Old mechanical disk drives are still common in Windows PCs, especially at the budget end of the market. Although disk capacity has risen every year ever since they were invented, they started out at 5 or 10MB, the size of Windows has also risen. Windows used to be around 3MB, but now you need 30GB or more of disk space - that’s 10,000 times bigger!
Applications have also increased in size and software can be huge. This is especially true of games and some of them can require several gigabytes of disk space.
Many laptop and hybrid laptop/tablet computers like the Microsoft Surface, had solid state disks because they offer stunning performance. However, the entry level Surface Pro and New Surface Laptop have just 128GB of storage. That means you need to save space wherever possible or be faced with low disk space warnings and problems saving files.
As the amount of free disk space falls, it has an effect on the performance of the computer and it will be reduced. The difficulty of finding disk space to work in slows down Windows and for maximum performance you should have lots of free space.
So what can you do to free up space on the disk drive?
There are several techniques, but cleaning up junk files should be the first thing to try.
Storage sense in Windows 10 Creator's Update
Storage sense has been around for some time, but it has been improved in Windows 10 Creator’s Update and it can now clean up the disk drive automatically. If you have been using disk cleanup tools until now, you may no longer need them.
To see this new feature:
- Press Windows+I to open the Settings app
- Click System
- Select Storage on the left
At the top is a display of the space used on the disk drives and partitions in the computer or connected to it. Below is Storage sense.
The default for this feature is Off. Turn it on to let Windows automatically clean the disk by removing temporary files and items in the Recycle bin.
Configure Storage sense
There are a couple of settings relating to Storage sense and to see them, click Change how we free up space. There are two options:
It does not say which temporary files are deleted, but it is quite likely to be conservative in its determination of what to delete. It is safe and it is recommended that you turn this on.
The Recycle bin can grow very large and it can use a significant amount of disk space. A maximum size can be set, but when was the last time you looked at the setting? It may be too high.
Right click the Recycle bin icon on the desktop and select Properties. Mine was set to 36GB! I don’t remember setting it anywhere near that high.
The contents of the Recycle bin can be limited by setting a low custom size such as 5000 (5GB), but Storage sense gives us a different way to limit the amount of junk in the Recycle bin. Instead of limiting the size, it can limit the age. Windows can automatically delete files that have been in the bin for more than 30 days.
If a file has been in the bin for a month, you probably won’t ever need to recover it. The Recycle bin will grow if large files are deleted, but it will shrink when they are automatically deleted after 30 days.
While you are looking at the Storage sense settings, click the Clean now button to free up disk space right now.
Use Windows Disk Clean-up
There has been a manual disk cleanup tool in Windows for a long time, although it is buried on a sub-menu of Start. Go to Start > Administrative Tools, Disk Clean-up.
Is the clean up function in Storage sense the same as Disk Clean-up?
No, they are different. I ran Disk Clean-up before and after Storage sense clean up function and the Recycle bin apart, Disk Clean- was mostly unaffected.
Storage sense reported that it deleted 4GB of files. About 2.5GB of these were Recycle bin items that were older than 30 days. That does not explain what the other 1.5GB of deleted files were.
It is clear that you can gain extra disk space savings by running Disk Clean-up after Storage sense clean up. It will enable you to get the maximum benefit from Windows cleaning. The advantage of Storage sense is that it is automatic - set it and forget it. However, it is still recommended that you run Disk Clean-up once a month.