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Low Storage on Windows 11? Here's How to Free Up Disk Space on Your PC

Your Windows computer has a built-in feature that can clean up your hard drive and improve overall performance.

Windows 11 laptop open on a desk
You can find the cleaning feature in your system settings on Windows 11.
Dan Ackerman/CNET

The last thing you want is a hard drive with little or no storage space. A near-full hard drive negatively affects your entire computer, which will inevitably slow it down and cause your applications to crash more frequently. The only fix really is to clean up your drive and remove large files taking up the most space, and Windows 11 makes it easy to get rid of what you don't need.

Instead of downloading third-party software to free up disk space, Windows 11 has a few settings you can configure to quickly delete temporary and system files, as well as old downloads. And if you're worried about getting rid of important files, don't fret -- Windows 11 will help you decide what to get rid of to improve your PC's performance.

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How to automatically free up space on Windows 11

On your Windows 11 computer, go to Settings -> System -> Storage. If this is your first time visiting this setting, wait a few seconds for your computer to analyze your data storage. Once Windows has collected what it needs to know, you'll be able to see your total free memory at the top of the page. Underneath that you'll see a breakdown of your storage, divided into apps and features, temporary files and other. You can also click Show more categories to view a further breakdown.

The setting we're interested in, however, is Storage Sense, which automatically frees up space on your computer whenever your disk space is low. It does this by deleting temporary files, emptying your Recycle Bin and getting rid of old downloads, in the background, without you having to manually do it. 

Storage management page with Storage Sense toggled on

Enable Storage Sense to make Windows 11 automatically free up space.

Nelson Aguilar/CNET

To turn on Storage Sense, simply toggle it on here. If you click the setting, you can configure several features:

  • Run Storage Sense: Run Storage Sense during low disk space (default) or every day, week or month.
  • Delete files in my recycle bin if they have been there for over: Choose 1 day, 14 days, 30 days (default) or 60 days.
  • Delete files in my Downloads folder if they haven't been opened for more than: Choose never (default), 1 day, 14 days, 30 days or 60 days.

These Storage Sense settings can help you limit which files are removed, and when they're removed, so that you don't have to worry about any important files getting wiped from your computer.

Configure cleanup schedule settings

You can configure how often Windows 11 cleans up your disk space, as well as which files it deletes and how often.

Nelson Aguilar/CNET

At the bottom of the page, you can click Run Storage Sense now to use the feature then and there.

And if you want to get rid of more files to clear up space, use the Cleanup recommendations feature underneath Storage Sense. If you click on it, it will scan your system and recommend files for you to manually delete, such as temporary files, large or unused files, files synced with your cloud and unused apps.

Want to learn more about Windows 11? Check out the biggest differences between Windows 10 and Windows 11. Also, these are the best features on Windows 11 you need to know about. And if you haven't downloaded Windows 11 yet, here's how what you need to do.