Hard drives have become expensive of late, and prices might not be coming down for a while now. So this is the perfect time to launch a pre-emptive strike against the wasted space on your hard drive. You may not be running low on space right now, but you can delay when that time comes by keeping disk space wastage in check.
Hopefully by following some of the instructions in this article, you will be able to coast through this period of excessive hard drive prices and make your next purchase when prices have come down to sensible levels.
Here are four strategies for getting some juicy extra free space out of your hard drive.
Clean up those junk files
This might seem like a rather obvious statement to make, but its execution is far from obvious. Applications developers love to leave bits and pieces of crud all over your hard drive in the most obscure of places. If you go hunting for them manually, you will be doing so for a long long long time.
There are a few obvious places to begin though, such as the temporary files folder. Here any application is allowed to freely pollute, since it is designed for that purpose, and thus easier to locate and clean. If there is a file in it, it can probably be deleted. Unfortunately, there are multiple such folders on Windows.
A better bet — to begin with — is the Windows disk clean utility. Right-click on any drive icon, and click on ‘Properties’. There click on ‘Disk Cleanup’.
The process takes a few minutes and gives recommendation about some of the junk it can clean up. Obvious ones such as your Recycle Bin and temporary files, and less obvious ones such as thumbnails, error reports, and Service Pack Backup Files. Nothing you select here will inherently harm you. Under the ‘More Options’ tab, you also have the option to get rid of some of your system restore backups. Windows keeps multiple backups of your system in case you install software and your computer stops working. You probably will never need that backup you made months ago, and if your system has been running fine for a while, cleaning these up could save a lot of space.
Windows, however, knows only about the junk it creates. You might be better off with a third-party disk cleaning tool — such as CCleaner — that can find some of the junk left by other software in unusual places.
Compress, compress, compress
Another obvious statement, but having a strategy here helps. Compressing files can save a lot of space depending on what kind of file it is; text files are particularly good candidates.
If you are creating ZIP, RAR, or 7Z files, remember that it is not efficient to keep modifying these files. Instead your collection of files that you chose to zip up should be such that it doesn’t change over time. For example, you could compress and archive your files by date. If you create an archive based on the type of document; for example, an archive for all your projects, you might need to add files to it as you complete another project.
On the other hand, once you have created a ZIP file containing all files from the previous month, you won’t need to add files to it. After all, you can’t create new files for the last month, can you? Unless you have a time machine. In which case you might as well go back in time and get a few hard drives when they were cheaper. There might be better uses for your time machine though.
Basically, any unit of work that is complete, and you won’t need to modify it. If you have a completed project, ZIP it!
If you have an HD video camera, your video captures can take quite a lot of space. Unless you absolutely need to have the best quality video where each individual hair in grandpa’s nose is visible in pristine quality, you are better off compressing them at the loss of some quality. This can lead to huge savings. Software such as Nero Recode or the free HandBrake can be handy here.
Windows also supports a form of compression that allows compressing the files without needing you to unzip them each time to open them. Any software can open a compressed file, even modify it, and Windows will automatically compress it in the background while saving and decompress it while opening. You can access this option by right-clicking on any file or folder, clicking on ’Properties’, clicking on the button labelled ’Advanced…’ and under that selecting ’Compress contents to save disk space’. Now click ‘OK’ twice and Windows will compress the file.
Find and erase duplicate files
Over time it is only natural that you will end up with a large number of duplicated files and folders.
Consider this; one of your friends asks you for any photos you have of him / her. You create a throw-away folder somewhere, copy the photos there and send them away. The folder, however, never gets thrown away. Even for small files, the amount of wasted space on your hard drive can be a lot over time.
While this task is hard to perform manually, there are a number of good free and paid software that will automatically look at the hundreds of thousands of files on your computer, select the ones that are similar and same, and then offer options to delete all but one of the copies.
Software such as Easy Duplicate Finder, NoClone, CloneSpy, Duplicate Cleaner, and the imaginatively-named “Duplicate File Finder” offer these features.
Some of these software also allow you to replace a duplicated version of the file with a transparent shortcut, so it is available in all locations but only takes space in one location.
It is important to be careful here! There are many software which create duplicate files for their own important reasons. Just stick to the files you know about, and you will have a cleaner, roomier hard drive.
Find bulky folders and trim
Sometimes the junk is hidden in corners of your hard drive you rarely visit, and one that even junk file cleansers don’t know about. It might not even be junk, but just overly-large software you don’t need, or software that likes logging what it does so much that it has decided to fill up our hard drive with reports of its activities of filling up your hard drive.
Windows Explorer isn’t optimised to display files based on their size, but there are a number of software that do. For example, TreeSizeFree displays how much space each folder takes, giving you a good idea of where all your space is going.
Other more graphical options are also available such as SpaceSniffer, or Diskitude. These represent the space a file or folder takes up graphically, so you can quickly find the offending folders and files.