Disappearing disk space is a common scenario. Somehow, no matter how much we have, disk space never seems enough. As we collect pictures and programs (and programs themselves collect data), more disk space is consumed unless files are deleted. With so much happening on our computers these days, it’s almost impossible to simply and quickly realize exactly what’s taking up space.
Fortunately, there’s a free tool that I frequently recommend that can give us some very helpful data.
TreeSize Free is a free tool that will show you what’s taking up all of the space on your machine. (A paid version is available with additional features, but for what we’re doing, the free version will suffice.)
On completion of the installation, you’re given the option to run it or run it as Administrator:
I recommend you run it as Administrator, so that TreeSize is able to access and return as much information about your hard disk usage as possible.
The TreeSize scan
As TreeSize scans your hard drive, it updates its display in real time.
Once the small blue progress bar disappears, the results are complete.
A typical machine
This is the result of running TreeSize on a basic Windows 7 installation:
The primary information here is a list of all of the top-level folders on the C: drive and the amount of disk space consumed by their contents. What’s most helpful is that it is sorted by decreasing disk space; the biggest consumers of space are at the top.
Not surprisingly, the “Windows” folder and everything it contains are consuming the most space. Right below that is “[5 files]” that represent the five files that aren’t in any folder at all, but live in the root of the C: drive.
You can see the contents of the next level of folders down by clicking the small triangle to the left of the folder name. Here’s the Windows folder expanded:
You can see right away that the “winsxs” folder contains the most data of all the sub folders within C:\Windows. (This is normal, by the way.) You can also see the relative size of each of the other folders within Windows. If you wanted to drill down deeper, you could simply expand the subfolder.
We can look at those “[5 Files]” again simply by clicking on the triangle in front of the item:
Now, we can see that pagefile.sys – the system virtual memory and paging file – is taking up three gigabytes on this machine and that hiberfil.sys – the file used to implement hibernation – is taking up two.
In this case, that’s actually a discovery for me because this machine will never use hibernate. Disabling that feature allows me to delete hiberfil.sys and free up two gigabytes.
TreeSize on user files
It’s often very useful to use TreeSize to see what’s stored in your user account’s My Documents or similar folder. In Windows, that means looking at the contents of “C:\Users\<login name>.” In my case, that’s C:\Users\LeoN:
I have some of the sub-folders expanded here already and you can see that my Outlook.pst file is the largest file in my Documents folder.
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.