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Home / Tips and Tricks / How to get rid of old files and clean up your computer with Windows storage settings

How to get rid of old files and clean up your computer with Windows storage settings

Finding and deleting unwanted files on your computer is a job that everyone thinks will take hours, when in fact it only takes a minute or two. Just do not use Windows 10’s File Explorer! Windows Settings storage menu var Soon to eliminate the tube with digital file. It’s the DIY package for the more sophisticated WinDirStat tool (which we recommend if you want to dive deeper).

The need is only growing: laptops with 128 GB and 256 GB SSDs are still the norm, but photos and videos already have a lot of space. If you are a fan of restarts of classic games like Flight simulator, you need to know that they can take up to 1

50 GB of storage, just by theirs alone. This is how you take back some of that space.

Windows 10 File Explorer Mark Hachman / IDG

You can use Windows 10’s traditional File Explorer to find massive files you want to delete, but if you do, you’ll spend too much time on the task.

How to use Windows 10 storage settings

Go to the Windows 10 settings menu Settings> System> Storage. At the top you will see a switch to turn Storage Sense on and off. We will touch on that later.

Windows 10 storage settings Mark Hachman / IDG

This is the Windows 10 storage page in the Settings menu.

In the middle of the screen you will see your local hard drive (or disks) with an easy-to-read menu that explains how the storage space is divided on your computer. Notice how the subtitle points to the task: “Uninstall unused or unwanted apps and features”, “Delete unused cloud-protected content” and so on. Each category tells you how much of your computer’s storage is tied up with apps, videos, and so on.

Apps traditionally sweep most space on a computer. You might think that a “small” game that you downloaded actually takes up a few gigabytes that you want back. Click the Apps menu, which takes you to a page where Windows displays the apps stored on your PC. Rearrange the list by file size to see which apps use the most space, then click on the app and select Uninstall to get rid of it. Note that some original Windows apps, such as Photos, cannot be uninstalled.

Microsoft Windows 10 settings storage apps and features Mark Hachman / IDG

Apps usually consume gigabytes at a time, so look here for unwanted old apps that consume space. Filter by file size to facilitate the task.

“Temporary files” and “OneDrive subheadings” are usually the parent of unwanted files. click Temporary files subheading opens up a variety of files that even Windows finds unnecessary, from temporary Internet files to the Recycle Bin. click Delete files button at the top to clear everything.

Microsoft Windows 10 temporary internet files Mark Hachman / IDG

The “temporary files” section usually contains a number of files that can be safely deleted. There will be some who say that you should keep older Windows Update files if you need to roll back an incorrect update, but this is rare.

The OneDrive subheading is a bit more subjective. By default, Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage service backs up your documents, photos, and even your Desktop folder. But it holds a placeholder – a kind of bookmark on your local hard drive. Files that you have stored locally are maintained on your local hard drives, but a copy is also available on OneDrive (provided you have space). Windows is smart enough to know if such a copy exists, and can delete the local copy, preserve the bookmark, and keep the copy in the cloud. (Note: do not expect this option to simply copy the hard drive to the cloud. It will not! It will simply clean up local files that have been backed up previously, which will not be everything on your PC.)

Microsoft onedrive files local and cloud Mark Hachman / IDG

File Explorer displays files stored on your local hard drive (on your PC) with a green check mark next to them. OneDrive files stored only in the cloud has a cloud icon. What Windows can do is delete local files that are already backed up in the cloud, saving space.

A file backed up in OneDrive can be accessed by clicking on it in File Explorer, just like a local file. Before you can access it, however, it must be downloaded from OneDrive, which may be undesirable for users with slow or unreliable internet connections. You can certainly save space, but it may not be worth it.

Similarly, you may find that the remaining storage categories are not worth reviewing as part of your digital cleaning routine. The Desktop and Videos folders probably contain content you want to keep and even select Show more categories link at the bottom simply opens folders such as documents and music that you may want to leave intact.

How to use Storage Sense, your digital housekeeper

Remember how “Temporary Files” was such an ideal place to find files you could get rid of? Why not let Windows do it for you? This is the reasoning behind Storage Sense, the switch at the top of the Storage Settings page. Turn it on, and files are automatically deleted in the Recycle Bin after 30 days, eliminating other temporary files as well.

microsoft windows 10 storage Mark Hachman / IDG

However, do yourself a favor and open the Storage Sense configuration / options page, which has been adjusted since the feature started early in the Windows lifecycle. Our previous how to do Storage Sense is still in effect, but Windows has added controls to delete files in the Downloads folder. I never want it to happen, and you may not want it to happen either.

Note that Storage Sense is only triggered when you have little disk space. If you download a massive game like Flight simulator, it can run Windows up – there is too much empty space to run Storage Sense, but not enough to download the game. You can always go to the bottom of the Storage Sense configuration page and kick in Storage Sense manually.

WinDirStat: The Steam Player Tool

The only key limitation I have noticed when it comes to Windows’ own storage settings is that they have apertures when it comes to other app stores. For example, if you have downloaded some games via Steam, Windows will not recognize how much space they take up.

WinDirStat Brad Chacos / IDG

WinDirStat is powerful, but scary.

As my colleague Brad Chacos explains, WinDirStat solves this problem by offering a top view of your hard drive, with a graphical representation of the size and type of your files. Want to find out how much space is consumed by .MP4 video files? WinDirStat can tell. It presents this information to you in a File Explorer-like interface combined with a graphical user interface, so you may need to dig through and find all the hidden Steam games, for example, that have escaped your message.

The combination of Windows’ own storage settings and WinDirStat may not magically clear your hard drive, but they will help you make an informed decision about what to keep and what to remove. And if you still do not have enough storage space, you may want to refer to our compilation of best external hard drives to find more?

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