How to Reclaim Missing Storage Space on Windows
Storage space on your system’s hard drive doesn’t vanish all of a sudden. However, if you notice Windows Explorer incorrectly reporting free space available on your disk, it can happen for many reasons.
So, let’s see why Windows reports incorrect hard disk free space and what you can do to reclaim the missing space.
What Causes the Windows to Report Incorrect Storage Space?
There is no straightforward answer to this question because the causes of this problem are numerous. You may have hidden files or a work project file taking over 100s of GB of space.
In other instances, Windows too can take a large amount of space to store older Windows update backups as well as system restore points. Your system’s recycle bin collects tons of trash files and can take up plenty of space if not cleaned frequently.
1. Use WinDir Stat to View What’s Taking All the Space on Your Hard Drive
Instead of making a wild guess, you can better understand your system’s storage space occupancy using a disk usage analyzer.
WinDir Stat is a free disk space analyzing utility for Windows. It shows disk usage stats sorted by file/subtree size. You can expand the partitions to view space taken by the folders and sub-folders, making it easy to get an idea of what is taking space in your computer.
In the right pane, you can view files occupying most space by their data type. Click on the data type to highlight it in the color-coded chart. Next, click the highlighted colored box to locate the files.
It also features a Clean Up option. You can use it to clean up unwanted files from any folder. For optimal results, in WinDir Stat, locate and select the folder taking up a large amount of space. Then, click on Clean Up and select Explore Here. Now you can manually choose and delete large unnecessary files.
Download: WinDir Stat (Free)
2. Check the Distribution of Disk Space Using Folder Size
If you find WinDir Stat intimidating, Folder Size is an excellent alternative. It is a free Windows utility to analyze your hard drive space usage and shows the file and folder size to identify the folder filling up your storage drive.
Once installed, run Folder Size as administrator. Then, select the drive to scan. After the scan, it will list all the folders and files in the drive sorted by size. From here, you can explore and clean up the folders to free up some space.
Download: Folder Size (Free)
3. Manage Your Restore Points
When enabled, your Windows system automatically creates new restore points when it detects a major change to your system. However, if you haven’t configured the disk space usage for restore points, you are likely to have multiple restore points taking tons of space.
This is one of the common contributing factors to diminishing space on your hard drive. Fortunately, you can not only delete the older restore points but also configure how much space Windows can use to store these backups.
When Windows reaches the allocated quota, it will delete the older restore points to make space for the new ones.
To configure disk usage space for System Protection in Windows:
- Press Win + R to open Run.
- Type sysdm.cpl and click OK to open System Properties.
- Next, open the System Protection tab.
- Under Protection Settings, click on Configure.
- Make sure the Turn on system protection option is selected.
- Next, under the Disk Space Usage section, drag the slider to set the maximum disk space used for storing restore points. You can set it to about 10% of your primary drive capacity or more if you have a larger drive.
- To free up some space, you can delete the existing restore points. So, click the Delete button to remove all restore points for the selected drive.
- Once done, click Apply and OK to save the changes.
Next, open File Explorer to see how much storage space you have reclaimed with deleted restore points.
Restore points come in handy to recover your system in the event of a failure. Since you have deleted all your restore points, we recommend creating a new restore point immediately.
4. Fix Disk Volume Errors With System Maintenance Troubleshooter
Windows automatically schedules a maintenance activity known as System Maintenance on your computer. It can fix broken shortcuts and release space occupied by troubleshooting history data and disk volume errors.
If System Maintenance is not working, you can use the troubleshooter to check issues with System Maintenance. While Windows automatically runs this troubleshooter periodically, you can also run it manually from the Control Panel.
To run System Maintenance troubleshooter:
- Press Win + R to open Run.
- Type control and click OK to open the Control Panel.
- In Control Panel, search for troubleshooter and click on Troubleshooting from the search result.
- Next, click on System and Security.
- Click on System Maintenance to launch the troubleshooter.
- Click Next.
- The troubleshooter will start detecting the issue and recommend fixes if available. Apply any fixes and close the Control Panel. Restart your PC and check for any improvements.
5. Update Your Windows Version
If you are experiencing the issue in the older version of Windows 10 and 11, check and install the latest available system updates. Windows updates often bring performance improvements and bug fixes.
To check for Windows updates:
- Press Win + I to open Settings.
- Open the Windows update tab.
- If no new updates are available, click on Check for Updates.
- Next, click on Download now to install the updates.
6. Clean Up Junk Files
Computers are notorious for building up junk files sourced from system operations, apps, user content, and more. Windows 10 and 11 feature a clean-up tool that periodically checks and cleans up junk files, including temporary files, files in your Downloads folder, and recycle bin.
However, if you haven’t configured clean-up schedules, here’s how to remove junk files from your Windows PC. This involves configuring Storage Sense and cleaning up junk files from different places.
Reclaiming Missing Storage Space on Windows
The curious case of Windows reporting wrong disk space often leads you to a hidden file taking up a large chunk of space on your hard drive. You can use a third-party disk analyzer to find what’s taking up all the space on your system and perform a clean-up.
That said, periodic clean-ups can help you keep a tab on your storage space usage and yield performance improvements as well.