How to See What is Taking Up Space on Your Hard Drive on Windows 10

Windows 10 logo on a laptop screen

How to See What is Taking Up Space on Your Hard Drive on Windows 10

Is your Windows 10 computer running low on space? If it is, you may be struggling to install updates and software, and your system may be slowing down. Whenever your PC’s performance takes a turn for the worse, it’s always best to see how much disk space you have available and what is taking up space on your hard drive. 

If you’re not sure how to see the files and apps that are filling your local disk, there are several ways in which you can look. It’s even possible to be extra thorough and reveal the hidden files that may be clogging up your hard disk drive.

In this article, we share how Windows 10 users can see what is taking up space on their hard disk drive, along with some quick and easy fixes for freeing up space so your computer runs smoothly. Let’s get started!

What’s Taking Up Space on Your Windows 10 Hard Drive? 

Windows 10 makes it easy to view and manage your hard drive storage usage. This means you can always keep track of your apps and files and see which offending programs are taking up space and slowing your computer down.

Follow these simple steps to see which files take up the most space on your device.

Step 1: Open Settings on Windows 10.

You can get information on the storage status of your Windows computer or laptop via your computer’s Settings. You can find the Settings window by pressing the Windows key and searching for Settings in the Windows Start menu. Click on Open to view.

free hard disk windows 10
Open Settings.

Step 2: In the Settings window, click on System.

System should be a prominent option among the settings in the Settings window. If you cannot see it, use the search box to search for it.

The System window is a hub for all the basic information about your computer, including the Windows edition, processor, and, of course, storage. 

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Click on System.

Step 3: In the System window, click on Storage.

In Windows 10, the Storage settings screen is where you’ll find all the information about your hard disk drive and the files on it.

In the menu on the left-hand side of the System window, click on the Storage tab to see what is happening in your main hard drive.

free hard disk windows 10
Select Storage.

Step 4: Review your local disk, “(C:),” to see what is taking up space on your hard drive.

In the Storage window, your local disk storage will be prominently displayed. This section, identified by C:, shows you the total capacity of your hard drive in gigabytes, how much of your hard disk drive capacity is currently being used, and how much free space you have available. 

Storage usage for the main type is broken down into four different file types: 

  • Apps & features
  • Temporary files
  • Documents 
  • Other

It displays the amount of disk space each file type takes up in gigabytes. You can also click on each file type to see the files that are taking up the most space. The individual apps, programs, documents, and media are listed and searchable. Next to each individual file is its size and the date it was installed. You can also click on these files to immediately remove them. 

free hard disk windows 10
Review what is taking up your hard drive by looking at the blue bars.

Step 5: To view other file types that are taking up space, click Show More Categories.

Clicking on Show more categories opens a drop-down of additional storage categories, including: 

  • Pictures 
  • Email 
  • Video
  • Music 
  • Other people/users
free hard disk windows 10
Click on Show more categories to see the full breakdown.

Step 6: Under More Storage Settings, click View Storage Usage on Other Drives.

This shows you the storage usage on other hard drives associated with your computer. If you only have one hard drive, there will be no additional information.

If you have multiple hard drives, a breakdown of storage will be available for each associated hard drive, like your local drive.

Do You Have Hidden Files Eating Up Your Disk Space? 

Your computer may also have hidden files that are taking up valuable disk space and slowing your system down. The key is in the name — “hidden” files have the hidden attribute switch on, meaning that they go incognito in your system. You won’t be able to see these files by checking your local disk or browsing folders.

Windows 10 does support hidden files but, unfortunately, malware, spyware, or other unwanted downloads can self-install hidden files that are running in the background. To be absolutely sure you know what is on your hard drives, you can use the methods below to expose them for review.

Show Hidden Files Using the Attribute Command

With the attribute command, you can literally “command” the hidden files in your system to show themselves. In Windows, this command enables you to change the file attributes of any file or folder.

You can run this command from the Command Prompt that is available in Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista and XP.

Below are the steps to show your hidden files.

Step 1. Press the Windows key + “X” to open the Administrator’s menu.

This is a useful menu that covers a range of administrative functions including the Command Prompt. You can bring up the menu by simply pressing the Windows key and “X” together

free hard disk windows 10
Open the Administrator’s menu.

Step 2: In the menu that appears, click on Windows Powershell (Admin) to open it as an administrator. 

Depending on the manufacturer of your computer, your menu may call this option Command Prompt (Admin). This opens the Command Prompt Window

free hard disk windows 10
Click on Windows PowerShell (Admin).

Step 3: In the Command Prompt window, type in the attribute command for hidden files.

You’ll need to use the attribute command to check the drive for hidden files. By using this command, you are clearing the hidden file attribute (-h) from all files that are on your hard drive, (C:). 

Type in the Command Prompt window attrib -h -r -s /s /d G:\*.* and press Enter. Please note that this may not work on every Windows 10 computer. 

free hard disk windows 10
Type in the attribute command for hidden files.

Use File Explorer to View Hidden Files 

Use File Explorer in Windows 10 to reveal any hidden files that are taking up disk space.

Microsoft recommends the following steps below.

Step 1: Press the Windows key and search for File Explorer.

Open File Explore to manage your file settings. 

free hard disk windows 10
Open File Explorer.

Step 2: In File Explorer, change the folder and search options.

You can change the folder and search options by selecting View in the taskbar, clicking Options, then clicking Change folder and search options.

free hard disk windows 10
Select View, then Options, then click on Change folder and search options.

Step 3: Show your hidden files.

Within the Change folder and search options, select View. Within this tab, navigate to Advanced settings.

You should then see the option, Show hidden files, folders, and drives. Select this option and click OK to make the files visible.

free hard disk windows 10
Click on Show hidden files, folders and drives.

Top Tips for Freeing Up Disk Space in Windows 10

Now that you can see what is taking up space on your hard disk drive, you can manage your local disk and free up space so that your computer performs better.

Here are 4 easy, actionable things you can do to solve low disk space:

1. Switch on Storage Sense.

If you aren’t proactive about file management, Storage Sense is one of the best things you can do for your computer.

It is a setting that partners with your OneDrive account to automatically move files you aren’t using regularly to your OneDrive Cloud storage. The files remain visible in the locations you expect on your PC but are retrieved from OneDrive, leaving you with more space on your hard drive. 

You’ll find the Storage Sense setting above your local disk information in the Storage window mentioned above.

2. Empty Your Temp Folder.

Your disk can become cluttered with many temporary files that don’t need to remain on your system.

The Temp folder is one of the first places you should look if you’re running low on disk space. Application (.appx) files are a common file type that clogs the temp folder.

3. Run a Reputable Antivirus Software.

A sudden loss of disk space may be because of malware or spyware that has corrupted system files. Act quickly if you suspect that a virus has infected your Windows 10 PC, run Malwarebytes or similar software to clean up your disk. 

4. Delete Files and Apps You Don’t Need

If you have files and apps that you simply aren’t using anymore, there’s no need to keep them on your hard drive. When you review your storage using the steps above, you can delete documents, pictures, and software that are no longer necessary. If you can’t bear to part with them, move them to external storage.

Final Thoughts

It’s really easy to let unnecessary files and folders build up on your hard drive and slow things down. Knowing how to check your hard drive ensures that you can check for files that need to be deleted to maintain maximum disk space.

If you have a OneDrive account, Storage Sense is one of the best ways to keep your disk space optimized at all times without the hassle of checking your files yourself. 

Check out the video below to for more information on how to see what is taking up space on your hard drive.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Disk Clean-up in Windows 10?

The Disk Clean-up utility (cleanmgr.exe) can be used to quickly free up space on your hard drive. It searches your hard drive to identify redundant files which it can then delete. It is a legacy tool in Widows 10. Disk Clean-up prioritizes temporary web files, set-up log files, and the contents of your recycle bin. 

What is defragmenting your hard drive?

Sometimes file data is broken into fragments to fit on your hard drive. Hard drive defragmentation (also called “defrag” or “fragging”) reorganizes your hard drive data so that all related data pieces are ordered contiguously. Doing this can speed up your computer and improve its performance. 

Why are files hidden on Windows 10?

Windows 10 supports hidden files, with some files and folders being automatically carrying the “hidden” attribute. This is because they are files that are integral to the operating system. You should not change or delete these files if you find them.

What is making my Windows 10 PC so slow?

Aside from running out of space on your hard drive, here are some other causes of a slow PC:

  • Not having enough Random Access Memory (RAM) for your system demands
  • Running a fragmented hard drive
  • Multiple programs running in the background
  • Windows updates have been missed
  • Old hard drive
  • Malware and viruses
  • High graphics processing demands (gaming / special effects)

What are my options for external storage?

You can use external storage to offload files and folders from your local disk to create space and improve its performance. Some of the best external storage options for a Windows PC are: 

  • Cloud storage: files and data stored securely on servers that are accessed via an internet connection
  • USB flash drive: detachable high-speed data storage that uses flash memory (data storage in electrical circuits rather than on a disk)
  • Optical media storage: You can use these drives to write and store data on CD-ROMs or DVDs, for compact physical storage
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