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Give Windows 10 disk space a clean sweep

There are multiple ways to keep Windows 10 running smoothly, such as clearing the clutter of old files and applications. A more efficient OS will help bring IT peace of mind.

There is a showdown happening between old and new data stored on Windows 10, and the only way to end it is with a disk cleanup.

Every new file saved on Windows 10 stakes its claim to the available storage, so without regular cleanings to flush out old files or unused device drivers, for instance, the OS begins to trudge through tasks. To avoid this situation, it is important that admins regularly create more Windows 10 disk space.

A fresh, up-to-date operating system is a happy operating system. IT needs to figure out which files to clean, what tools to use and what other actions can help keep Windows 10 in tiptop shape.

Why worry about cleaning up Windows 10 disk space?

Windows needs at least 25% of its disk space free to allow the OS to work. To clean out the disk, admins can start by looking at old files. The former OS installation is in a location called Windows.old, along with files that were used during the installation process. These files are stored as a backup for admins, in case the newer version does not work for any reason, but they take up a lot of room. There are specific files within Windows.old that IT may want to remove that are safe to delete and open up a lot of Windows 10 disk space.

Administrative command prompt
Commands to check health and save on disk space

What tools are available for disk cleanup?

The built-in Disk Cleanup tool, diskmgr.exe, performs an initial disk scan and lets admins select the files they want to destroy. This process can salvage up to 20 GB of free Windows 10 disk space. Windows 10 will automatically delete certain upgrade files stored in Windows.old after 10 days. It is important to keep this deadline in mind if IT wants to personally manage the disk cleanup.

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Another option to uninstall and delete outdated applications is a third-party tool, called Revo Uninstaller, available in both a free and commercial Pro version. To dig up and delete old device drivers, IT can use DriverStore Explorer. This third-party tool protects drivers that are currently in use, so administrators don't have to worry about accidentally deleting active data.

Add another level of safety through the Windows Deployment Image Servicing and Management utility, which flushes out the Windows Component Store, a directory of files and file links. For a final overview, admins can run a file-system display with a tool such as WinDirStat to view the C drive layout. The tool blocks out and organizes files by color, depending on the file type, creating a literal big picture of the Windows 10 disk space.

How else can you speed up Windows 10 tasks?

If a task uses up a large amount of hardware resources, it limits the capabilities of other tasks that share those same resources.

Once IT cleans out old files on the solid-state drive, the free space should help other tasks run faster. Admins can also review the list of running tasks under the Task Manager. If a task uses up a large amount of hardware resources, it limits the capabilities of other tasks that share those same resources.  

While in Task Manager, look at the Startup tab, which gives an overview of all the applications that are open and running simply from startup. Administrators can disable items that are unnecessary. If disabling unused items does not help, run the Windows Performance Monitor to diagnose what caused a slowdown. Potential issues are hardware bottlenecks, inadequate hardware or incorrect configurations.

Are there any other tricks to improve overall performance?

Another way that Windows 10 could be bogged down is from desktop login delays. These delays are a direct reflection of a desktop's I/O operations per second. The boot time can increase by a factor of 10 if the operations drop below 2,000 or lower. Applications such as Java can increase the I/O as well, adding to the boot time.

The best way to handle this issue is to prepare the network for sudden bursts in resource use. Admins can do this by sizing the network for peaks instead of averages of usage, as well as never allowing CPU to overcommit to a specific desktop task. The faster the boot and login time is, the more efficient the operating system will be, making for happy users and IT.

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This was last published in January 2017

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