11 Ways To Free Up Disk Space In Windows 11

If you run out of free space on your Windows 11 computer, there are many ways to create…

Free Storage Space Windows 11

If you run out of free space on your Windows 11 computer, there are many ways to create more room for data and improve its performance.

Windows 11 has integrated tools to help you manage your storage devices more robustly. Not only that, the Windows Settings application is now more advanced than ever, using which you can gain complete insight into the components taking up your storage space.

If you are experiencing performance issues due to low disk space on your C drive, or want to fix the “low disk space” warning prompting every now and then, perform the given methods to create space and get rid of the prompt.

How to Check What is Consuming Disk Space

Before we begin creating room on our disk, let us check what is consuming it in the first place. Windows 11 makes this easier by providing an interface to view the different types of data taking up space on your disk.

A typical Windows 11 clean installation takes nearly 30GB of space on your disk. What is taking up the rest? Let us find out.

  1. Navigate to the following:
    Settings app >> System >> Storage
  2. You will now see a breakdown of what is consuming your storage disk in segmented categories. Click Show more categories under the details to see more details.
    show more categories

You will now see details regarding more data categories and how much space each of them is taking on this page.

More cat
Details on more categories consuming storage space

This information gives a glimpse of what data is important and what can be removed to create significant free space on your drive.

How to Create Free Space in Windows 11

Remove/Delete Temporary Files

Temporary files are created when the system performs a certain task. They are supposed to be removed automatically, but occasionally are not, thus eventually consuming a significant portion of the disk.

You can delete these files safely using the following guide:

  1. Navigate to the following:
    Settings app >> System >> Storage >> Temporary files
    Temp files
  2. Here, select the data you want to delete from the following categories by checking the box:
    Note: You will see these options if applicable.
  3. Once selected, click Remove files from the top.
    remove files
  4. When asked for a confirmation, click Continue.

The selected data will now be deleted, freeing up space on your disk. If the created space is insufficient, you can continue to perform the following methods to free up more disk space.

Perform Cleanup Recommendations

The Settings app in Windows 11 also suggests a few actions you can take to free up disk space. You can manually choose whether to perform those actions.

  1. Navigate to the following:
    Settings app >> System >> Storage >> Cleanup recommendations
  2. Here, expand each of the following categories and select the recommendations that you wish to perform:
  3. When selected, click Cleanup under each of those categories to delete the selected items.
  4. When asked for a confirmation, click Continue.
    cont 2

The selected data will now be removed.

Enable Storage Sense

Storage Sense is a Windows 11 feature that automatically performs certain tasks to keep your disk utilization to a minimum. Using this feature, you can control when some files and folders are automatically deleted when they are no longer in use.

Perform the following steps to use Storage Sense to create free space on your disk.

  1. Navigate to the following:
    Settings app >> System >> Storage >> Storage Sense
  2. First, check the box next to “Keep Windows running smoothly by automatically cleaning up temporary system and app files.”
  3. Now toggle the slider under “Automatic User content cleanup” into the On position. This will allow Windows to automatically delete files and folders when it detects that the space is running low, or on a specified schedule.
    On 1
  4. Now select the settings from the drop-down menus under the respective configurations.
  5. When selected, click Run Storage Sense now to implement the actions. This can take a few minutes, depending on the size of the files to remove.
    run now

Perform Disk Cleanup

Disk Cleanup is a built-in feature in Windows 11 that wipes out any unnecessary data the system no longer requires, automatically. You can perform the steps below on the volume that is low on free disk space:

  1. Open File Explorer, then right-click on the volume with the low free disk space. Click Properties from the context menu.
  2. From the Properties window, click Disk Cleanup.
    disk cleanup
  3. From the Disk Cleanup window, click Clean up system files.
    Clean up system files
  4. Now check all the boxes under Files to delete against the following categories, and then click Ok.
    • Windows Update Cleanup.
    • Microsoft Defender Antivirus.
    • Downloaded Program Files.
    • Temporary Internet Files.
    • Windows error reports and feedback diagnostics.
    • DirectX Shader Cache.
    • Delivery Optimization Files.
    • Device driver packages.
    • Language Resource Files.
    • Previous Windows installation(s).
    • Recycle Bin.
    • Temporary files.
    • Thumbnails.
      select ok
  5. You will now be prompted for a confirmation. Click Delete Files.
    Delete files
  6. The deletion process will now begin and should only take a moment. When finished, close the Properties window.

Disable Hibernation Mode

The hibernation mode in Windows puts the computer to sleep while maintaining all of your open data in a file called “hiberfil.sys.” This hidden file is stored in the system drive, and disabling the hibernation mode automatically removes the file, freeing up space.

The image below shows the size of the hiberfil.sys file on our PC:

hiberfil size 700x442 1
Size of Hiberfil.sys file

Disabling this feature would automatically create almost 16 GB of free disk space on our boot drive. To disable hibernation, launch Command Prompt with administrative privileges,and then paste the following command:

powercfg -h off
powercfg off disable hibernation
Disable hibernation mode

Shrink/Disable Pagefile

Pagefile is another hidden system file whose purpose is to compensate for any shortages of RAM. Occasionally, the data in your system’s memory takes refuge in the Pagefile, which is on your storage drive (C drive), which subsequently takes up significant space.

Although we do not suggest that you disable Pagefile entirely, since it is an important feature that contributes to the normal functionality of the operating system, it can still be done if absolutely necessary.

You can determine the optimal Pagefile size and then use the guide below to set it up or disable it entirely.

  1. Navigate to the following:
    Settings >> System >> About
  2. Now click Advanced System Settings in the Related Links section.
    advanced system settings
  3. In the System properties window, switch to the Advanced tab and then click on Settings under Performance.
    Settings performance
  4. In the Performance Options window, switch to Advanced tab, and then click Change under Virtual memory.
    advanced change
  5. In the Virtual Memory window, uncheck the box next to “Automatically manage paging file size for all drives.” Once done, you should now select Custom size and then enter the minimum and maximum values for the Pagefile size.
    Alternatively, you can select the No paging file radio button to disable the feature entirely. Click Set and OK when done.
    set disable pagefile
  6. Now reboot your computer so that the changes come into effect.

When the computer reboots, you will notice that the free space on the system drive has increased the same the Pagefile size has been reduced.

Compress Drive using Compactor

Although Windows allows the option to compress the data inside a drive using native methods, we do not suggest you use it. Rather, we suggest that you compress “selective” data using Compactor.

Compactor is an easy-to-use Graphical User Interface (GUI) based application that uses the existing Windows compact.exe command-line tool to compress the data selected. Since it is based on an existing Microsoft command, it is completely safe to use.

Why prefer Compactor over the native compression options? The biggest disadvantage of using the system compression option is that it compresses all the contents of the drive. This is not recommended for the system drive. It will make the system slow, because the system will have to decompress the files before opening them.

Using the Compactor utility is pretty simple. However, the creator of the utility takes no responsibility for your data. Hence, we would recommend you create a restore point if things go sideways.

Now perform the following steps to compress your data and free up some storage space:

  1. Download the Compactor application on the target computer.
  2. Unzip the downloaded package and then run the application named “Compactor” by double-clicking it. If prompted for a UAC, click Yes.
  3. When the application opens, switch to the Settings tab from the top-right corner.
    settings 2
  4. On this screen, you can select the type of files you wish to exclude from the compression, as well as the type of compression you want from the drop-down menu below. Default excludes all significant Windows files. Click Save when done, and switch back to the Compact window from the top.
  5. On the Compact screen, click Choose a folder.
    Choose folder
  6. Now browse through the dialog box and select the folder you wish to compress. You may also select an entire partition by clicking on it, and then click Select Folder.
  7. The application will now display the compression summary if you perform it. Click on Compress to begin compression. This step may take a few minutes depending on the type of compression and folder size.

You will be prompted when the compression is complete. You may now notice that the files and folders occupy less space on the disk than before, as in the comparison below:

Comparison: Before and after compression

Enable OneDrive Files On-Demand

OneDrive has a “Files On-Demand” feature that does not save a file synced to OneDrive locally, but rather fetches it from your account over the internet when it is opened. Of course, it requires an active internet connection to be able to get the desired file.

Enabling this feature will save disk space. Here’s how to enable it:

  1. Click on the OneDrive icon from the Quick Access menu in the Taskbar.
    OneDrive quick access taskbar
  2. Now click on the gear icon in the top-right corner of the flyout, and then click Settings.
    OneDrive settings
  3. From the pop-up window, switch to the Settings tab, and then check the box next to “Save space and download files as you use them” under Files On-Demand. Then click Ok.
    onedrive save space

You can now move your files and folders to the OneDrive folder using Windows Explorer, freeing up space on your local PC.

Rebuild Indexing Library

Indexing is the process of storing file data, such as its content, metadata, dates associated, etc. so that the operating system can perform a “lookup” when the user performs a search. Over time, this stored data can become large in quantity, even though some of the indexed content may no longer exist.

You can thus try to free up some space by rebuilding the indexing library or removing indexed files and folders from the list.

Delete Unused Apps

You can also create some free space on your storage drive by removing any apps or application data that is no longer in use. Here is how:

  1. Navigate to the following:
    Settings app >> Apps >> Apps & features
  2. Here, sort the apps by size.
  3. Now click on the ellipses (3 dots) in front of the application you wish to remove, and then click Uninstall.
  4. Then click Uninstall again.
    uninstall 2

The application will now be removed from your computer, freeing up space.

Delete Unused Language Packs

Language packs in Windows can also consume a significant amount of storage space on your PC. If one or more languages are no longer in use, you can remove them using the following steps to create free space:

  1. Navigate to the following:
    Settings app >> Time & language >> Language & region
  2. Here, click on the ellipses (3 dots) in front of the language that you wish to delete, under Preferred languages, and then click Remove.
    Note: The language to be removed should not be the current display language.

The language pack will now be deleted from your computer, creating additional free space.

Final Thoughts

Performing some or all of the methods above will definitely create some free space on your computer.

Windows 11 provides several native ways to free up and manage your storage space. This is why we suggest you avoid using third-party tools on this particular OS to create some storage space.

Not that third-party tools can cause problems, because some of them are trusted and efficient, but that there is no need to use an external tool to perform the same tasks you can achieve using Windows native tools.

Also see:

Subhan Zafar is an established IT professional with interests in Windows and Server infrastructure testing and research, and is currently working with Itechtics as a research consultant. He has studied Electrical Engineering and is also certified by Huawei (HCNA & HCNP Routing and Switching).

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