Gigabytes are cheaper than ever but they can also be the sort of thing where the more you have, the more you tend to consume, and it doesn’t take long for the terabytes to fly by if you spend a lot of time on your computer. Those of you running Windows on a compact SSD probably know what a chore it can be to maintain enough space on your drive between mobile backups, Windows Updates, PC games, media files, and so on.

For this little guide we took it to an extreme by trying to free up space on an old 80GB Intel X25-M G2 solid state drive. Although SSDs have improved by leaps and bounds over the nine years since this Intel drive was released, the device still has plenty of life left according to SSDlife Free and Intel’s SSD Toolbox utility.

Spending a mere $56 for a 250GB Samsung 860 Evo drive that is 200% faster than this old drive will eventually be a wise investment, but to be honest apart from frequently running out of storage, we haven’t had a reason to upgrade the drive, nor have we installed a new copy of Windows in more than five years. If you’re wanting to clean up your drive, this guide will serve you regardless of your current storage solution.

Scan for files with Disk Cleanup, and third party tools

Junk file cleaners make it easy to perform a system-wide file cleanup and may be useful for freeing up storage on low capacity SSDs where a few extra gigs can make or break the performance of your operating system. If you’ve never used a junk file remover before, you might be surprised by how much space can be reclaimed with even Windows’ own built-in Disk Cleaner:

  • Search the Start Menu for Disk Cleanup
  • Open Disk Cleanup and select your main system drive
  • The tool will scan your drive for unnecessary files and old cached data
  • Clicking “Clean up system files” near the bottom of the window will run a second scan

The result of the scan will display different types of data, from Recycle Bin files to temporary internet cache. If you clicked Clean up system files, “Temporary Windows installation files” among other Windows files will be listed, which could easily be consuming several gigabytes to as much as 25GB or more.

Disk Cleaner can also be launched with advanced options such as the ability to delete files that would be used to reset your operating system (the Windows ESD files) by copying or entering this line into a Command Prompt: cleanmgr /sageset:50

Manually search for files you no longer need

Deleting duplicate files from your system could recover many gigs of space if only a few large files are found. Unfortunately, without PowerShell scripts or searching for the files via File Explorer, Windows doesn’t make it easy to find duplicate files. We recently tested third-party software dedicated to deleting duplicate data and found CloneSpy to have the best combination of providing just enough features with a clutter-free interface.

You may also want to download a disk space analyzer such as SpaceSniffer, which will scan your drive(s) and display all of the files in an interface that makes it easy to see what’s occupying the most storage.

Download: SpaceSniffer | Xinorbis | WinDirStat | SequoiaView | TreeSize Free

The Windows User AppData folder (C:\Users\username\AppData\) is a good starting point for finding large amounts of application files for browsers, messengers, game clients and more, including a temp folder that contained 606MB of data on our system.

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