Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
It's not uncommon to run out of disk space. A free utility can help tell where your disk space is going so you can determine what steps to take.
Under your previous question "How can I tell what's taking up so much disk space?" I ran chkdsk /f and this ran but didn't free up any space? Then I downloaded diruse and this wouldn't run? I wondered if you could please help me further? Our disc drive is split into a C and a D drive which both have between 30 and 40 gig on each, we only ever save on the D drive, however the C drive is up to about 31.9 Gig with 540 meg left available! Apart from about 5 gig of photo's I can't understand what is taking up all the memory? The memory seems to continually go down and is now getting to a critical level. I have run spyware and adware checks and deleted all critical errors, but still not been able to free up any memory. I can't even defrag as I need 20% free to run this option.
I wanted to revisit the "what's taking disk space" issue so I could recommend a tool that might be better for most people than the command line tool diruse I recommended in that previous article.
However, this question also gives me an opportunity to clear up some misconceptions and some terms that don't mean what you think they mean.
CHKDSK doesn't free up disk space; at least not intentionally. CHKDSK checks for errors on the disk and attempts to repair them. Sometimes that repair can result in more free space becoming available, but that's not the point. On a disk that has no errors running CHKDSK will not result in more free space becoming available; in fact it won't change anything at all.
Defragging doesn't free up disk space. I've had people ask why defragging the machine didn't free up space. That's not what defragging is about. Defragging simply rearranges the information on your hard disk for more efficient access. It doesn't create any free space.
Disk space is not memory. I keep hearing people confuse these terms and it's important - particularly when asking for help - that the terms you use accurately reflect what it is you're talking about. To over-simplify a little:
Memory is the RAM (for Random Access Memory) where your programs and data reside when they are in use. When you turn your computer off your memory is erased. To free up memory you might just run fewer programs at the same time.
Disk space is your hard drive where data is stored permanently or until you or a program explicitly erases it. To free up disk space you delete files.
Another good difference to note is size. My laptop, for example, has 8 gigabytes of memory, but 150 gigabytes of disk space. Disk space on a machine is almost always much greater than its memory.
Somehow no matter how much we have, disk space never seems enough. As we collect pictures and programs, and programs themselves collect data, more and more disk space is consumed unless files are deleted.
But what files are taking up all that space?
TreeSize Free is a free tool that will show you what's taking up all the space on your machine. (A paid version is available with additional features, but for what we're doing the free version will suffice.) For example, here's a display of one of my hard disks:
You can see by the length of the numbers, and the length of the accompanying yellow bar, that the top level folders containing the most data are listed first. In this case the C:\Users folder contains over 27 gigabytes of data. If we expand that by clicking on the triangle to the left of the item, we see this:
Now we can see that within C:\Users, it's the Public folder that has the most data.
If I expand a few more levels down, choosing the largest each time we find:
Here we can see that it's my guilty pleasure, World of Warcraft, that's taking up 22 gigabytes of space on this machine.
Now I know. If I want to free up a lot of space quickly, all I need to do is uninstall WoW. (FYI: not gonna happen .)
Now, as to what's eating up the disk space on your machine, there's no way for me to know. However, using a tool like TreeSize you should be able to relatively quickly see what's taking up all that space and take appropriate action.
(This is an update to an article originally published
October 8, 2007.
The original referred to a tool named "SpaceMonger",
the free version of which is no longer maintained.)