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Where is all my hard drive space?

I have a PC running Windows 7 Professional with a 250GB SSD for the system and some programs, and an additional 3TB SATA hard disk drive. Explorer shows that this HDD has a usable capacity of 2.72TB and 470GB of free space whilst indicating that folders and files are using 2.26TB of space.

The drive has no partitions or hidden files but when I add up the space taken by all of the folders and files Explorer shows just under 300GB of space used. What might be the explanation for only 470GB of free space being shown when in fact there should be something like 2.4GB of free space? Please help me figure out this mystery. Thank you.

--Submitted by: Derek W. (aka CNET username: tonepotter)

Post was last edited on April 12, 2019 10:31 AM PDT

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Backup copies?

In reply to: Where is all my hard drive space?

My first thought, because I've seen it before, is a back-up system that is adding additional copies of your main drive (or whatever files it backs up) instead of simply adding new data, or changing modified files, etc.

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Could be slack space

In reply to: Where is all my hard drive space?

If your files are very small then they may be using a huge amount of slack space.

Slack space is a complicated subject under NTFS. The short version is, files do not butt right up against each other. Your drive is divided up into sectors and clusters of sectors. The sizes of clusters, the smallest chunk the OS can handle, can vary from 1k to 32k, depending on various factors. Therefore, a 500 byte file will take up at least 1k of disk space. Similar, a 1500 byte file will take up two 1k clusters, which also produces 500 bytes of slack. Etc.

A simple way to find the slack space is to open the drive in Explorer, then highlight all of the folders, right-click and choose Properties. That will tell you the "Size on disk" of the files. That size takes into account the slack space. With a lot of files, it will take a while to add it all up. Maybe let it run overnight.

Another possible source of wasted space is lost allocation clusters. If, for some reason, a program gets shut down without properly closing a file, or the power is cut while a file is being written to, then the directory structure might not be updated properly. Space will be marked as allocated, but not attached to any file in the directory. The chkdsk command can clean those up.

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Find used space

In reply to: Where is all my hard drive space?

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Missing Space

In reply to: Where is all my hard drive space?

Clearly, the figures are inconsistent. True, as an earlier poster has said, you can get wasted space because of sector size, especially with smaller files but almost 2 TB is extremely unlikely on 500 GB.

I'll assume the HDD is GPT format, since Windows Explorer can see it all, MBR is limited to 2 TB without a software utility.

I'd start by looking at what is physically on the disk, to check for unallocated space, or hidden partitions, that wouldn't be visible to Windows Explorer, for which my personal preference is Partition Wizard Free from Minitool. It will show the full layout of all disks and what the usage of each partition is. There are other similar utilities that others may recommend.

Partition Wizard will allow you to inspect the contents of partitions also BUT be careful, it has some very powerful disk management tools with which you could wipe all the data. It always shows you what the result will be and then asks for confirmation before it make the changes.

Once you've sorted out the partitions, drop down to the folders, as others have suggested.

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Re: hard drive space

In reply to: Where is all my hard drive space?

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You are right Kees!

In reply to: Re: hard drive space

I just looked up the member's name in the other discussion thread and they are the same person. One question came via email to me for the newsletter and I guess Derek hit the forums as well.

Ah well, it happens, just glad he found the answer to the missing hard drive space.

Thank you for pointing that out, Kees!
-Lee

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WinDirStat solves this problem for me

In reply to: Where is all my hard drive space?

There's a nice, older program called WinDirStat that can solve this puzzle for you. It's free and widely available. Google it to find out where to download it. I use it all the time; still works on Windows 10. Typically, I find out that I had downloaded something large and forgot to delete it after I was done with it.

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Take a look at Wiztree

In reply to: WinDirStat solves this problem for me

I have used Treesize and Windirstat for a long time. I stumbled on Wiztree recently. It directly reads the Master File Table rather than use the Windows directory calls, so it's far, far faster. I just ran it on my laptop, and it finished in 6.17 seconds.

I just noticed that Wiztree also displays the space allocated on disk, so it can give you an idea of the slack space I mentioned in my other message.

I have no affiliation with Wiztree. Just a user.

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Beware Wiztree

In reply to: Take a look at Wiztree

It tried to infect my computer (luckily it got intercepted).

This may depend on the copy, but I'd be REAL careful.

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Depends on where you download it

In reply to: Beware Wiztree

Many sites wrap their downloads in a download manager, that will pull down crapware along with the utility you actually want. I downloaded mine directly from the link on their site. Neither Sophos nor Avast (two different machines) reported any malware.

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TAKE A LOOK AT WIZTREE

In reply to: Beware Wiztree

(Why the hell does this board not automatically pick up the title of what you're replying to?0

OK, that worked.

Ironically, I had avoided downloading directly from the site since it was an unfamiliar one.

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I did do a search before downloading Wiztree

In reply to: TAKE A LOOK AT WIZTREE

As I usually do with new software I see recommended, I did a search of wiztree malware and wiztree spyware before downloading it. I saw discussions of it from a coupla years ago on places like Reddit. I figured that if it caused an infection, chances are someone there would mention it.

Not a perfect system, but I don't simply grab a new utility on a single recommendation.

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Watch for iPhone backups!

In reply to: Where is all my hard drive space?

I just knew I had a virus or something because I instantly lost all the rest of my space. I did a clean restoration. Everything was great until... I did my next iPhone backup! I searched folders and found it. I now save my iPhone backups on an external drive. Best of luck!!

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How is the drive formatted?

In reply to: Where is all my hard drive space?

You may have a large portion of the drive unallocated. MBR only allows 2 TB. Go to manage PC and select disk management to see how the HDD is layed out.

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Partitioning

In reply to: Where is all my hard drive space?

It's possible that there is a portion of the drive that Win7 does not recognize as usable space. It's also possible that only a small amount of the drive is formatted. I've seen cheap USB drives that only physically hold 8GB have an index that read 120GB, but would only store the 8GB.

This larger drive could be doing the opposite.

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I was using two anti virus and they were loading up!

In reply to: Where is all my hard drive space?

I was using two anti-virus and they were loading up space on my 500 GB disc. Fighting one another until the disc was full! My repairer told me to use only one Windows 10!

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Defrag

In reply to: Where is all my hard drive space?

Hi, imagine a library, every time you take a book out it’s placed back in the wrong place and so next time you want that book it’s not there and so you have to go an search for that book. Well that’s how your pc finds info, files. Apart from slowing down your pc, as it takes longer to search for stuff, it’s like an untidy library. Defragmentation will not only restore the location of everything it will speed up your pc as it looks for things logically. That is why your hd shows less space. Suck it and see, defrag (switch off all screensavers as this interrupts the process and it will start over) never actually having completed despite win telling you so don’t even be tempted to move your mouse.
Then re check your space WOW! It’s back. Use crap cleaner prior to remove unwanted crap then defrag.

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A few things to try

In reply to: Where is all my hard drive space?

Just fixed a client's computer two days ago. Some things to try:

1) run chkdsk on your main hard drive. Assuming that your main drive is C:, then: chkdsk c: from a DOS prompt. This will tell you if there is or has been a problem with the drive.

2) if chkdsk doesn't find anything, skip to 3 below. From DOS prompt, run chkdsk /f c: Answer Y to run on next bootup and reboot the computer.

3) run Disk Cleanup.

4) Look in C:\windows\Temp. Delete any files and folders older than a month or so from that day's date. I have seen Windows Update get into some kind of loop and simply keep loading files on a daily basis, fail at some point, then start the process again without doing any cleanup.

5) Look in C:\Windows\Logs folders for old files. Cleanup any older files.

6) I use an old program called DiskPie to see how the drive breaks down in terms of size of folders.

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SLIGHTLY off-topic but still relevant

In reply to: Where is all my hard drive space?

FOR OTHERS, here are things to look at:

1) What tool(s) are you using to examine the disk?

Particularly with system drives, I often leave a large part of the drive not partitioned.  For instance, with a 128GB SSD I might partition 70GB and leave the rest of the drive unallocated.  That should be more than enough for programs, etc., and not wind up with 50+GB of Windows' extra "junk" files that would just increase the size of backups.  If in the future I need more O/S space, I can just resize the partition.  And if at some point I need an extra high-speed partition--hey, there's a bunch of available space.  For instance, awhile back I partitioned some unallocated space and moved all my genealogy stuff to that.

At work, we buy refurb PC's that come with 160GB HDD's and I have to change the O/S to 32-bit.  Realistically, the users need less than 30GB, since the data is on a server.  I'll normally create one 60GB partition, so if in the future I need to clone the drive to an SSD I don't have to worry about the drive having more than 128GB of files.

A lot of tools won't show unallocated space.

2) If you really need more space, move or delete the SoftwareDistribution folder.

When Windows does updates, it stores the installer in C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\
and keeps it forever. Over time that can get really big. Do all updates, make sure everything runs okay, then in Services turn off the Windows Update Service, then rename the folder, then delete the renamed folder or move it to another drive, then in Services turn Windows Update Service back on. (You have to rename the folder or Windows won't let you fool with it.)

When you do that and then run Check for Updates, it will show Last Update as Never. It doesn't roll back your system, it's just that Windows assumes that since there's nothing in the folder the reason is because you never updated. Windows will automatically create a new empty SoftwareDistribution\ folder when you turn Windows Update Service back on.

One caution on this is that it's [probably] not reversible--because Windows doesn't know you updated something, if an update does cause a problem, you can't remove the update.  You [probably] can't just turn off Update Service again, put the old file back, turn Update Service back on, and be back like it was before you started.

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Check DropBox

In reply to: Where is all my hard drive space?

I found that DropBox, which I thought lived in the cloud, had copied all my files back to my PC. They were invisible until I used WinDirStat which found a huge block of files.

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CCleaner/WinDirStat

In reply to: Where is all my hard drive space?

Many of these posts can be helpful.

CCleaner and WinDirStat and is my short answer.

Let CCleaner clean out your temp files (I've found quite a few Win7 machines with tons of small cab files in the temp directory leaving room for not much else). Then let those little Pac-Men (Pac-Mans?) do their thing and map out your drive with WinDirStat.

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