Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
If your disk is filling up it could be due to many causes. I'll walk through some of the techniques to free up space on a full hard disk.
I've had a laptop running Vista for about 5 years now and the hard drive is almost full. What should I do?
Sometimes it definitely feels like the longer you use your computer the less space is left on the hard drive.
That shouldn't really happen, but as a practical matter it does - or at least it feels like it does.
I'll throw out a few quick steps you can take to alleviate, or at least understand, the problem.
If your hard disk fills up the solution in general is to simply find out what's taking up all the space, archive things you might want to keep, and delete those things that you don't need.
As always, be sure to backup first, just in case you delete something you ultimately decide you should have kept.
I can't tell you how many times a good backup has saved me from over-aggressive cleanups.
In Where's my disk space going? I describe a tool and a process to find out what's taking up large amounts of space on your disk.
This is useful for a couple of reasons. The most obvious, of course, is that you may well be able to quickly identify something and say "oh, I don't need that!" and instantly free up the space by removing it.
However, it's also good to simply get an understanding of how the space on your machine is being used. You may find that applications you use are taking up more space than you expect. That information might lead you to research why and resolve an issue, or understand that things are working exactly as you expect.
The bottom line is that by simply seeing where disk space is being used you can delete files, archive files (more on that below) or simply understand that things are as they should be.
If there's anything that might accumulate on a system over time it's temporary files. The good news is that you can simply delete them. Can I delete the contents of my TMP folder? describes one way.
I've found that if my machine has a lot of unexplained disk usage just going in and deleting temporary files can often clean a bunch of it up.
Running the disk cleanup utility will also walk you through not only temporary file cleanup, but several other things that take up unnecessary space on your hard disk.
Right click on the drive in Windows Explorer, click on Properties, and you should see a Disk Cleanup button in the General tab. Click on that.
The disk cleanup utility will actually examine several areas of your hard disk that contain things you might not need. Choose the ones that make sense and are taking up a lot of space, and let the utility clean up for you.
When I speak of "archiving" I mean simply that there's some data that you'll want to keep, but it doesn't have to be kept on your machine.
So, we archive it.
That means anything that moves the data elsewhere, perhaps storing it in ways that are less immediately accessible, but retrievable should you need it.
burn it to CDs or DVDs
copy it to an external hard disk used for this purpose
copy it to another machine or storage device on your home network
Basically, just about anything that copies the data somewhere else, so that you can then safely remove it from your computer.
And remember: any data (again: any data) that you keep in one and only one place is not backed up. An archive is not a backup if it's the only copy. That could mean that you need to burn two CDs, or get two external drives, or perhaps burn CDs and copy to an external hard drive.
It applies to data no matter where you keep it or use it: if there's only one copy it's not backed up and you're at risk of losing it.
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