How to save disk space on Windows 10

Windows 10 is not exactly a lightweight operating system, requiring at least 20 GB for the 64-bit version and 16 GB for the 32-bit version. These days large HDDs are very cheap and everyone has them, but most of us install the OS on SSDs, which are more expensive, especially if you want one with a lot of space. So we still need to save disk space in Windows 10, especially since the OS itself takes up so much of it.

Luckily, Windows 10 has an impressive array of disk space saving features – some are new, some are old, but when used together they can really make a difference.

How to save disk space on Windows 10

Windows 10 has received some new disk space saving and cleanup features, some of them in the latest Creators Update. They’re very easy to use, and more importantly it’s a set-and-forget process.

Storage Sense

Storage Sense is an automated disk cleanup feature. You just need to open the Settings app and go to System -> Storage -> Storage Sense and toggle it on. Below it is a link called “Change how we free up space” where you can customize this feature so it’s worth taking a look especially since it also has a “Clean now” option in case you need to free up some space right away.

NTFS Compression

Windows also has a feature called NTFS compression that lets you compress specific files and folders while allowing you to use them as usual. Keeping files archived can also save space but with NTFS compression you can access them without having to manually decompress them.

Open File Explorer and go to the file or folder you want to compress. Right-click on it and select Properties. Click “Advanced” in the General tab. On the next pop-up check the option called “Compress contents to save disk space” and hit the OK button.

Keep in mind that NTFS compression does come at a cost. Because the OS needs to decompress them every time you want to access them, it will use more CPU. How much depends on various factors including the file type and size. Nevertheless, if you have a decent rig, there’s shouldn’t be much of a difference performance-wise. Also, this feature should not be used on system files and folders.

Save apps and media on external storage

You’d think that storing Windows Store apps to external storage drives (including hard drives, USB drives and SD cards) should have been available from the start but this option only arrived with the first major update to Windows 10. As a result, if you’re using Windows store apps except for the default ones, you can choose to keep them on external storage, but also media files.

This can be very useful if you’re running out of space on your main drive. Here’s how this works:

Connect the external storage device to your PC then open the Settings app and head over to System -> Storage -> More storage settings. Click on “Change where new content is saved”.

On the following screen you can change the drive where supported file types should be automatically saved.

Hibernation and System Restore files

There are three important features that need a lot of storage space to keep their data: Page File, Hibernation and System Restore. It’s recommended you leave the Page File alone, but you can tweak the System Restore and Hibernation features to save some disk space.

Hibernation saves a snapshot of the current system state to a file called hiberfil.sys so that once your computer enters hibernation mode it can wake it up faster than if you were to boot it. The hiberfil.sys is quite large – the default setting is 75% of your RAM. And it’s there all the time. If you don’t use hibernate, you can simply disable it and reclaim that space.

To do that right-click on the Start button and open Command Prompt (Admin). Type in powercfg.exe/hibernate off to disable hibernation and powercfg.exe/hibernate on to enable it.

System Restore is the feature that saves snapshots of your operating system so that you can go back to it in case you ever have problems. Obviously, these snapshots also take up plenty of space, in fact their default setting is 15% of the data drive capacity. In this case, you can either disable System Restore completely or lower the percentage of allocated space.

Open Control Panel and type “system restore” in the search box. Click on “Create a restore point” under System. Go to the System Protection tab and click on Configure after you make sure the system drive is selected.

On the next window you can either select “Disable system protection” to disable System Restore or adjust the “Max usage” to a value lower than 15%. Take not that a restore point takes up about 600 MB on average and you should have enough space allocated to hold a minimum of 5. So make sure it has at least 3 GB of allocated space.

Disk Cleanup

Finally, let’s not forget the Disk Cleanup app. It’s fairly basic and you can always opt for third-party apps, but this one is already there and it works just fine if you don’t want a laundry list of features.

Ideally, you should be running Disk Cleanup once a month, but it’s also a good idea to run it after each Windows update. After system updates, a backup snapshot of the system is stored so that you can revert to a functional state if anything goes wrong. Sadly, those snapshots can easily go over 3GB in size and even as high as two digit numbers.

Simply run the Disk Cleanup app, select the partition and then select which types of files you want to remove (you can also leave the default settings if you’re not sure what to choose). Then, click on “Clean up system files” and you’ll have extra free space in no time.

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