The performance of a Personal Computer is often strained when the system begins running out of storage. Apart from programs taking longer to respond and tasks taking longer to execute, some applications might fail to launch altogether. And this is just the tip of the iceberg, the list of problems further stretches.
Nowadays, the recently popular SSDs (Solid State Drives) offer relatively lower storage compared to HDDs (Hard Disk Drives), for the same price. This makes it all the more important to understand the various methods you could clear your PC disk space. But, it’s not just SSDs. Even if your PC has an HDD, you are required to make space for efficient system functioning.
There are a bunch of ways you can clear disk space on your Windows 11 PC. In some methods, you will have to manually delete unwanted files. But, there is also Storage Sense which, once set, will automatically remove files that are not required anymore. In the following sections, we will walk you through the various methods to clear disk space.
Types of Files You Might Come Across When Clearing Disk Space
Before we head to the list of methods, understanding the different file types that you may encounter while clearing disk space is imperative. Once you understand the different types, you will be able to filter the useful from the removable or clearable files. If you don’t find any of the listed files, then they most likely don’t exist.
Note: The ones listed below are the important and prominent categories. You may come across other files types as well. In that case, research them and use your best judgment.
- Windows Update Cleanup: These are the files pertaining to the previous Windows updates. These are stored on the system in case you want to revert to the previous version. If the current version works just fine, you can go ahead and delete these files.
- Windows Upgrade Log Files: These log files are created when you upgrade Windows. They are used to identify and troubleshoot issues during servicing or installation. Again, if the current Windows version works fine, there’s no harm in deleting these files.
- Windows ESD Installation Files: These files are used to reset Windows. They may take up a lot of storage space, but it’s recommended to not delete these files. In their absence, you will need an installation media to reset Windows.
- Temporary Files: These are the files created by apps while executing a task. The apps themselves generally clear these files. However, if the apps don’t clear them up automatically, you can manually delete them.
- Temporary Internet Files: These are the cache files for the websites you visit on Edge. These files help the browser load websites faster the next time you visit them. You can delete these files, but the browser will create them all over again on subsequent visits. Also, deleting these files will affect your browsing speed.
- Thumbnails: These files help Windows to quickly load thumbnails for the various pictures, videos, and documents stored on your computer. It’s safe to delete these files since Windows will automatically create new ones when needed.
- Microsoft Defender Antivirus: These are non-critical files used by Microsoft Defender. You can delete these files since it wouldn’t affect the functioning of Microsoft Defender in any way.
- Device Driver Packages: These are copies of previously installed drivers on your system. Deleting them wouldn’t affect the currently installed drivers. If the current drivers work fine, deleting these files is completely safe.
With a basic understanding of the different file types, you are now more than capable of identifying unwanted ones and removing them.
1. Run the Disk Cleanup App
The Disk Cleanup is a built-in utility in Windows which effectively clears disk space by removing temporary files and cache, amongst other unwanted files types. It offers a fairly simple interface along with the option to clear system files, which take up a major chunk of unwanted files on the system.
To run the Disk Cleanup, press WINDOWS + S to launch the ‘Search’ menu, enter ‘Disk Cleanup’ in the text field at the top, and click on the relevant search result to launch the app.
You have to first select the drive that you intend to clean from the drop-down menu. After choosing a drive, click on ‘OK’ to proceed.
Disk Cleanup will now run a scan to ascertain the number of cleanable/removable files. It will then list them under the ‘Files to delete’ section. Tick the checkboxes for the ones that you want to delete and click on ‘OK’ to proceed.
Note: Disk Cleanup also displays the total space you can clear by removing all the listed files listed, at the top. The resulting increase in disk space after removing select files is visible next to ‘Total amount of disk space you gain’.
Finally, click on ‘Delete Files’ in the confirmation box that appears.
To clean the system files, click on ‘Clean up system files’ after choosing a drive beforehand.
Next, select the drive to scan for system files that can be deleted.
Disk Cleanup will now run a scan to identify the files that can be deleted. Once the scan is complete, tick the checkbox for the files that you want to delete and click on ‘OK’ at the bottom.
Click on ‘Delete Files’ in the confirmation box that appears.
This way, you will be able to clear up a lot of Disk Space. However, don’t go around deleting all the files listed here, rather, keep the ones that you might need in the future.
2. Delete Temporary Files
Every app creates certain files while executing tasks. Once the app’s task is complete, it is ideal to remove/delete these files. But, many times, these files remain on the system long after the task’s execution – and as a result, they eat up storage. There are two ways you can delete these files – through the File Explorer and Command Prompt.
Delete Temporary Files Using File Explorer
To delete temporary files, press WINDOWS + R to launch the ‘Run’ command. Enter ‘%temp%’ in the Run text field. Click on ‘OK’ at the bottom or hit ENTER to launch the folder containing temporary files.
Next, press CTRL + A to select all files, and then click on the ‘Delete’ icon in the Command Bar to delete the files.
You might need to provide administrator access to delete certain files and folders, click on ‘Continue’ to proceed.
Note: Files in use by a program(s) that’s currently running may not be deletable. In this case, delete those files after closing the respective program(s).
Delete Temporary Files Using Command Prompt
To delete temporary files, press WINDOWS + S to launch the ‘Search’ menu. Enter ‘Windows Terminal’ in the text field at the top. Right-click on the relevant search result and select ‘Run as administrator’ from the context menu. Click ‘Yes’ on the UAC (User Account Control) prompt that appears.
If you haven’t changed the default profile to Command Prompt in Terminal, the Windows PowerShell tab will open by default. Click on the downward-facing arrow at the top and select ‘Command Prompt’ from the list of options. Alternatively, you can press CTRL + SHIFT + 2 to directly launch the Command Prompt tab in Terminal after launching it.
Next, type, or copy and paste the following command. Press ENTER to delete the temporary files.
del /q/f/s %TEMP%\*
Note: The command will only delete the files that do not require administrator permission.
After deleting temporary files, you will have cleared a lot of storage space.
3. Remove Unwanted Apps
Too many installed apps also take up too much storage on your PC. You can clear up disk space by removing inessential applications.
To remove apps from your PC, press WINDOWS + R to launch the ‘Run’ command. Type ‘appwiz.cpl’ in the Run text field. Click on ‘OK’ at the bottom or press ENTER to launch the ‘Programs & Features’ window.
You will now find the list of all installed apps here. Select the one you want to remove, and click on ‘Uninstall’ at the top. Choose the appropriate response in case a confirmation box pops up.
You can similarly uninstall other unwanted apps on the system to clear more disk space on your Windows 11 PC.
4. Empty the Recycle Bin
Before deleted files are completely out of the system, they stay for a while in the recycle bin. When this happens, files in the recycle bin continue consuming the available storage, and you will have to manually remove them. Also, you can change the Recycle Bin properties to not move deleted files to the Bin – thus removing them from the system right away.
To empty the Recycle Bin, navigate to the Desktop. Right-click on the ‘Recycle Bin’ icon and select the ‘Empty Recycle Bin’ option from the context menu.
Next, click on ‘Yes’ in the warning box that appears to confirm the deletion.
To configure Recycle Bin properties to not store deleted files – Right-click the ‘Recycle Bin’ icon and select ‘Properties’ from the context menu. Alternatively, you can select the Recycle Bin icon and press ALT + ENTER to launch its properties.
Next, select the ‘Don’t move files to the Recycle Bin. Remove files immediately when deleted.’ option. Click on ‘OK’ at the bottom to save the changes.
5. Clear the Browser Cache
When you access a website, the browser stores certain information such as fonts, images, and codes to launch the website quicker on following visits. These files are the ‘Browser Cache’, and it is generally inadvisable to clear them. But, if you are running out of storage space or are facing problems while accessing a particular website, you may go ahead with clearing the browser cache.
Apart from creating more storage space, clearing the browser cache is an effective troubleshooting technique that could fix a lot of browser errors. We will walk you through the steps to clear the cache for three of the most popular browsers – Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Mozilla Firefox.
Clear Cache for Google Chrome
To clear the browser cache, click on the ellipsis icon to the top right end of the browser, and hover the cursor over ‘History’ in the flyout menu.
Next, select ‘History’ from the list of options that appear in the secondary context menu. Alternatively, you can press CTRL + H to directly launch the browser history in a new tab.
In the browser history, select ‘Clear browsing data’ on the left.
Next, set the ‘Time range’ to ‘All time’ from the drop-down menu. Select the checkbox for ‘Cached images and files’. Then, click the Clear data’ button at the bottom. Choose the appropriate response in case a confirmation box appears.
Clear Cache for Microsoft Edge
The steps to clear the browser cache for Chrome and Edge are similar. Here’s how you can clear the cache for Microsoft Edge.
To clear the browser cache, press CTRL + H, click on the ellipsis in the flyout menu that appears and select ‘Clear browsing data’ from the list of options that appear.
Next, set the ‘Time range’ to ‘All time’ from the dropdown menu. Select the ‘Cached image and files’ option and click on ‘Clear now’ at the bottom. Choose the appropriate response in case a confirmation box pops up.
Clear Cache for Mozilla Firefox
To clear cache, click on the hamburger icon on the top-right corner of the browser, and select ‘History’ from the flyout menu.
Next, select ‘Clear recent history’ from the list of options that appear.
In the box that appears, select ‘Everything’ from the ‘Time range to clear’ dropdown menu. Tick the checkbox for ‘Cache’ and click on ‘OK’ at the bottom. Choose the appropriate response in case a confirmation box appears.
You will clear some disk space after deleting the browser cache.
6. Delete Unwanted Files in the Downloads Folder
No matter how organized your PC is, the ‘Downloads’ folder will most likely be a mess. We have too many installers, documents, pictures, and a massive list of etceteras in the ‘Downloads’ folder – most of which are redundant. Try and recall the last time you accessed or used these files. If it is further away from memory’s reach, it’s recommended to sweep through the folder, identify the unwanted files, and delete them.
To delete the unwanted files in the Downloads folder, press WINDOWS + E to launch the File Explorer. Then, select the ‘Downloads’ folder.
In the Downloads folder, select the files you want to remove or select them all – as the case may be. Then, click on the ‘Delete’ icon in the Command Bar or press the DEL key. Choose the appropriate response in case a confirmation box pops up.
After deleting the files in the Downloads folder, you will be able to clear a lot of storage space.
7. Use Storage Sense
Storage Sense is a feature on Windows that deletes temporary and unwanted files on your system. The best part? You can use it to manually clear the disk space or set it to automatically remove unwanted or temporary files.
To clear disk space with storage sense, right-click on the ‘Start’ icon in the Taskbar or press WINDOWS + X to launch the Quick Access menu. Then, select ‘Settings’ from the list of options. Alternatively, you can press WINDOWS + I to launch the ‘Settings’ app.
In the ‘System’ tab of Settings, select ‘Storage’ on the right.
Next, click on ‘Storage Sense’.
Now, turn ‘ON’ the toggle under ‘Automatic User content cleanup’ to enable ‘Storage Sense’. You can also configure the cleanup schedule and settings by choosing the desired option from the three dropdown menus under ‘Configure cleanup schedules’.
You have now successfully set up ‘Storage Sense’. The feature will henceforth automatically remove unwanted files and clear the disk space.
Also, if there’s an imminent dearth of storage, you can run the Storage Sense right away and delete temporary files. To do this, scroll to the bottom, and select ‘Run Storage Sense now’. The clearing will take a few moments. Once Storage Sense is done removing the files, you will be notified of the total space cleared.
These are the most efficient ways to clear disk space on Windows 11. However, these aren’t the only methods. You can generate other ways as per your requirements – say for deleting large files and folders that you don’t need anymore. The methods listed here are general, and you can devise specific ways to tackle the shortage of storage space on your system.