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Running low on hard disk space -- what can I do?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / September 30, 2016 4:38 PM PDT

I am a senior and disabled with very limited income. My problem is I have a very old laptop. With Windows updates I now have used 97.6 GB of 111GB. One more Windows update and I believe this computer will "crash"! I only use it to play games with fellow shut-ins and store photographs (do not want to lose those, so I back up on an external hard drive every month). As I no longer work I can delete resumes, etc., but it will not clear much space. I know this laptop is old (as am I), but I use every day to be able to connect with friends (Facebook, etc.). Any idea on how I can stop Windows upgrades? What or how to delete some things on this laptop as I have no idea what many of these things/programs are? I know I need a tech person, but with minimal income it is difficult. Still have to pay rent.

Any info would be appreciated. Have a good day!

--Submitted by Jo C

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Simple - download and use the free version of CCleaner
by jpullam / September 30, 2016 5:52 PM PDT

There is a free utility called CCleaner and it will remove a lot of crud that you don't need. You don't need to pay for the professional version and you don't need to run it more that once in a while. It will get rid of a lot of unnecessary stuff just using the default options.

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Run the Microsoft disk cleanup tool
by thomas_brewster / September 30, 2016 6:16 PM PDT
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Another good cleaner
by dnelsch / September 30, 2016 6:47 PM PDT

You heard it used in the news, and it really does clean out the unused garbage - a free program called BleachBit. It gives you the option which areas to clean, and if you select one that may be not in your best interest (passwords, free space cleaning, certain icons, etc) it will warn you. It is not unusual to clean out 1GB or more the first time it is run. Google it!

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Delete your temporary files
by anthonymaw / September 30, 2016 7:21 PM PDT

Often long used computers will accumulate enormous amounts of hidden useless temporary files over time.
Open a command prompt.
Type cd %temp%.
When you are sure you are in your temp folder (I.e. C:\Windows\temp) type in the command "rd . /s /q" to delete all the junk files.
If you are not sure ask a computer expert friend to do it for you

If you are running Windows 7 or Windows 10 you can run the Disk Cleanup Utility"

Otherwise another free cleanup program is called "CC Cleaner"

Good luck

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Disk Cleanup Utility, and ????
by ben_myers / October 7, 2016 8:20 PM PDT

When running Windows' own Disk Cleanup Utility, make sure you delete all the restore points, which can take up gigabytes of space. But do so only if the laptop is not showing signs of any problems like virus or malware infestations.

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Re: Delete your temporary files
by sohlman / October 8, 2016 4:13 PM PDT

I agree with using the " %temp% " for freeing up space on a hard drive. All you have to do is go to "This PC" that has all the hard drives shown and type into the command prompt %temp%. Once there, you can hold down the "Ctrl" key and hit the "A" on the keyboard (click on one file first). It will highlight all the items in that file and then you can delete all of them. Right click on you mouse (if you have a mouse I hope) and hit "delete" there. After that, all the flies will go to your "Recycle Bin" and you will have to delete the files again from there. Then you must run "defrag " on your computer. As someone mentioned it may take a long time for the defrag process. Make sure that your computer will not go to sleep or power down during defrag process

Also as someone mentioned pictures take up a lot of space on a hard drive. You should transfer them all off.

If you lived close to me (LA, CA) I would help you.

Good luck and hope all is well!

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I don't get updates from Windows anymore
by James Denison / September 30, 2016 7:43 PM PDT
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Linux Mint the better replacement for Windows
by kmashraf / October 1, 2016 6:16 PM PDT

I am a GNU/Linux desktop support service provider. In my experience of well over a decade of providing these services I have found Linux Mint the best replacement for those users of MS Windows who want a hassle free low brainer move to a desktop OS that offers a vastly more happy use experience. Best of all. It's free. Does most of what a Joe or Jane user of computers wants these days. Even better, runs on your existing hardware. No need to buy new hardware since you are moving to a current generation of operating system. The current long term support (LTS) version is Linux Mint 18 'Sara'. Just the day before yesterday (30 Sept. 2016) I updated a client's 5 year old laptop running Linux Mint 13 'Maya' to the latest. Best part of the update I retained all her stuff including her desktop as is. I just retained her /home (which contains all of the users stuff) directory as is. Took me less than half a day to update and bring the new installation right up to date. A similar job on MS Windows usually takes me minimum 2 full days. Which involves installing the base OS, drivers, updates and all applications required by the user. I recommend Linux Mint as your desktop OS replacement without reservation. The experience of a truly 'just works' OS and the icing on the cake it's absolutely free as in freedom and free beer.

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Perhaps SSD over Linux
by BGray210 / October 7, 2016 7:32 PM PDT

Whereas I agree Linux Mint is a great option and would definitely save some space, you have to keep in mind that she stated she is elderly and not tech-savvy. Linux, of any blend, is not the most user friendly of operating systems. She also stated that she doesn't want to lose her pictures and files, and in order to install a Linux distro, she would more than likely have to delete Windows just to make room for it, even for Puppy Linux.
I would suggest purchasing a Solid State Drive with a transfer kit. I know Samsung 850 Evo 500GB can be had around $150 U.S. these days and SanDisk is even cheaper for their 400+ (can't remember exact size). I mention Samsung because it has a great, and easy to use Migration Wizard but I don't believe they have a "kit" that includes a cable for SATA to USB as some SanDisk kits have. If she's worried about installing the drive herself she could always pop into a local high school or college and I'm sure a student or instructor would be more than happy to help her out.

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WIndows and Hardware Changes
by wippernm / October 8, 2016 3:49 PM PDT
In reply to: Perhaps SSD over Linux

I didn't see if you were talking about this as an external drive. If you just replace the drive with an SSD and then try to migrate Windows 10 back on the new drive, you will have a problems in some cases that Windows will considered this a new computer because of the hardware and require the purchase of a new copy or key of Windows 10.

I agree using SSDs when possible or in new builds. They are much better in the way that they store information. They don't run hot like the standard motor driven drives which also helps with heat buildup with your CPU and Memorty.

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Stay on topic!
by ben_myers / October 7, 2016 8:17 PM PDT

Not at all helpful for the person with the problem. Enough with Linux already!

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Spot on!
by Carsto / October 9, 2016 3:57 AM PDT
In reply to: Stay on topic!

Thank you Ben, Included here is Rick75230. 4Denise as well.

It is simply astonishing to see how people can carry on about their own techy knowledge.

Jo C please take note. Do not be confused by all of these high flying answers. Since you speak of fellow shut-ins, I assume you must be living in something like a resort for seniors. I am sure you will find someone there who can help you with the simple tasks. Since you can ask for help here, you can handle things on the Internet. Good!

Google Glary Utilities or go to and install it. I decided to use this after many experiments and tears with other pieces of software. Because of that, I still want to see what goes on in my PC. This program will lead you through everything.

I know this is a repeat of my other post, but I cannot express my horror at the infantile inanity of some posters here in decent, sane language.

Jo, you do not need a tech, just ask someone willing to help you with downloading and installing this program. Then be patient and teach yourself. Ask some of the staff, maybe they can help with friends or family who do know something more about computers.

Glary is free for home users. Do not be afraid that any of the tasks they provide to clean up your PC will damage it in any way. Special tasks which will help much is the disc and registry clean up and defragmentation programs. One good surprise I had was the shortcuts fixer. You will most likely find reams of useless shortcuts, something Windows just does. Clear them. Another is the duplicate files finder. Clear these too. Disc clean up is a good one too.

Do one task at a time, then use your PC again as normal and see what the result was. You will gain confidence as you go.

Now your photos. Download CDBurnerXP. This is as much a see and do program. It just works and does not run away from you. With this you can burn your photos onto discs and remove them from your PC's hard disc. Again be patient and teach yourself how this works. Sort those you do not view often into folders and burn them to disc. Give the folders names you remember naturally. Likewise organize the discs the way you remember things that you can find them easily.

Enjoy and be happy Jo!

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BIOS won't let certain versions of Linux
by wippernm / October 8, 2016 3:45 PM PDT

Recently, I read an article about new manufactures who are building in a block for other operating systems. With this, you will not be able to install a clean version of some Linux and even dual boot.

It did give some information that one of the Ubuntu versions would be allowed. They acted like it might even be included in one of the updates that they try to fix the mess they built. Now it will not be shown up front that it is there. So you will have to watch for information on the installer and see if you have enough room to run both systems.

I have not jumped into Linux yet. I know some of the versions require more knowledge than others and a certain amount of computer knowledge to keep running and installing drivers and such.

Good Luck.

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And so???
by ben_myers / October 7, 2016 8:23 PM PDT

And this helps the elderly lady who has the problem? How? Like she is capable of backing up all her important data and installing Linux? For Pete's sake, consider the real problem at hand, instead of touting the glories of Linux. I am one of the first to admit that Linux offers a lot of advantages, but it simply is not for everybody, even if it is just for you.

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DiskMax, WinDirStat, uninstall unused programs, and new SSD
by AwarenessForex / September 30, 2016 7:44 PM PDT

I'll assume you are using windows 7 (you didn't mention what version of Windows you are using).

1) [DiskMax] A safe, real way to free up a lot of space quickly is to run a system+ scan with DiskMax by Koshy John. It will automatically remove any bloat from windows updates and other installers as well as sweep up other unneeded files that Windows likes to keep around. Don't be surprised if you don't save at least 4GB or more of space on the first run.  Answer 'yes' to most of the questions.

2) [WinDirStat] Use this to scan your hard drive for all files. What is special about this program is that it will automatically sort all subfolders on the drive by largest to smallest file size contained within the folder.  With the exception of the 'C:\Windows' folder, you'll want to navigate to the larger folders and see if there are any videos, pictures, or other large files that you don't need anymore.  You are likely to save 2-20GBs here.

3) Uninstall old programs.  Go to 'Control Panel >> Program and Features >> Uninstall A program.'  Look through the list and uninstall any programs that you are really not using anymore or don't recognize.

4) Consider a new SSD drive.  If this is the case, you can actually make the SSD drive your primary drive and then the get a DVD SATA HDD tray and make your DVD drive into a 2nd HHD drive slot.

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Another vote for WinDirStat
by MightyDrakeC / October 1, 2016 3:09 AM PDT

Great tool for finding that forgotten folder with a bunch of bulky files in it. Or, a new folder where some program has been building up log files for many months.

Don't go deleting large files nor entire folders without understanding what's in them. If you're unsure, then find a techie friend to help you pick and choose.

Depending on how old your laptop is, (meaning, which interface it uses) you should be able to get a new, larger hard drive for very little money. A quick search on Amazon, I saw some 320 GB drives for under $35 and some 500 GB for under $40. Those sizes should last you quite a while. As someone else mentioned, you can clone your current hard drive onto the new one. There are free programs to do it, and a techie friend should be able to follow the instructions without much trouble.

Drake Christensen

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Pay attention!
by Rick75230 / October 8, 2016 2:01 PM PDT


1) Very old laptop
2) Very old user
3) Shut-in
4) Very limited income

Chances are a "shut-in" in her late 60's or 70's or 80's doesn't have a "techie friend" with the necessary hardware and skills.

The drives on Amazon are exactly that--drives. They don't come with cloning software and they don't come with the cables and adapters necessary to do cloning.

For old folks "limited income" often means "Do I pay for my medicine or do I buy food?" $40 for a drive plus shipping plus sales tax plus $15 for an adapter cable to do the cloning may sound like "nothing" to someone employed full time, but it's probably "way too expensive" for someone in her situation.

And then there still would be the problem of "Who do I know who can do this?"

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by wippernm / October 8, 2016 3:58 PM PDT
In reply to: Pay attention!

I taught myself my build skills from early days when there were no instructions and you bought and tried to build computers. I am now 65.

Over the years I have become fairly good with computers and building various levels of system. If she knows people at the home or assisted living unit, see if there is a school program with computers, the Boys Girls Club or even a scout's group that might be into computers.

The person might be able to get someone who would be willing to help. I often work on veteran and older people's computers. I often have people that upgrade to a better computer.

With older computers in these days, the used computers are not worth much at all. So sometimes I find people or even businesses that will donate computer parts. I will make sure that none of the old information is on the hard drive before I turn this over to someone else.

I then work to repair or in some cases just keep it working for emails and such. I often don't charge anything for my labor. If I have to purchase new hardware, I search for a lower price and pass it on at cost.

I would suggest that if you don't know of a group that might be doing this, it would be a nice thing to suggest to boy / girl scouts to take on. Even some youth Church groups might do this as a community outreach program.

This helps both generations.

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(NT) thank you
by TJay53 / October 30, 2016 3:18 PM PDT
In reply to: Pay attention!
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System Information?
by Hforman / September 30, 2016 8:12 PM PDT

It might help to know just how old this computer is. Is it running XP? Win 7? What type of hardware. I ask because the PC that I'm using has IDE drives.
You might be able to get an external drive and move a lot of stuff there. If you can avoid the latest and greatest, it might not be too expensive. You might even find one used (but working).
One thing to watch out for: my boss looked at the update folder on his Windows machine and decided that there was no reason to keep all of the old updates as they were already applied. After deleting, we could no longer apply updates at all because the files pertaining to pre-requisite patches were missing so new patches could not uninstall the old patches. I think you best bet is to get an external drive and move your stuff over there. Also, uninstall anything you no longer use, but be really careful dealing with patch folders.

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Delete OLDER update packages
by Rick75230 / October 8, 2016 2:12 PM PDT
In reply to: System Information?

On a number of systems I have manually deleted older updates packages and I've never had problems with continuing updates. I don't just delete everything--I'll usually leave about the last 6 month's worth. Not counting things like the Win 10 Anniversary Update (which is really equivalent to a Service Pack) I can't remember any case where "the last 6 month's updates" took up even just one gigabyte.

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As I Said
by Hforman / October 30, 2016 7:08 PM PDT

Sometimes, that works very well. However, the first time a new fix requires the old fix to be there so it can either uninstall it or the older fix has changed a fundamental table, that falls apart really quick. Perfect example; fixes for ,NET Framework. The size issue is the hidden Installer folders where they not only have to keep the update, but the modules the update replaces in case you want to uninstall (and, maybe later, reinstall) an update. Just because my boss wanted to do this, I would up having to go back to a service pack and then reinstall everything after that after I found after I found some more space to free up. Had these weird people who thought they could have the C: drive at 9 GB and put everything else on a D: drive not realizing that some software didn't use tags like %programfiles%. I've heard Win 10 is a bit different though.

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Laptop space issue
by SlamX / September 30, 2016 8:41 PM PDT

If you have a local community college or a university you may contact their computer program and see if there is a student interested in helping you. They probably would do it free.

The solution may be to upgrade your hard drive and clone the old to a new hard drive with more space.

If you are really stuck I'll buy a new laptop and donate it to you.

Private email me if you want. gdepetro at gmail dot com.

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Great generous offer.
by bigbear639 / October 7, 2016 6:19 PM PDT
In reply to: Laptop space issue

I believe that this is a great and generous solution. A lot of suggestions cost money, as a Sr. citizen I know that you are also short of extra cash, a few Dollars that you need for Meds, Utilities etc. Setting up a new Computer with possibly a new OS can also be difficult. As mentioned in other Posts I suggest calling a High School or College and see if they have any Volunteers who will do it for free, they can transfer all of your programs and make sure that your set for Updates, and Security, there are many free ones. Maybe bake then some cookies or bake a cake.

Or maybe your ISP provides a free A/V Program. You could also keep your old one after it is cleaned out to youse for Facebook and other chats. Over the years I have given away dozens of Computers beginning with Win98 as I Upgraded to newer ones through every OS that MS came out.

Recently my favorite computer died and I bought a new one from a shopping Channel 17.3" screen touchscreen with extended payment for 12 Months and it comes with 5 years MacAfee and best of all Lifetime Free Tech Support, they look into your computer and fix any problems. As I said I need the largest screen, eyesight is bad.

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Kudos for wanting to help, but a few words of caution
by zweingart / October 7, 2016 8:43 PM PDT
In reply to: Great generous offer.

Greetings, friend. I know you want to help and I honor and support that. However, two things you said concern me.

1) Buying from any shopping channel is throwing money away. They seriously overcharge for items that are usually at least one or two generations outdated.

2) I'm a computer tech, and McAfee simply doesn't offer good protection. I'll probably get a lot of flak for saying that but, in my experience w/ clients, McAfee let's a lot more get through than Norton (don't flame me if you haven't used it in the past 2 or 3 years. It's not _at all_ the same product it used to be) or even some of the free ones like Avira.

Also, for the many, many respondents who have suggested an external HDD, actually reading the question and the the background that the questioner provides helps a lot. The questioner already backs up photos to an external HDD so she could delete them from her laptop and probably regain a huge amount of free HDD space. Additionally, cleaning up temp and other unneeded files helps keep the computer running optimally, but only rarely frees up more than 1 ot 2 GB of space.

Anyway, that's my $.02.

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Not so fast
by bigbear639 / October 8, 2016 8:59 AM PDT

I was a Computer Tech with a Big City FD. and not all Products from shopping channels are several generations behind. You get what you pay for. The first thing is to check the reviews at sites like CNet, and compare model numbers at Fry's. BestBuy, B&H, NewEgg or TigerDirect, who all have the same exact Model but higher or the same price. For someone on a budget paying $35.00 a month no interest or $750.00 all at once or on a high interest credit card. Walmart computers often have fewer features.
As for MacAfee versus Norton's the first thing I remove is MacAfee. Both Shopping Channels offer Vipre for up to 10 Computers for Life and even have it on a Thumb Drive that you can plug it in to any computer. Unlike the other A/V's allow sharing with friends or Family.

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Kudos for wanting to help, but a few words of caution
by zweingart / October 7, 2016 11:05 PM PDT
In reply to: Great generous offer.

Greetings, friend. I know you want to help and I honor and support that. However, two things you said concern me.

1) Buying from any shopping channel is throwing money away. They seriously overcharge for items that are usually at least one or two generations outdated.

2) I'm a computer tech, and McAfee simply doesn't offer good protection. I'll probably get a lot of flak for saying that but, in my experience w/ clients, McAfee let's a lot more get through than Norton (don't flame me if you haven't used it in the past 2 or 3 years. It's not _at all_ the same product it used to be) or even some of the free ones like Avira.

Also, for the many, many respondents who have suggested an external HDD, actually reading the question and the the background that the questioner provides helps a lot. The questioner already backs up photos to an external HDD so she could delete them from her laptop and probably regain a huge amount of free HDD space. Additionally, cleaning up temp and other unneeded files helps keep the computer running optimally, but only rarely frees up more than 1 ot 2 GB of space.

Anyway, that's my $.02.

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Apologies for double post
by zweingart / October 7, 2016 11:09 PM PDT

Sorry folks. Did not mean to post the same comments again. Apparently my phone is inhabited by evil spirits. I'll have a very frank discussion with it about what is and is not acceptable behavior.

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Giving away computers
by 4Denise / October 7, 2016 11:05 PM PDT
In reply to: Laptop space issue

I have only sold a used computer once, and that was because I needed the money and I knew she had it. I always give my old computers away to someone who needs them. You would be surprised to find out how many people do this. If you manage to get a newer computer, then I recommend you give your old one away to someone who doesn't have one.

It isn't always easy to find that person who has a used computer that they are willing to donate to you, but it is worth looking. I am on disability myself, and I know how it is. However, since I started giving away my older tech, I have never been without a computer. Something always happens that allows me to upgrade when I need to.

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Clean Your HD and Space Will Follow
by AjTrek / September 30, 2016 9:14 PM PDT

Hi Jo C

Sorry to hear that you are running out of space on your computer. Glad to know that you are backing up on a regular basis. As you mentioned you still have to “pay rent” here are some things you can do at minimum to no cost.

Before attempting any of the tasks below run a Back-up of your system. You also said your computer is old. So, since you failed to mention what OS you are using (I assume it’s Windows) I’ve listed what you can do for Windows 7, Vista and XP. The following are YouTube videos.

1. Clean Windows Temp Files to reclaim space.

Remove Temp Files Windows 7

Remove Temp Files Windows Vista

Remove Temp Files Windows XP

2. Use Windows HD Defrag to reclaim space.

Defrag Windows 7

DeFrag Windows Vista

Defrag Windows XP

Here’s a link on how to contact National and local agencies that help seniors get free computers:

Photos are space hogs and are most likely consuming a large portion of your HD. My advice is to purchase a 1-TB (terabyte) USB Portable drive and move all your pictures to it.

The reason I suggest another drive is because Back-Up programs often compress information. With the portable drive you can drag n' drop your photo’s in native size and view whenever you connect the drive to your computer. A 1Tb drive will store approximately 22,727 pictures at 44MB each in size. Yours are probably much smaller than 44MB.

Bottom-line - A 1-TB will most likely be all you will ever need. Click the link to see one offered on Amazon:

I don’t know your expertise with a computer so I didn’t mention commercial Disk Cleaning programs. If not used properly they can wipe your computer clean or at the very least lead to a costly repair/recovery.

I hope the information I and other members have provided will help you to regain HD space.

Together Everyone Achieves More = T.E.A.M.

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