Check Your Windows 7 Hard Drive Usage

December 3, 2010, By Christian Cawley

Managing a single hard disk drive or partition is tricky – managing several is harder still! Anyone concerned about their disk usage and puzzled by the apparent loss of much needed space should consider a tool like WinDirStat, a freeware utility that is used to illustrate how much disk space you have remaining by determining which files and folders are taking up the most space.

With this information to hand, you can then begin the task of working your way through the various large files – beautifully illustrated with a colour coded chart so that you can identify the largest and smallest files.

Using this utility you can then understand the data use on your hard disk drive and work out what types of file are taking up the most space!

Clean Windows 7 hard drive space

Download and Install WinDirStat

Available for free, WinDirStat can be quickly downloaded from sourceforge.net/projects/windirstat (the installer is just 631 kB) and setup on your PC in minutes. Installation itself is straightforward and requires you to confirm the licence and the additional installation of some optional components.

Once installed, WinDirStat will run and immediately detect your active hard disk partitions. You can instruct the application to select All Local Drives, or you can choose one of the Individual Drives; alternatively you can browse for A Folder. With these choices made, WinDirStat will then deliver the statistical information you are looking for!

Understanding the Map

The colour-coded map of data displayed by WinDirStat can be used to determine different file types thanks to the key in the upper right of the window. For instance you might find that there is a lot of blue displayed, which would suggest that you have a lot of video clips on your Windows 7 hard disk drive.

As you click on an item in the map area, the file itself will be displayed in the top pane; here you can work out just what the file is, why it is so big and what you can do to investigate further. Alternatively you can right-click one of the files – represented by a square and organised by disk partition – and choose to Zoom in or Zoom out, or use the Copy Path, Explorer Here or Command Prompt Here options to browse to the file to carry out further tasks.

Other Visual Options

As well as displaying how much space is in use, WinDirStat can also be set to display how much space is free. This choice is available via the Options > Show Free Space or can be activated by pressing F6. Other visual options that can be toggled on an off are:

  • Show File Types (F8) – toggle the file type key in the top right of the screen
  • Show Tree Map (F9) – this toggles the graphical map in favour of the file tree
  • Show Unknown (F7) – toggle the display of unknown files in the graphical file map

While WinDirStat doesn’t offer you any tools to delete or move files it will provide you with a vital overview of what is on your Windows 7 hard disk drives and how much space is being used.

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