For most people, the key Windows “C” Drive is the heart of the computer, containing the operating system and all critical system files. Due to constant Windows updates, temporary files from applications, downloaded items that you forget about, and the fact that everything saves to the “C” disk by default, this is invariably the drive that fills up the most quickly. We’ll teach you how to clean up your C drive in Windows, free up some space, and then get it back up and running.
1. Delete Temporary Files
Manually deleting temporary files in Windows yields the quickest results in terms of cleaning up the C drive and reclaiming space.
We show you some tricks below that automatically clean out your various temporary files, but those methods (like Storage Sense and Disk Clean-up) won’t completely clear out temporary files, and there’s a good chance that the largest, most hard-drive-hogging temporary files will remain in your Temp folder for a while longer. (Automatic techniques will keep files until they reach a particular age – generally one week – before deleting them.)
When manually clearing temporary files, check sure you’re not operating anything. If you delete temporary files associated with a running app, it may crash, and you may lose whatever you were working on at the time.
The default directory for your primary temporary files folder is “C:\Users\Your PC Username\AppData\Local\Temp.” Alternatively, press Win + R and type percent
%temp%, or use the Windows 10/11 search box or the Windows 11 Start menu search to find “delete temporary files.”
To examine how much space the Temp folder takes up, use Ctrl + A to select everything in it, then right-click any file and select Properties. If you’re ready to proceed, use Ctrl + A to select everything, then right-click and select “Delete.”
Under “System,” you’ll get a summary of all these temporary files under “Storage.”
Go one level deeper and delete anything you don’t need to get rid of these temporary files. Downloads, Windows Update Cleanup, diagnostic data, viewer database files, thumbnails, Recycle Bin data, and other items are among them.
2. Storage Sense
Storage Sense is a nice tool in Windows that monitors your PC’s storage space and leaps in to tidy things up if you’re running low. It cleans up your Recycle Bin, deletes old items from your Downloads folder, and deletes temporary files from your computer.
While Storage Sense is found under “Storage Management” in Windows 11, it may also be found under “Turn on Storage Sense” in System Settings in Windows 10. It’s faster to use the search menu to find either of these terms. This option may appear as “configure Storage Sense or run it now” on some systems.
Click “Configure Storage Sense or start it now,” then move the slider under Storage Sense to “On” in the new window. You can then select whether you want it to run when you’re running out of space, daily, weekly, or monthly from the drop-down option below.
You can also use Storage Sense to automatically delete files that have been in the Recycle Bin for a set period of time. This is also true for your Downloads folder (which, from my experience, is definitely a place where unused files tend to outstay their welcome).
There’s also a feature called “free up space now” that allows you to delete many of these useless files in just a few minutes. This allows you to recover several gigabytes of disk space in a matter of seconds.
3. Scan for Large Files on Your Hard Drive
You may search your entire hard drive for files based on their size using Windows Explorer. It’s amazing how many times I’ve discovered large, redundant files that have been sitting around for years.
To begin, open a Windows Explorer window, pick your “C” disk, and then click the “Search (C:)” search box in the window’s top right corner.
Type “size:” to see a list of autofill options for different file sizes to filter for. You can use one of these presets or type “size:>1gb” to find files larger than 1GB and so on if you want to be more specific about the size of the file you’re looking for.
You can either remove files straight from the results, or right-click and select “Sort by -> Size” to sort them by size and identify which ones need to be deleted immediately.
Simply by testing this, I uncovered an outdated Android 7.1 virtual machine that I no longer require. Just make sure you don’t erase anything that appears to be significant. (For instance, files from the “C:Windows folder” or game files that are typically extremely huge.)
4. Uninstall Windows Shovelware and Space-Hungry Apps
You can sort the list by “Size” in the “Apps & Features” window (found by right-clicking the Start button) to determine which applications are the most HDD-hungry. You could be shocked by the results, and you’ll want to delete apps if needed. Consider whether you truly need all of those space-hogging programs and eliminate as necessary.
Another thing that could surprise you is that you now own games like Bubble Witch 3 Saga and Minecraft, which you never wanted to begin with! However, simply deleting them from the “Apps & Features” list will not enough, and you will need to use Powershell to do it. Read our article on how to uninstall pre-installed Windows programs to get started.
5. Clean Up Disk Space
You’ve probably heard of Windows’ built-in Disk Clean-Up tool, but you’ve never used it. This is the first place to look if you need to make some room.
To use it, open Windows Explorer, right-click on the C disk, and choose “Properties” from the drop-down menu.
To open the utility, click “Disk Cleanup” once the Properties box is open. Select all of the checkboxes in the “files to delete” box, such as System memory error dump files, Recycle Bin, set up log files, and so on.
Once you’ve checked all of the checkboxes you desire, click “OK” to clear the disk space taken up by the files listed above. The amount of space you free up is determined by how much you’ve ignored your “C” drive. You can also clean out the system files to reclaim some of the space you’ve lost.
6. Disable Hibernation in Windows 10/11
Hibernation is a useful feature in Windows that allows you to turn off your computer while retaining its present state so that you may resume your work when you turn it back on. However, because it reserves the amount of space on your hard drive equivalent to how much stuff is saved in your RAM, it can take up a lot of disk space. (Thus, the more RAM you have, the more disk space it consumes.)
To disable hibernation in Windows 10, go to “Additional Power Settings” after searching for “Power and Sleep Settings.” “Control Panel -> Hardware and Sound” is another way to get to it. “System -> Power & Battery” in Windows 11 will take you right to the option.
In the left-hand pane, choose the “select what the power buttons do” link. You’ll be taken to the system settings window if you take this step.
Click “Change settings that are currently unavailable.” This action will enable all the disabled options.
To disable hibernation, scroll down and uncheck the “Hibernate” checkbox. You don’t need to do anything else if it’s already unchecked.
7. Delete Browser Cache and Cookies
Temporary Internet data, such as the browser cache and cookies, take up a little amount of space on your C drive, therefore removing those temporary files will free up some space.
“Settings -> Advanced -> Privacy and security,” then “Clear browsing data” in Chrome.
Select “Clear your recent history” under “History” in Firefox’s “Options -> Privacy & Security.”
Go to “Settings -> Clear browsing data -> Choose what to clear” in Microsoft Edge, and make sure the “Cached data” and “Cookies” options are selected.
8. Remove Old Windows Update Files, Previous Installations
Windows has a habit of retaining obsolete (and usually useless) system files. You can erase these files in most cases, especially if you installed your current version of Windows over an older one. To do so, follow these steps:
1. Right-click the C disk in Windows Explorer and choose “Properties.”
2. Open the advanced disk cleanup window by clicking “Disk CleanUp,” then “Clean up system files” in the new window.
3. Select the “Windows upgrade log files” item, as well as the “Previous Windows installation(s)” checkbox if you have any.
Unbeknownst to me, Windows Update Cleanup and Windows upgrade log files were still taking up roughly 3.5GB of hard drive space on my laptop.
It takes a few minutes to clean away the useless files, but the extra space on the C drive is well worth it.
There are a few more checkboxes here, but they don’t take up much room and can be ignored for the most part. To clean up your hard disk, click “OK” when you’re finished.
9. Reduce the Size of the WinSxS Folder
The WinSxS folder is found in the Windows folder on your PC’s C drive, for example, C:\Windows\WinSxS.” It saves the files required to restore your system. You can simply shrink the size of this folder, but be aware of the warning below.
Warning: Do not delete any files or the folder itself from the WinSxS folder. Your system would be severely harmed, and it would be hard to restart or recover.
1. It’s critical to proceed with caution and manage these files directly from Task Scheduler.
2. Right-click on “Task Scheduler Library -> Microsoft -> Windows -> Servicing -> StartComponentCleanup” and select “run.”
3. Wait for the process to complete for a few minutes.
10. Make OneDrive and File Explorer Files Online Only
Online-only files can be created in OneDrive and FileExplorer. This will help you save a lot of space on your C drive. If you have a solid, fast Internet connection, you should take advantage of this fantastic space-saving method.
Select the OneDrive app from the Start menu search in Windows 11 and the searchbox in Windows 10 for OneDrive. Sign in with the same Microsoft account that you used on the local PC. Click “Next” to go to the OneDrive folder.
Right-click any OneDrive subfolder, and if it takes up a lot of space, make it “online only” rather than placing it on the device so it’s always accessible.
Any file or folder in the File Explorer window can be accessed using the same methods described above. You can access them whenever you want by making them exclusively available online. Of course, if you have vital data that you require on a regular basis, you’ll want to keep it on your smartphone.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Are the methods to clean up the C drive similar for Windows 10 and Windows 11?
Yes, the procedures for cleaning up the C drive in Windows 10 and Windows 11 are fairly similar. Although some menu items may be placed differently in Windows 10 and Windows 11, the procedures for cleaning up the C drive are the same for both operating systems.
2. Should I use disk cleanup software for the C drive?
When cleaning up disk space, especially your C drive, you should always use built-in Windows procedures. Many of these native strategies have been thoroughly discussed in this tutorial.
The most reliable way to ensure the integrity of your system is to run Microsoft Windows updates on a regular basis. Many of the same things that native tools can perform are done by third-party software: they can identify temporary files, pending update files, items in the Recycle bin, and so on.
However, if they destroy any vital files, such as WinSxS folder files, this can cause a lot of problems for you. It may prohibit you from manually rolling back updates or troubleshooting Windows issues. I don’t recommend utilizing any third-party applications to clean out your Windows drive in general. It causes more problems than it solves. Tools like CCleaner and Wondershare RecoverIt should be avoided.
3. Why is my C Drive automatically filling up?
The C drive will continue to fill up with constant use. Every file and folder you make (on any disk) reduces the amount of space available on the C drive. Have you completed a System Restore? It will undoubtedly set aside a specific quantity of space on the C drive.
If you haven’t updated your computer in a long time, you may be subject to bloatware, and deleting data may be difficult. Of course, we frequently overlook the need to clear temporary files, useless programs, and space-hogging applications. All of these things contribute to the C drive automatically filling up.
We’ve seen some of the most effective methods for cleaning out the Windows C drive. It’s fine to repeat this routine now and then, but it’s best to avoid letting it full up in the first place.