How to save disk space, and reduce the size of your backup

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Last week I told you about how my backup process saved all of my critical data twice in the last couple of months. One of those backups is called a system image backup and it saves EVERYTHING on your hard drive. As a result, that backup can be pretty big. Today we’ll talk about an easy way for you to reduce the size of that backup, and also save some space on your hard drive.

hard drive space


I have a TON of files and folders on my computer, including a lot of pictures and videos. Those types of files take up a chunk of space, not to mention all of the audio podcast files as well as the typical documents, spreadsheets, etc. That means whenever I do a system image backup (which is overnight, every night) it takes several hours to complete. This works out fine for me since it happens during the night when I’m not using the computer. But what if you want to just do the system image backup during the day? The longer it takes, the longer you are without the use of your computer.

Not to mention, the more files and folders that are stored on your computer, the less free space there is on your hard drive. Of course, with hard drives today being quite large, space might not be an issue for everyone. But there are some people that would benefit from freeing up some hard drive space.

Here’s how you free up some space, and make your system image backup smaller:

In Windows, click the Start button (the Microsoft logo in the bottom left corner), then click on “Computer” (or click on “This PC” if you are using a newer version of Windows).

When you see the drive icons with letters, do a RIGHT click on the C drive and choose “Properties”. That brings up this window:

hard drive space


Now click on the little button labeled “Disk Cleanup”. You’ll see a small window that calculates how much space you are using and how much you can save. This might be here for a few seconds or a few minutes:

hard drive space


When it’s done with the calculation, you’ll see a window that shows you how much space you can potentially save on your hard drive, by removing some files and folders that are not needed:

hard drive space


As you can see, in my case it came up with a lot of files that I could get rid of and free up some space – 106 gb in fact. That’s a lot of space! For some perspective, the first Windows computer I bought had a hard drive that could hold 40 gb of data – that means I had to store the Windows operating system, all of my other programs, and all of my own files and folders inside that 40 gb of space. And today, I have “throwaway” files that are more than 100 gb! How things change!

You might want to go down the list and see what types of files and folders are included in this total. If you’re not sure about something, or if you definitely DON’T want to delete a particular item, just uncheck the box and it won’t be included in the total and it won’t be deleted.

But Scott, how do I know if I can delete something or if I should keep it?

You can click on the name of each item in the list, and in the area at the bottom of the window you’ll see an explanation of what that particular item is. That should give you some idea of whether it’s important or not (it’s probably not).

Best rule is this: if you’re not sure, keep it. But practically speaking, the reason the items in this list are in this list are because they aren’t really critical for the continued operation of the computer. So you probably won’t be hurting anything if you delete these things.

Once you have the preferred boxes checked or unchecked, click OK and the Disk Cleanup process will begin. It might take a while if you have a lot of non-essential things to remove. The progress bar will tell you how it’s getting along:

hard drive space


When it’s done, just close the open windows and you’re all set.

You may save a lot of hard drive space doing this, or you may not save much. It’s worth checking out though, especially if you have never checked it (or have not checked it in a while). I don’t check mine very often, which is why there were over 100 gb that could be eliminated. By doing this, the size of my system image backup went way down. Prior to this, my backup process overnight would take almost 7 hours. Now, with the smaller backup, it only takes 5 1/2 hours. That’s a significant difference!

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