Windows XP – Reclaim Lost Hard Drive Space

The network I administer at work has an even mix of new and old computers. The problem with the older computers are the small hard drives and low amount of memory. I constantly have employees telling me that their computers are running slower than normal and that they are getting low resources error messages.

Below are the steps I use to free up space on these machines:

  1. Click Start => My Computer
  2. Now we want to right click on the drive that Windows is installed on and click on Properties.
  3. Once the properties dialog opens, click on Disk Cleanup. (This will take a few seconds to minutes to load)

The next steps require a little more explanation.

Before we use Disk Cleanup to get rid of any files, let’s click on the more options tab. This tab allows us to remove components, installed programs that we don’t use and old system restore points. Assuming you have system restore enabled, which by default it is, you will be able to regain a considerable amount of space by selecting this option.

Look at the amount of free space you have and remember the number. Now click on the Clean Up button for System Restore and answer yes to the prompt. You will not see any progress bar or get confirmation that this operation has completed. Wait about 10 seconds and view your free space again. Did the number change? When I did this on my computer I regained a little over 3 gigs!

Now click back on the Disk Cleanup tab. This tab gives us a list of file types with the amount of space they take up plus their descriptions down below. Click on each one to find out what they do to help you decide if you should delete them or not. I typically delete everything except for Office setup files and I don’t compress old files. Once you have the files you want to remove selected click on ok and answer yes to the prompt.

That’s pretty much sums up the process I use to reclaim drive space on Windows XP machines.

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