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Admin Toolbox: File Mgmt

This will be the first in a multi-part series on free or low-cost tools worth adopting for Windows desktop admins. Here, we take a look at two free tools for Windows file management: WinDirStat and TreeSize Free. These are two widely used tools for inspecting and managing Windows files. Use them for a look at disk layout, or for finding large files (or folders) potentially for pruning. Both tools are highly regarded and frequently recommended at I’ve used WinDirStat for over a decade myself, and am learning to appreciate TreeSize as well. Both make admirable elements in the Admin Toolbox: File Mgmt category.

Admin Toolbox: File Mgmt Item 1: WinDirStat

WinDirStat is a SourceForge project that has been around for a long time. It’s biggest strength is the “treemaps” it makes to depict how files lay out on a disk. These are based on the brilliant work of Dr. Ben Shneiderman, Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Maryland, College Park, and the founding director of the University’s Human-Computer Interaction Lab. Here’s what WinDirStat shows me about the C: (Windows boot/system) drive on my production PC:

The big blocks provide immediate targets for investigation (and sometimes, cleanup).
[Click on image for full-size, more legible view.]

Here’s what’s hiding behind those big blocks by color:

Green (left, top): The biggest is my archive.pst file, which resides in my …\Documents\Outlook Files folder at 10.1 GB; its neighbor is my <ms-account-name>.pst file, which is now over 3.3 GB in size (that tells me its time to do some pruning there).

Red (center, top): The biggest is hiberfile.sys (the Windows hibernation file) at 12.8 GB; its neighbor is pagefile.sys (the Windows paging file) at a relatively svelte 4.7 GB given that my system has 32 GB of RAM.

Magenta (right, bottom): these turn out to be two Apple Device Software Update files (.ipsw) for iTunes at 2.3 and 1.7 GB, both in my Recycle Bin. Time to take out the trash!

The obvious appeal and utility of the visual layout of treemaps shines through clearly in this example. Ultimately, it helped me recover more than 7 GB of disk space (mostly from the .ipsw files in the Recycle bin).

Admin Toolbox: File Mgmt Item 2: TreeSize Free

TreeSize Free comes from German software company JAM Software GmbH. It presents users with a straightforward file hierarchy view of a target volume, with items listed in descending size. The tool is not as visual as WinDirStat. But it shows you where the bulk is. It also provides more insight into the sometimes mysterious System Volume Information folder found  on every NTFS volume (shown on the following screen cap):

TreeSize isn’t terribly visual, but provides insight into the hidden contents of System Volume Information and more.
[Click on image for full-size view.]

Those who aren’t as visually inclined or who really want to dig into the gory details of Windows’ hidden files and folders will appreciate how TreeSize shows them what’s up under the OS’s hood. It’s equally good at helping users focus in on the biggest files and folders on a drive, albeit on a purely numerical basis from the file listings it provides.

Either of these tools will help admins or power users bring file systems under control. I myself prefer WinDirStat, but TreeSize can tell you some things that WinDirStat cannot. That makes both of them useful elements in the Admin Toolbox!