How to Use the Disk Cleanup Utility on a Windows Computer

Introduction: How to Use the Disk Cleanup Utility on a Windows Computer

Storage management and organization are vital to tackling assignments efficiently. This is especially true for students, teachers, as well as those who are employed both full and part-time. File storage is crucial to day-to-day actives at work e.g. creating documents, saving presentations or research analysis papers. With minimal disk space, a computer encounters a "quicksand-like" state where applications and pages perform at a snail's pace when accessed.

In this Instructable you will learn how to:

  • Identify how much hard disk space is on a Windows computer
  • Free up hard disk space on a computer with a Windows operating system
  • Prevent unnecessary file accumulation

Required materials:

  • A computer with a Windows 7, 8, or 10 Operating System (OS)

Optional materials for file relocation:

  • USB thumb drive
  • Microsoft OneDrive account


Disclaimer: The content of this Instructable serves to be solely educational. There is no guarantee that the tools as well as tips specified within the instruction will provide identical results. I am not liable nor responsible for any losses as a result upon completion of all steps.

Step 1: Verify the Existing Amount of Disk Space on Your Computer

a. While logged into your computer, on your keyboard hold the Windows Key down first (shown in Figure 1).

b. While holding the Windows key down hit the letter "E" , then release as (shown in Figure 1). This shortcut (Windows + E) will launch Windows File Explorer (displayed in Figure 2).

Note: File Explorer is often launched via a search or when accessing documents

Step 2: Select This PC

a. Click on the “This PC” or “My PC” located on the left-hand side panel (shown in Figure 2) which will take you to the File Explorer view displaying the volume of disk space remaining (displayed in Figure 3).

Note: The disk space capacity (see Figure 3)displays 909 GB of space total, however, this volume value will be different due to the size of the hard drive within your computer model and therefore results can vary.

Step 3: Click on the Windows Start Menu Button

a. Click once on the “Windows Menu Button” this by default is in the lower left hand corner (review Figure 4).

Step 4: Launch the Disk Cleanup Utility

a. In the search field where it states: “Type here to search” on Windows 10 or “Search programs and files” in Windows 7 click once. Type a keyword such as: disk

b. Click on Disk Cleanup Utility (shown in Figure 5)this will cause it to launch. The tool will then scan your computer’s hard disk for areas that can be cleaned up (shown in Figure 6) this includes items such as: error log files and temporary internet files from Microsoft Edge and Explorer.

Step 5: Access the Utility's Cleanup System Files Mode

The Disk Cleanup Utility serves as a handy tool which aids in allowing one to dig further into files stored over the course of utilizing the computer workstation. The "clean up system files" feature (shown in Figure 7) provides a more in-depth analysis of large system files that can be potentially removed entirely as well as Windows update installation files.

Step 6: Check System Files to Delete Them

WARNING: Do not check: “Service Pack Backup Files,” “Electronic Software Download (ESD) Files” or “Previous Windows Installations” for deletion if you intend or wish to revert to another operating system version. Removing these backup files would limit the ability to restore the station back to an original state.

For example, if one upgrades from Windows 8 to Windows 10, eliminating these would create implications for one would not be able to easily do so. If you’re not sure, the best action to take is to not delete the files and to consult with a technical support representative or your workplace's Service Desk.

Step 7: Confirm the Deletion of System Files

a. When selecting Ok to delete the files a prompt appears stating “Are you sure you want to delete these files?” Click Delete Files as (shown in Figure 9) to confirm and then Disk Cleanup Utility will remove the selected batch of system files.

Note: Documents and personal files are not deleted by the Disk Cleanup Utility.

b. The Disk Cleanup Utility will complete the cleaning process (displayed in Figure 10)and close.

Step 8: Check the Results of the Disk Cleanup Utility

8. Launch Windows File Explorer (shown inStep 1) utilizing the Windows Key + Letter E shortcut

a. Navigate to This PC (shown in Step 2).

b.View the bar located under Windows (C:) and examine the total amount of space that was cleared (displayed in Figure 11). The transition from red to blue indicates that space is now available on the hard disk for storage.

Step 9: Comb Through Personal Files & Programs

The Disk Cleanup Utility is not perfect nor capable of freeing up all disk space. Below are additional clean up tips that can help:

  • Consider transferring personal files from off your desktop into a cloud storage service such as: Microsoft OneDrive or to an external USB thumb drive. If you have Microsoft Office 2013 or Office 365 you may utilize a search (shown in Step 3 and Step 4) for OneDrive.
  • Program files can weigh in heavily when it comes to disk space. Consider reviewing the applications that are installed and if needed consult with your workplace's IT Service Desk to aid in the removal of obsolete programs.
  • In File Explorer (displayed in Step 2) check out the Downloads section on the left-hand side panel. Attachments downloaded e.g. PDF’s, video files etc. can linger there taking up space.
  • Remember once you delete files to always open and empty the recycle bin located on your desktop.

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    5 years ago

    Very helpful. It would be great to see this for Macs as well if you were going to publish a series. Great job!


    Reply 5 years ago

    Absolutely, disk space management is an immense problem for Mac users over time also -- there are a wide range of tools and methods to tackle a Mac OS that's low or out of space. I am considering making more technology-focused Instructables!

    DIY Hacks and How Tos

    It is unfortunate that most people never use this utility and it is really detrimental to the computer's performance.


    Reply 5 years ago

    The primary inspiration behind this was definitely due to how many computers I come across with disk space problems. The longer disk space and file management is neglected, the more extensive problems arise in regards to performance. Thanks for stopping by!


    5 years ago

    Great graphics throughout. Well done!