Don’t you just hate it when you’re downloading a new file from the Internet or installing a new game and your computer tells you up front that you are low on disk space? Instead of ignoring it, you must take notice.
The Hard Disk: A Limited Cabinet
The hard disk, hard drive, or HDD is like a cabinet where you can put all your computer stuff. Hard disks have a fixed capacity and once that capacity is filled, you cannot add more files to it.
With the many uses of a computer, you will soon fill it up with your files from work, photos from your digital camera, video files, mp3s, and computer games. Before you know it, it’s full!
Each file that you add into your computer will take up space. The size or the space it will occupy depends on the type of file, too. For example, a movie will take up approximately 700 megabytes while an mp3 music file will only eat up about five to six megabytes.
Modern hard drives today come in several to hundreds of gigabytes, where one gigabyte is equivalent to about a thousand megabytes. That space may seem big enough to last you a lifetime, but file sizes today come in gigabytes. You have HD videos that come in several gigabytes depending on their length and resolution, and computer games that just don’t fit onto CDs anymore: that’s why you find them on DVDs.
Why Enough Disk Space Matters
When your computer warns you that you are running low on disk space, that does not only mean you can’t add more files onto your computer. It means that your operating system does not have enough disk space to function properly.
Your operating system (OS) needs enough space on your hard drive to do ensure the smooth operation of your computer. It needs free space for:
- Swap or Paging File. A swap or paging auxiliary file is used by many operating systems to transfer data from the main or physical memory (RAM) when it is too large. It is also used to make space for a program that needs additional RAM. Paging files are used as a temporary storage of data kept in the main memory.
- System updates and Patches. As bugs, exploits, and other security vulnerabilities are discovered, operating system developers release updates and patches to fix such problems. These updates, of course, take up disk space.
- Temporary Files. Temporary files are often used to store settings for later retrieval or modification and other system operations.
Effects of Having Low Disk Space
When you have low disk space, your computer will suffer. Here are some things you may experience when you have low disk space:
- Slow startup and shutdown
- Frequent program crashes
- Fragmentation of system files
- Slow defragmentation
Getting Rid of Low Disk Space
There are many ways to get rid of low disk space on your computer. You can remove unnecessary files on your computer or increase your storage capacity by getting a bigger hard drive.
Of course, you don’t want to spend money on a new hard drive yet. You should try to clean up your current hard drive of files that waste your precious disk space. You will definitely be surprised to find out how much space you will be able to free up once you do these things:
- Empty the Recycle Bin
The Recycle Bin is a feature that allows you to recover files you may have accidentally deleted.; however, most of the files that are in there are rather useless. Before you empty your Recycle Bin, open it and make sure you don’t have files there that you may need in the future.
To empty it, simply right-click on the icon on your desktop and click empty.
- Uninstall Unused Software
If you have been using your computer for quite some time now, it surely has accumulated a lot of software that you have installed. To save on space, you should erase all the software that you don’t need.
Uninstalling programs in your computer is easy in Windows. Simply click on [Start > Control Panel > Add / Remove Programs ]. You will be presented a list of the programs that are installed on your computer. Browse that list and select the programs that you don’t use anymore and click the “Remove” button.
- Clean the TEMP folder
The “temp” or temporary folder is the place where your computer stores temporary files it uses. Those temporary files are often deleted but are sometimes left behind. After some time, these files may accumulate and eat a lot of disk space.
The easiest way to clear the TEMP folder is to launch Window’s Disk Cleanup Wizard. You can do this by opening My Computer. Right-click on the C: drive and choose properties. On the General tab, you will see the “Disk Cleanup” button. Click it and you will be presented with a menu-like window.
Check the items you want to “clean up” or delete, including the temporary folder. With that, you will also see how much space you can recover after the process.
- Delete Unused or Old Personal Files
You may have a lot of files on your computer that you no longer use. Visit your My Documents folder and check which files you don’t need anymore and then delete them. If you think you will use these files in the future, you can then back them up onto a CD or DVD, too.
Getting a New Hard Drive: A Last Resort
When you have done all the things discussed above and you still don’t have enough disk space, you have no other choice but to buy another hard drive. Hard drives are pretty cheap today, so get the biggest capacity you can afford.
Make sure you buy the right one. There are two interfaces that hard drives use today: the PATA or IDE hard drive and the SATA hard drive. Newer computers support both, but older ones only support PATA. Verify this by checking your motherboard manual.
Installation of these hard drives is pretty simple as long as you follow the instructions. SATA drives are easier to install and configure, unlike IDE ones where you have to make the correct jumper settings. Be sure your computer is powered down before you connect the drive.
You will have to format the drive first using the right software before you can use and transfer files to that drive.
With these simple steps, you can get rid of your low disk space in just a few hours, and have enough room for more music, movies, and photos on your computer.
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