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What should I do about low 'memory' on my recovery drive?


I have HP vista pavilion, running home premium (about 6 months old). The
computer displayed a low memory on drive “D” recovery. I stayed on the phone
with a tech rep two hours trying to get this explained. Showed I had not done a
“backup”. Of all the computers I have used I have never received this
notification. The tech set my computer to do backup every month. Is this a
“must”? Was instructed to insert a disc every first of the month. What is the
purpose of doing this and is it necessary? As to the disk, what kind should I

There are several misunderstandings in this question, and it sounds like the
support technician certainly didn’t help. But the misunderstandings are so
common that I really wanted to take an opportunity to clear them up if I

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First, a disk drive does not run low on memory, it runs out of space. Yes,
while disks can be used to “remember” things – a kind of memory I suppose – when
applied to computers the term memory specifically refers to the RAM memory
installed in your computer. Hard disks are something else entirely.

I know it sounds like I’m being very nit-picky, and I suppose I am. The
problem is that particularly when it comes to computers, using the correct
terminology is extremely important. For example, if you tell a
technician that you think you’re running out of memory when you really mean
that you’re running out of disk space then it’s likely that you’re not going to
get the help you need to fix your problem.

Secondly, if drive “D” has been set up as a recovery drive (which is quite
common these days), you should simply never use it. Period. You would use it
only as part of actually performing a recovery.

Now, there may be some confusion since Windows may start warning you that
the drive is close to full. Well, a recovery drive D will almost always be
close to full, and that’s ok. It has a bunch of recovery information
on it and it doesn’t need any more room because you should never use it for
anything else. As long as you’re not using it for anything else, you can simply
ignore the low space warnings for a recovery drive.

“… if drive “D” has been set up as a recovery drive
… you should simply never use it.”

The one caveat I’ll throw out here is that if you are using your
recovery drive for something, you may quickly run out of space on the drive and
some programs may fail to work or complete their tasks properly. I have no way
of knowing if that’s the case on your system, but it’s something to keep an eye
on. If you experience failures in certain programs, make sure that they’re not
saving files to your recovery drive.

Lastly, I have no idea how or why backing up came into your conversation.
Backing up isn’t related to anything we’ve discussed so far.

That being said, the technician is correct: everyone should backup
regularly, or you are at risk of losing all of the information on your
computer. Occasionally things break, and when they break occasionally all the
data on your computer will be lost. It really is that simple.

So yes, in my opinion, backing up is a must.

Backing up is more than just putting a disk in your computer once a month.
It does require that you run backup software of some sort, and that the
software is configured to properly copy the data you care about to some
location that is not on your computer: a CD or DVD, an external hard drive,
another computer that’s on your local network, whatever works for you. Exactly what you’ll
need will depend on the kind of backup program you’d run and how much effort
you want to put into it. I typically recommend getting an external hard drive
and software that backs up automatically for you every night.

My previous article What
backup program should I use?
has more information on backing up.

My guess is that the technician mentioned backing up not as a solution to
any problem you might be experiencing, but simply because it is important and
could help you recover from more serious problems you might experience in the

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23 comments on “What should I do about low 'memory' on my recovery drive?”

  1. Ah, but newer HP computers do use the “D” drive for backup. At least mine does. HP includes HP Recovery software that performs incremental backup of the “C” drive, and adds it to the original “D” drive contents. It works much like True Image, for example. There is even a boot menu that allows you to boot to the “D” drive for recovery.

    There are options to burn the increments to a CD or DVD and remove them from the “D” drive, but the default is to leave them on the “D” drive. You can also turn the backups off.

  2. I get the same low memory on Drive D: message and have since the day I bought this HP Pavilion with Vista. I understand the drive is a recovery disk and not used for any other purpose and I shouldn’t mess with it. I dodn’t want to mess with it. I just want to STOP the damn warning message from showing up 5o times a day. Do you know of any way to disable the message or otherwise fix the problem

  3. I had the same message about drive D: having low memory all the time which was a real pain. If you don’t mind not getting the low memory message even if it’s you C: drive then you could go to Task bar Star Menu in Control panel, click on customize (notification) and change low disk space behavior to always hide.

  4. Many HP/Vista users have backed up there files mistakenly on the “D” drive partition which is used for system restore only and is not supposed to be used for backup (HP has set this up as a default in error). The problem that occurs is that once a backup is done to “D” you cannot view the files in Vista that were copied to “D” in error and delete them. Also system restore fails to create successful restore points after the backup
    is done on “D”. Does anyone have a solution?

  5. I too have had problems with the D drive partition on HP. When my system did fail,(XP) and I went to use the Recovery File it showed as empty. I ended up upgrading to Windows Vista – luckily I had most important items backed up, but had to purchase programs to run properly with Vista. I have had good luck with Vista, but I am still getting the “D” drive errors telling me that it has low memory. I can’t “see” anything in my “D” drive other than an empty Recovery Folder, and would love to get rid of it, since it does not seem to serve any function. Is this possible, or even feasable? What’s in there at this point?

  6. I too am frustrated because I think I just backed up files mistakingly in the recovery “D” drive also. It wouldn’t let me unclick it, and I thought I knew what I was doing. Now I don’t know how to undo it either. Do you think it’s ok or what should be done??

  7. I have a friend that has an HP Pavillion 061 with a D: \ Drive set as a recovery Drive. It showed that it had about 100 GB’s free space on it. Before I realized my mistake I copied about 5 mb’s of MP3’s to that drive. I erased the Mp3’s but he is now getting a low disc space message on that drive.

    Is there anything I can do to correct this?

  8. Mr. Ask Leo

    Just about every owner of a HP Vista computer will get a message that prompts low memory or low disk space on drive d: recovery. You click on the prompt and are asks if you would like to clean the drive to make more space. Then you are given a selection of items to clean. Problem is that next to each choice the prompt states 0 files. You then click on each choice and click OK. But it will prompt you again and again. I have 5 of HP’s with Vista and they all do it to some degree, some yo yo at HP did not allow enough space on the recovery partition, Vista has a unknown variable for determining when a disk is full, if you have an extra gigabit of unused space, this prompt will not present itself. I have used Seagate Disk Wizard to mirror on drive to another, this program allows you to chance partition size. You give a little more space to drive D: Recovery and you are no longer prompted with this message.

    Now the question at hand is how is this problem addressed without having to install a new drive with Disk Wizard?

  9. Leo, I am a research specialist of HP working on HP desktop issues. You gotta check this link. The tech must not have misunderstood the customer, though he used the wrong term as memory. He has set up the back up only for the convenience of the customer. The D drive runs outta space, only because, the back up files of vista get stored over there, by default. we need to delete the baked up files and change the back up path to fix the issue, though setting up back up is entirely up to the user. Please refer to this link for more and detailed info.


  10. If you remove drive (d) please make shore you have your back up disks as you can not use f11 no more then you can allways restore if you want

  11. I DID A FORMAT OF DRIVE (D) IT SEEMS TO WORK OK SO I CAN STILL USE F11 AND RESTORE NOW . WINDOWS IS ON C .I did this in the end .As long as you have your disks you are safe to try

  12. hi i brought a philips 512MB, i put my songs on then after a while i deleted them all so i can put new ones on ive tried puttin new ones on and i only have 443MB and there are no songs on the mp3.

  13. Hey, I recently bought a Hp labtop its a Pavilion entertainment pc and so I was wondering if it is safe to delete some files/stuff on the recovery drive to clear up space since it says its full and which files can I delete so that it doesn’t affect my main drive. Last time I tried it I ended up losing my recent files.

  14. Just finished with a live chat with an HP Tech Support guy, he recommend this action and it worked for me:
    1. Click on Start and then Run
    2. Type regedit and click OK
    3. Click on the File menu and click Export
    4. Type the filename as regbackup and Save the file to your Desktop.

    From the Registry window,
    1. Click on the ‘+’ sign next to HKEY_CURRENT_USER
    2. Click on the ‘+’ sign next to SOFTWARE
    3. Click on the ‘+’ sign next to Microsoft
    4. Click on the ‘+’ sign next to Windows
    5. Click on the ‘+’ sign next to CurrentVersion
    6. Click on the ‘+’ sign next to Policies
    7. Click on the ‘+’ sign next to Explorer

    8. Highlight Explorer
    9. Click On the Edit menu, point to New, and then click DWORD Value.
    10. Type NoLowDiskSpaceChecks and then press ENTER.
    11. On the Edit menu, click Modify.
    12. Type 1 and then click OK.

    Restart the computer for the changes to take effect.
    You’ll no longer get the message about low disk space again.

    Hope it helps,


  15. Going to the regedit and editing does not work. I did it several different ways and none work. I have not try adding more space on the “D” drive. I would like to back up the recovery drive on a flash drive and get rid of the “D” drive. Is that possible?

  16. low memory on my D recovery drive — (Vista) –Solution.Is to clear memory hoard 9.9 G.B 0f unnecessary junk. Yet how is it done ?

  17. Hi. I just got a Seagate Replica 500 gb External Drive I’m very happy with. It was the only e.d. that would back up my entire computer with its software… OS, applications and files. (it also backs up more than 1 computer). It has backed up my D: recovery drive! My D drive is almost full after a year. I won’t ask what it is exactly that’s being backed up, but I thought it was the bad stuff that was going there… you know, the things that are corrupt, broken, bad files, etc. #I was mistaken) that I could clean up or wipe out… now I don’t think that’s the case. But I do wonder, should the external drive be backing up my D drive at all? It’s taking up space and being backed up continuously. Should I turn the D drive off now that I have my external drive… system restore for D drive to off, and reboot? Should the external drive be backing up my D drive at all? In the event of restore from the external drive, I wouldn’t need to restore the D drive, right? :/ Diane
    p.s. another unrelated buggy thing… why would Seagate say that the external drive’s functions open in Windows Explorer when it doesn’t, it opens in the Windows OS… curious. Thanks.

  18. Thanks for a clear simple explanation that is actually correct and informative. Too many online & helpdesk techs give out an abundance of information that is non-sensical, illogical and sonewhat irrelevant. Simple and clear is wonderful. Thank you Leo.


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