How to free up some hard drive space

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I remember what it was like back in the early days of personal computers.  The first computer we bought that actually accessed the internet was a Packard Bell.  Bought it around 1993 or 1994, and it was a “bargain” at $2400.  I remember having the choice of either 4 mb of memory (RAM), or the faster 8 mb.  And the total hard drive size was 540 mb.  It looked like this:

old computer

How things have changed!  The flash drive that I carry in my pocket every day now is 8 times as big as the whole hard drive on that early machine.

Back then, it was pretty easy to run out of space on the hard drive so you had to watch very carefully what programs you installed.  That was just part of using the computer.

These days, computers commonly come with 1 terabyte (that’s 1000 gigabytes) of space – a huge amount of available storage.  So sometimes people don’t really think about what they throw on to the hard drive – there will always be space available.

That is changing, because of how we are using our computers now.  When I get a computer in for repair now, it’s common to see a ton of pictures and music loaded on there.  I have one sitting here right now that has lots of full-length feature films stored.  These things all take up a lot of space, so if you’re not careful, you could end up filling up your hard drive.

And it’s not just the data that you deliberately download and store – there are lots of other things that get put on your hard drive that you don’t even know about.  Some of those things don’t even need to be there; they are just taking up space.

How do you find those hard drive hogs?

You can easily find out which folders on your computer are storing the largest amounts of data though a little program called Tree Size Free (more info and free download here).

When you download and install the program, go ahead and run it.  It will automatically open a window and begin calculating the size of each folder on your computer.  This process might take several minutes, depending on the size of your drive.

When it’s finished, you should see a folder at the top called Users (if you are using Windows Vista or Windows 7).  The folder may have a different name if you use XP, not sure.

Click on the little triangle at the left end of the line to expand that folder.  Subfolders will also be expandable, so you can keep drilling down to see what folders are the culprits with large amounts of data.  It looks like this (you can click the image to see it bigger):

finding large folders

I ran this on my machine, and right off the bat I found a single folder with 41 gb of data that I no longer needed (I had stored it temporarily then forgot about it).  You might have similar results, who knows.

If you find a folder and you’re not sure what it is, the safest thing is to NOT delete it.  Freeing up some space is not worth the trouble of deleting something that you might actually need in the future.

So what do you think?  If you try it out, let me know in the comments below how much space you free up on your computer.


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