There will come a time during the life of your PC that you will run out of space — no matter how large the hard drive is. Old files can easily clutter the most spacious hard drive, and you’ll need to clear them out to make room for new stuff. This will not only increase storage space but also improve the performance of your PC.
While the idea of finding and purging old files on your computer may immediately cause you to stress, it shouldn’t. The process to reclaim a few gigabytes worth of space is pretty simple these days, and it doesn’t take a ton of time to do — especially if you’re using Windows 10.
Related: 5 pro Windows 10 tips you need to know
One of the many upsides to using Windows 10 is that it comes with built-in tools to help you easily purge old files that are cluttering up your machine and causing issues with updates, installs, or performance. Let’s take a look at what the Windows Settings’ Storage menu can help with and how to use it to clear out the mess from your PC.
How to check the current space on your PC
One of the most obvious signs that your computer is running out of space is a lag in performance. If files or programs are taking a long time to load, or if new installs and updates are having issues downloading, you may be pushing up against the limits of the storage in your computer hard drive.
You can easily find out the amount of space you currently have on your PC to confirm that clutter — and not something more malicious — is to blame for performance issues on your PC or Windows-based laptop.
To check the current space on your PC:
- On the bottom left of your screen, click the Windows Start button followed by Settings.
- Click on System and then Storage.
- A bar will appear showing the space being used on the primary hard drive and a specific breakdown below.
Once you’ve confirmed that you’re having storage issues, you’ll want to use some of the tools Windows 10 has built in to clear it out. Doing so will help speed up your computer and perhaps even give you space to load that massive computer game or program you’ve been eying. You’ll want to use the Windows 10 storage settings to do this.
Related: 6 free sites that will help check if your hard drive is failing
How to use the Windows 10 Storage settings
When you start the process of clearing out the clutter, you’ll likely find that apps in your PC are taking up quite a bit of storage. It can be hard to tell just by eyeballing it what the main offenders are, though — some games or apps that you’ve downloaded in the past may be taking up more storage than you assumed, so you’ll need to dig through the info found in the Windows Storage settings to figure out where to start.
Once you’ve figured out what the main space hogs are, you can clear them out quickly and easily using the Windows Storage settings.
To clear unused or unwanted apps out of your PC:
- Open the Windows 10 Settings menu and then toggle to Settings > System > Storage.
- While in Storage, you’ll see a menu in the middle of your screen along with information about your local disks or hard disk. The menu will give you an explanation as to how the storage in your computer is divided among the different categories. Each category tells you how much of your PC’s storage is tied up with apps, videos, and so on.
- You will also see the options in Settings that allow you to Uninstall unused or undesired apps & features and Remove unused cloud-backed content, among other things. These are what you’ll use to help clear out the clutter later in the process.
- Click the Apps menu, which will open a page with information about the apps stored on your PC.
- In the Apps menu, you’ll reorganize the list by file size to get a list of the apps that are taking up the most space on your PC.
- Once you’ve decided on the apps that need to go, you’ll click the app and select Uninstall to get rid of it. Note: you’ll need to make sure that the app is something you can remove before completing this process because Windows native apps that come standard on your PC won’t be removable.
The temporary files stored on your PC are another source of unwanted space-wasters, so you’ll want to target those files next. These files include unwanted temporary internet files and other junk.
To remove temporary files from your PC:
- Open the Windows 10 Settings menu and then toggle to Settings > System > Storage.
- Click the Temporary files menu, which will pull up a list of files that Windows has deemed unnecessary.
- Click the Remove files button to send them to the Recycle bin.
- Empty the Recycle bin to remove them permanently from your PC.
Next, target the OneDrive subheading in the Settings menu. Be aware, though, that this contains backups from the OneDrive cloud storage service for things like documents, photos, or your desktop folder. Windows automatically keeps a copy of your files on OneDrive if you have space, so it just preserves the bookmark for the file and keeps a copy in the cloud.
While these files are accessible by simply clicking them in File Explorer, you’ll have to actually download them from OneDrive to remove them. This may make sense if you’re in desperate need of space, but it could end up being too much hassle for people who have slow internet connections given the extra step.
To remove the unwanted files from OneDrive:
- You’ll want to do pretty much the same thing for the OneDrive subheadings folder as you did with the Temporary files.
- Open the OneDrive subheadings menu and download the files you want to remove.
- Click Remove files.
- Send them to the Recycle bin, and then clear out the bin to remove them from your PC.
You can clean out the rest of the Storage categories that are left in the Windows Storage settings menu, but you may want to skip this one altogether. This subsection includes folders for Desktop and Videos, which is probably not the content you want to purge.
You can dig through these categories if you want to, but it’s likely that you’ll find most of these files are worth keeping — including the ones in the Show more categories section, which holds the Documents and Music folders that are home to files you presumably want or need.
If you want to take a look, you’ll access these categories the same way you would access any of the other categories above: Open the Windows 10 Settings menu and then toggle to Settings > System > Storage. Open the individual folders and dig through them to see if you can purge anything in them.
What you purge here is, again, your choice — these folders contain the files you regularly use, so be careful what you remove.
Storage Sense is a feature offered by Windows to automatically free up space in your PC by purging files you don’t need — things like temporary files or the stuff you’ve tossed in the Recycle bin. You can opt to have Storage Sense remove temporary and other junk files when you’re running low on space, or you can set certain intervals for the purge to happen.
You’ll have to turn on Storage Sense to use it, though.
To delete temporary files with Storage Sense:
- Open the Start menu and click Settings > System > Storage.
- Select Temporary files in the storage breakdown menu. If you don’t see Temporary files listed, select Show more categories and then select Temporary files under that subheading.
- Windows will then start the process to determine what files and apps are taking up the most space on your PC. This can take a few minutes, so don’t panic if there’s a lag between the time you open it and the time the files appear on the menu.
- Each item that appears on the list will include a description. Select the items you want to delete, and then select Remove files.
To turn on the automatic feature for Storage Sense:
- Open Settings. Click on System > Storage.
- Turn on the Storage sense toggle switch.
- Click the Change how we free up space link.
- Under Temporary Files, select the options you want to set for Storage Sense, which includes:
- Delete temporary files that my apps aren’t using.
- Delete files that have been in the recycle bin for over 30 days.
- Delete files in the Downloads folder that haven’t changed in 30 days.
Another option for clearing out the clutter from your PC is Disk Cleanup, which is a built-in disk cleanup utility that opens up space by clearing out temporary internet files, system error memory dump files, or old Windows installation files that weren’t purged at some other point.
The Windows upgrade program will save previous Windows installation files in the Windows.old folder, which can clutter up your computer over time.
To use Disk Cleanup to clear out space:
- Open the Start menu under Windows Administrative Tools > Disk Cleanup. Alternatively, you can just search for it on your PC or ask Cortana.
- This will pull up a list of items and files that can be deleted. If you’re not sure what files are contained in the items listed and want to be sure you aren’t deleting something important, you can click the View Files button to take a look before you delete.
- In the Disk Cleanup dialog box, on the Disk Cleanup tab, select the boxes for the file types that you want to delete, and then select OK.
- If you want to delete system files, click Clean up system files.
To remove old data from Windows installations:
- Select the Previous Windows installation(s) box.
- A message will appear with the option to select Delete files. Check that box.
- Go back to Computer in File Explorer, select the drive you cleaned up, and then select Refresh.
Third-party tool option
If you’d rather use a third-party tool to clear out the clutter from your PC, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. As you’re likely aware, though, not all of these options are created equal, so you’ll want to choose a reputable tool that won’t make your storage issues worse.
If you’re looking for a tool that can handle the job, we recommend CCleaner, a software program that allows you to clean, speed up, and free up space on your computer to keep it running at optimum performance levels.
CCleaner securely erases files, tracking cookies, browser history, passwords, and sensitive files, and it’s super easy to install. This program also lets you schedule cleaning automatically, which will free up disk space and speed up your computer without you having to do anything during the process.
CCleaner has been downloaded nearly 2.5 billion times, so it’s not only a handy tool to add to your arsenal but also one of the most popular pieces of software worldwide. Tap or click here for more details on CCleaner.
And, as a bonus, you can download a free version of the software to check it out if you’re using it for your home computer. If you like it, you can upgrade to the pro version quickly and easily, and it won’t break the bank.