Sunday, December 17, 2006

Running out of hard drive space? Here are some remedies.

When you bought your computer, you probably thought you would never use up all of your hard drive space. However, the impossible has happen and you need more space. You could always buy a larger hard drive but you don’t have to spend money. There are a number of things you can do to recover space on your current hard drive.

The most obvious solution is to delete useless and obsolete files.
Windows XP comes with a disk cleanup utility, appropriately called “Disk Cleanup.” To access it, go to Start Menu > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup. A new window will appear, be sure to check: Download Program Files, Temporary Internet Files, Offline Webpages, Microsoft Error Reporting Temporary Files, Recycle Bin and Temporary Files. You can elect to include Compress Files. This last option does not delete files; instead, it compresses old files. You can see the list of files which will be deleted by clicking [View Files].

Defrag the Hard Drive
After cleaning the hard drive, you should also defrag your hard drive. Oftentimes, files are saved on different sectors on a hard drive. You can consolidate the files and decrease the gaps between them by using Windows XP’s Disk Defragmenter. To access it, go to Start Menu > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter. A new window will appear. Click [Analyze] to see if your hard drive needs to be defragmented. If so, click [Defragment] to begin the process. The process can take minutes and even hours depending on the degree of fragmentation on the disk.

Decrease the size of System Restore
Windows XP comes with a backup utility, System Restore. System Restore creates backups of the registry. It comes in handy when your system crashes. System Restore can roll your computer back to a healthy state. By default, System Restore can commandeer up to 12% of your hard drive space. Most users don’t need such a tremendous amount of space. You can manually adjust the amount of space allocated to System Restore. Right click the “My Computer” icon and select Properties > “System Restore” tab > under Disk space usage, slide the bar back to a more reasonable 3% > [Apply] > [O.K.].

Decrease the Size of the Recycle Bin
System Restore is not the only utility which hogs up hard drive space. The Recycle Bin also takes up space. You can adjust the size of the Recycle Bin, right click the Recycle Bin icon on the desktop and scroll down to Properties. A new window will appear. On the “Global” tab, slide the bar back from 10% to a more reasonable 3%.

Decrease the Size of Internet Explorer's Cache
Besides deleting temporary Internet files, you can also decrease the size of Internet Explorer (IE) disk cache. The default setting is 1024 MB (1.0 GB). Start IE and, from the menu bar, go to Tools > Internet Options > “General” tab > [Settings] > under disk space, enter a value of 50 – 150 MB.

There are several free third party utilities which can even recover more hard drive space.
My favorite disk cleaner is CCleaner (a.k.a. Crap Cleaner). CCleaner can permanently delete a long list of files, such as: temporary Internet files, temporary files, temporary download files, cookies, Windows log files and, the ever difficult to delete, index.dat files. CCleaner can also delete obsolete files generated from nonWindows software applications, such as: Firefox, Opera, Spybot Search & Destroy, Lavasoft’s Ad Aware, WinZip, WinRAR, Nero, Kazaa and Macromedia Flash Player to name a few. CCleaner can delete files with multiple passes, permanently deleting the files – not even a forensic team would be able to recover them. There are 2 other programs that deserve a honorable mention, EasyCleaner and IE Privacy Keeper.

Oddly, Windows XP Disk Defragmenter does not defrag either the paging file or the registry. There are 2 ways to defrag the paging file. The easiest way is to use Sysinternal’s Page File Defrag. By the way, Microsoft bought out Sysinternet a few months ago. The utility is quite easy to use and there is no installation required. Start Page File Defrag and select to defrag at the next reboot. You can defrag the paging file manually. I listed the instructions to defrag manually on a previous post.

If you want to defrag the registry, the twin software programs ERUNT and NTREGOT are the best. ERUNT creates backups of the registry much like Windows System Restore while NTREGOT defrags the registry. ERUNT has a distinctive advantage over Windows System Restore since ERUNT allows you to manually delete any registry backup.


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Yariv said...

Hi not every external hard drive can do this so be carfull and read the guides first
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Calvin said...

One thing I like to do is set the swap files to zero, defrag the hard drive, and then set a swap file again. That way, even the swap file isn't fragmented.

eric johnston said...

I have had this problem with hard drive running out of space, and on each occasion it was complete rubbish,as prior to these messages there was between 40% and 60% free space still available,so the moral here is do not rely too heavily on vista's error messages.I would suggest running a program like East-tec eraser as this will "tidy" up your hard drive and delete any files to whatever level of security you want,and it's idiot proof,as I haven't managed to delete things I shouldn't!!!

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