Ideally, your hard drive should be pretty empty. At TSS, we provide both on-site servers and the Google Drive service for students, interns, and employees to host their documents. Both TSS servers and Google Drive are constantly backed-up and are preferable to storing documents on your computer's hard drive. That being said, hard drives sometimes just have a way of filling up with files. If you're getting crammed for space on your computer's hard disk, there's a useful tool called Windows Directory Statistics (or WinDirStat) that can help show you what's taking up all of the space on your computer.

Getting a Picture of Your Hard Drive with WinDirStat

1. Launch the Start Menu and type 'WinDirStat'. When the application shows up in your search results, hit 'Enter'. We try to install WinDirStat on all new TSS PCs that we purchase, but occasionally some slip through the cracks. If you don't have WinDirStat installed and want to install it, you can contact IT for assistance.

2. When you launch WinDirStat, you'll be given a choice of whether you want to select 'All Local Drives' or 'Individual Drives'. You probably want to choose 'Individual Drives' and then select your C: drive. Then click 'OK'.

3.  WinDirStat will start taking an inventory of every file on your hard drive. Depending on the speed of your hard drive, the size of your hard drive and the number of files you have, this may take anywhere from 45 seconds to 20 minutes. While it's running, WinDirStat will show you a detailed view of its progress, with little Pac-Men indicating what folders WinDirStat is inventorying. 

4. Once WinDirStat is finished, you'll get a final report, which is divided into three parts (see below). The upper-left pane ranks the directories (folders) on your machine and shows how much space each folder is taking up. The upper-right pane lists the different types of files on your computer and shows which types are taking up the most space. The lower pane is a map of your hard drive.

Interpreting the WinDirStat Report

When looking at the jumble of blocks in the WinDirStat, remember that each block is a file on your hard drive. The color of the block tells you what kind of file it is; in my example above, the blue blocks that dominate my hard drive are Windows system files called DLLs. Each block's size is proportional to how much of your hard drive it's occupying. Big blocks are big files. Note that, by default, WinDirStat doesn't show empty space on your hard drive. You can toggle this on or off by pressing the F6 key, or by selecting Options and then choosing "Show Free Space". Free space will appear as a grey block. Turning 'show free space' on will give you a more realistic picture of your hard drive, but it may make the report harder to read, as you can see in the example below.

Hidden Free Space

Showing Free Space

You can navigate to a file by right clicking on it and the choosing 'Explorer Here' from the options. This will open up a new window showing this file's location on your hard drive.

Disclaimer and Warning

Don't delete something if you don't know what it is. It can be tempting to find the largest files in a WinDirStat report and start deleting left and right to free up disk space. You might see a giant file called 'pagefile.sys', for instance. In my example above, it's one of the two big pinkish-red blocks. This is an important system file that Windows uses to manage memory. If you delete it, you computer will run much more slowly and may even crash. Again, if you don't know what it is, don't delete it.

Also, if you have the Google Drive sync application installed, don't delete files that are inside your Google Drive. A better solution is to change the settings for the app (you can find instructions near the bottom of this tutorial) and sync fewer folders. Deleting files from your Drive folder may delete them for everyone, across the organization.

The bottom line: if you have any uncertainties about the consequences delete something from your computer, it doesn't hurt to check with IT first and make sure that there won't be any unintended consequences.