The storage space on your system’s hard drive does not suddenly disappear. However, if you notice that Windows Explorer incorrectly reports the free space available on your disk, it could be happening for many reasons.
So let’s see why Windows reports incorrect free space on hard drive and what you can do to recover the missing space.
What causes Windows to report bad storage space?
There is no simple answer to this question because the causes of this problem are many. You may have hidden files or a working project file taking up more than 100 GB of space.
In other cases, Windows can also take a large amount of space to store old Windows update backups as well as system restore points. Your system’s recycle bin collects tons of trash files and can take up a lot of space if not cleaned frequently.
1. Use WinDir Stat to see what’s taking up all the space on your hard drive
Instead of making a guess, you can better understand your system’s storage space occupancy using a disk usage analyzer.
WinDir Stat is a free disk space analysis utility for Windows. It displays disk usage statistics sorted by file size/subtree. You can extend partitions to see how much space folders and subfolders take up, giving you an idea of what’s taking up space on your computer.
In the right pane, you can view the files taking up the most space based on their data type. Click on the data type to highlight it in the color-coded chart. Then click on the highlighted colored box to locate the files.
It also features a cleaning option. You can use it to clean junk files from any folder. For best results, in WinDir Stat, locate and select the folder taking up a large amount of space. Then click Clean and select Explore here. You can now manually choose and delete large unnecessary files.
To download: WinDir statistics (Free)
2. Check Disk Space Distribution Using Folder Size
If you find WinDir Stat intimidating, Folder Size is a great alternative. This is a free Windows utility to analyze your hard drive space usage and displays file and folder size to identify the folder filling up your storage drive.
Once installed, run folder size as administrator. Next, select the drive to scan. After scanning, it will list all folders and files in the drive sorted by size. From there, you can explore and clean up folders to free up space.
To download: Folder size (Free)
3. Manage your restore points
When enabled, your Windows system automatically creates new restore points when it detects a major change to your system. However, if you haven’t configured disk space usage for restore points, you’ll likely have multiple restore points taking up tons of space.
This is one of the common factors contributing to your hard drive space shrinking. Luckily, you can not only delete old restore points, but also configure how much space Windows can use to store those backups.
When Windows reaches the allocated quota, it deletes old restore points to make room for new ones.
To configure disk usage space for system protection in Windows:
- Hurry Win + R to open Run.
- Type sysdm.cpl and click OKAY open System properties.
- Then open the System Protection tongue.
- Below Protection settingsclick on Configure.
- Make sure the Enable system protection option is selected.
- Then under the Disk space usage , drag the slider to set the maximum disk space used to store restore points. You can set it to around 10% of your main drive’s capacity or more if you have a larger drive.
- To free up space, you can delete existing restore points. So click on the Wipe off to delete all restore points from the selected drive.
- When finished, click Apply and OKAY to save changes.
Then open File Explorer to see how much storage space you have recovered with deleted restore points.
Restore points are handy for recovering your system in the event of a crash. Since you have deleted all your restore points, we recommend that you immediately create a new restore point.
4. Fix Disk Volume Errors with System Maintenance Troubleshooter
Windows automatically schedules a maintenance activity called System Maintenance on your computer. It can repair broken shortcuts and free up space occupied by troubleshooting history data and disk volume errors.
If system maintenance is not working, you can use the troubleshooter to check for issues with system maintenance. Although Windows automatically runs this troubleshooter periodically, you can also run it manually from Control Panel.
To run the System Maintenance Troubleshooter:
- Hurry Win + R to open Run.
- Type control and click OKAY to open the Control Panel.
- In Control Panel, find the troubleshooter and click Repair from the search result.
- Then click on System and security.
- Click on System maintenance to launch the troubleshooter.
- Click on Next.
- The troubleshooter will start detecting the issue and recommend fixes if available. Apply patches and close Control Panel. Restart your PC and check for improvements.
5. Update your version of Windows
If you encounter the problem in older versions of Windows 10 and 11, check and install the latest available system updates. Windows updates often bring performance improvements and bug fixes.
To check for Windows updates:
- Hurry Win + I open Settings.
- Open the Windows Update tongue.
- If no new updates are available, click Check for updates.
- Then click on Download now to install updates.
6. Clean up unnecessary files
Computers are known to create junk files from system operations, applications, user content, etc. Windows 10 and 11 have a cleanup tool that periodically checks and cleans up unnecessary files, including temporary files, files in your Downloads folder, and the Recycle Bin.
However, if you haven’t set up cleaning schedules, here’s how to remove unnecessary files from your Windows PC. This involves setting up Storage Sense and cleaning up junk files from different places.
Recover missing storage space in Windows
The curious case of Windows reporting bad disk space often leads you to a hidden file taking up a lot of space on your hard drive. You can use a third-party disk scanner to find what is taking up all the space on your system and perform a cleanup.
That said, periodic cleanings can help you keep an eye on your storage space usage and also improve performance.