecessary or temporary files from your device. (Can’t find Storage sense on your device using the steps below? See the “Free up space with Disk Cleanup” section below instead.)

Select the Start button, and then select Settings > System > Storage.
Select Temporary files in the storage breakdown. Note: If you don’t see Temporary files listed, select Show more categories.
Windows will take a few moments to determine what files and apps are taking up the most space on your PC.
Select all the items you want to delete, and then select Remove files.

Recycle Bin and some other settings aren’t selected by default. You may have to scroll down to select these items.

Select the Recycle Bin to free up space taken up by previously deleted files. Windows moves the files you delete to the Recycle Bin in case you change your mind and need them again in the future. You might be able to free up a significant amount of space by selecting Recycle Bin to permanently remove files you’ve previously deleted.

If you turn on Storage sense, Windows will automatically free up space by getting rid of files you don’t need, like temporary files and items in the Recycle Bin, based on how often you’ve chosen to run Storage sense.

Select the Start button, and then select Settings > System > Storage.
Turn on Storage sense.
Choose how often you want Storage sense to run.
To choose which files you want Storage sense to delete automatically, select Configure Storage sense or run it now, then select or clear the check boxes for options under Temporary Files and Locally available cloud content.

Free up space with Disk Cleanup

If your system doesn’t have Storage sense, you can use the Disk Cleanup tool to delete temporary files and system files from your device.

Select the Start button, type disk cleanup, then select Disk Cleanup from the list of results.
Select the check box next to the type of files you want to delete. (To view a description of each type of file, select the name.) By default, Downloaded Program Files, Temporary Internet Files, and Thumbnails are selected.

To free up even more space, select Clean up system files, and then select the type of system files you want to delete.
Note-If it’s been fewer than 10 days since you upgraded to Windows 10, your previous version of Windows will be listed as a system file you can delete. If you need to free up drive space, you can delete it, but keep in mind that you’ll be deleting your Windows.old folder, which contains files that give you the option to go back to your previous version of Windows. If you delete your previous version of Windows, this can’t be undone.
After you’ve selected the types of files you want to delete, select OK, and then select Delete files in the confirmation window to start the cleanup.

Important-There’s now also an option in Disk Cleanup to Compress your OS drive. Selecting this option compresses the drive on which Windows is installed, helping you gain extra space to install important updates. This action does not delete the contents of this drive, and you shouldn’t experience problems opening and saving files from the compressed drive.

After you install the update, you can manually decompress the OS drive at any time. To do this, open File Explorer, and in the left pane, select This PC. Right-click or tap-and-hold the OS drive (usually disk C), and then select Properties on the shortcut menu. Clear the Compress this drive to save disk space check box, and then select Apply > OK

Delete personal files or move them to an external storage device

Personal files such as videos, music, photos, and documents can take up a lot of space on your device. To see which files are using the most space:

Open File Explorer from the taskbar and find the files you want to move.
Under This PC in the menu on the left, select a folder to see what files are saved in it. The Videos, Music, Pictures, and Downloads folders usually contain the largest files that you’ve saved to your device.
To see the size of the files in a folder, select View > Details. Right-click in the open space and then select Sort by > Size to show the largest files at the top of the list.

If there are files you no longer need on your device, you can either delete them or move them to an external storage device like a USB drive or an SD card.

Note-If you delete any files, remember to empty the Recycle Bin to completely remove them from your device and free up space.

To move photos, music, videos, or other files that you want to keep but don’t use very often, consider saving them to an external storage device like a USB drive or an SD card. You’ll still be able to use them when the drive is connected, but they won’t take up space on your PC.

Connect an external storage device like a USB drive or SD card to your PC.
Open File Explorer from the taskbar and go to the folder that contains the files you want to move.
Select the files, select the Home tab, and then select Move to > Choose location.
Select the external storage device you connected in the location list, and then select Move.

Save new personal files to another drive

Saving new files to another drive will help prevent low space problems on that drive in the future, so you won’t have to move your files to another drive repeatedly. Instead of saving all your new files to the default drive, you can save some of them to a different drive that has more free space.

Select the Start button, and then select Settings > System > Storage.
Under More storage settings, select Change where new content is saved.
For each content type, select a drive from the drop-down menu. If the drive you want to use isn’t listed there, make sure it’s connected to your PC.

Turn on OneDrive Files On-Demand

Note-OneDrive Files On-Demand requires Windows 10 Fall Creators Update (Windows 10 version 1709) and OneDrive client version 17.3.7064.1005 or later. To see which version of Windows you’re running, select the Start button, then select Settings > System > About. To see which version of the OneDrive client you have installed, see Which version of OneDrive am I using?

You can save space by turning on OneDrive Files On-Demand, which stores a smaller placeholder file on your hard drive instead of the full-size file that’s stored in your OneDrive account in the cloud. You’ll be able to get to your OneDrive files from your PC without having to use up hard-drive space downloading full-size versions of them all. See Learn about OneDrive Files On-Demand for more info.

Run antivirus software

Sometimes a virus or other malware can consume significant hard-drive space by corrupting your system files. If you suspect your PC is infected with malware, use an antivirus program like Windows Defender to run a virus scan and cleanup.

If you’ve followed the instructions here but still need help freeing up space on your device, you can contact Microsoft support to chat with a support agent. This is also recommended if your attempts to free up drive space trigger particular error codes that you need help resolving.

The following questions concern low disk space and Windows Update specifically.

How will I know if I don’t have enough free disk space to install updates?

When there isn’t enough free space available to install an update, a pop-up notification will prompt you that additional space is required to install the update.

When you select Fix issues, you’ll be informed about how much additional space is needed. You’ll also be notified that you can use an external storage device so that you don’t need to free up quite as much space on your system drive.

The total free disk space your device requires to complete an update varies. Typically, feature updates require 6 GB–11 GB or more of free space, while quality updates require 2 GB–3 GB or more.

Why does Windows require additional space during the update process?

You need disk space to download the update, download new versions of any optional features and languages that are currently installed, and to apply the update. Additional space is temporarily required to support the removal of the update (typically for 10 days). This space can be reclaimed after the update is completed. To do this, go to Settings > System > Storage > Free up space now.

The update is compressed to reduce download size.

Note-For devices with reserved storage, an update will first use the reserved storage space before using other disk space.

Why does the amount of space required to update Windows vary so much?

The space required to complete a feature update depends on two factors: which update path is followed and the size of optional content and other updates that apply to your PC when the feature update is installed.

Note-For devices with reserved storage, an update will first use the reserved storage space before using other disk space.

Windows follows three different feature update paths, depending on the amount of disk space currently available.

1. For PCs with plenty of free disk space

Windows automatically tries to complete more of the update process in the background while you use your PC. This significantly reduces the time your PC will be offline (or unusable) during the update, although it might temporarily use more disk space to complete the update. Learn more about our efforts to reduce offline time during updates (English only at this time).

2. For PCs with limited free space but still enough to complete the update automatically

Windows will automatically optimize for reducing the amount of free disk space required to install the update. This will result in a longer offline install time.

3. For PCs that don’t have enough space to automatically install the update

Windows will prompt you to free up disk space or use external storage to temporarily extend the storage on your PC. If you use an external storage device, Windows won’t need as much free space on the system drive as it temporarily uses your external storage.

Across each of these update paths, the total amount of free disk space required will vary, depending on the optional content installed and other updates that apply to your PC. For example:

Optional features. Many optional features available for Windows are pre-installed or acquired on demand by the system, or manually by you. You can see which ones are installed on your PC by going to Settings > Apps > Apps & features > Manage optional features. These features range in size from less than 1 MB to almost 2 GB for the Windows Mixed Reality portal. You can reduce the amount of space required to install a feature update on your PC by uninstalling optional features you aren’t using.

Languages installed. Windows is localized into many languages. Although many people only use one language at a time, some people switch between two or more languages. You can see which languages are installed on your PC by going to Settings > Time & Language > Language. During each update, all language resources and any associated typing, text-to-speech, speech-to-text, and handwriting recognition resources must be updated. The content for each language can range from about 175 MB to more than 300 MB. You can reduce the amount of space required to install a feature update on your PC by uninstalling languages you aren’t using.

Driver updates. OEMs and other hardware partners sometimes publish new graphics, networking, audio, and other drivers in conjunction with the new OS update. The size of these drivers can vary significantly, depending on your PC and on which drivers have been updated.
OS quality updates. During a feature update, Windows tries to download and automatically install the latest quality update so that your PC is fully up to date when you start using it. Shortly after the feature update is released, the quality update for that feature update could be as small as a few hundred MB, but as more quality and security changes are implemented, the quality update can increase in size to 1 GB or more. If your PC is short on disk space, you can download and install the quality update after the feature update is complete.

Finally, Windows Update will temporarily disable hiberfile.sys, pagefile.sys, and other system files in order to use the space these files typically consume to apply the feature update. Any files that are disabled to apply the update will be automatically re-enabled when the update is complete. Because these files vary in size depending on how you use your PC and the amount of RAM your PC has, even in cases where two different PCs have the exact same OS image, the amount of free disk space required to complete an update may vary.

The combination of update path and features means there’s a wide range of free disk space required to complete an update.

How will I know how much space I have left?

You can check the total disk space left on your Windows 10 device by starting File Explorer on the taskbar and then selecting This PC on the left. The available space on your drive will appear under Devices and drives.

When should I use local external storage such as a USB drive instead of a cloud storage service such as OneDrive?

It may be best to use an external storage device in the following cases:

When access to the internet isn’t available.
When you need to store large files or a large number of files. In these situations, the files generally take longer to upload and it might cost more to store files.

My hard drive is getting full. How will I know if my Windows is up to date?

Windows Update automatically offers updates to eligible devices. To double-check that your device is up to date, open Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update, and then select Check for updates.

If I’m considering buying a new device, what should I keep in mind when thinking about Windows updates and storage space on devices with hard drive sizes of 32 GB and 64 GB?

Generally, Microsoft recommends that you choose a larger capacity device because your local storage and disk space needs may change over time. If you know that you won’t have many photos, videos, or other files and apps to save to your device, the 32 GB device might be a good option for you. A good example is a device that you only use to run one small app, or that you only use for online content that never gets downloaded to the local hard drive.

When considering what storage hardware to use in your device, don’t look only at the hardware’s storage capacity. Often, the speed of the storage is more important than its size. Devices with slow storage hardware, such as those labeled “HDD” are typically slower to use than those using faster storage hardware, such as those labeled “SSD” or “eMMC.”