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Here’s how to clean out your bloated hard drive in Windows 10

Is your hard drive feeling a little crowded lately? Having more free space on your hard disk can improve speed. By getting rid of files and moving data to other devices, you can quickly clean your hard drive in Windows 10. Here are the easiest ways to free up PC space quickly.

Empty the recycle bin

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Ah, the beloved old recycle bin. It’s nice to know that some things about Windows haven’t changed in a long time. Windows 10 still uses the recycle bin to hide all the files you want to throw away, and emptying it can prove useful in freeing up extra space.

You can right-click on the Recycle Bin icon for the option to empty it directly. If you can’t find the icon, then head to the Start menu, and go to Settings > System > Storage. You will be able to select local storage under This PC — look for and click Temporary Files. Doing so will bring up any locations for temporary files, including Recycle Bin. Tick the box next to Recycle Bin, select the Remove Files option at the top of the screen, and confirm your decision. That’s all it takes!

It should be noted that emptying your recycle bin will only help clean your Windows 10 hard disk if there’s a lot of stuff in that bin. When you first download Windows 10 — and long afterward, depending on your desktop habits — emptying it may not affect your hard drive much at all. If you aren’t sure, take a peek inside your bin and see how full it is first. A few GBs worth of data can still make a difference.

How to delete temporary files and downloads

Remember how emptying the recycle bin took you through the temporary files section? If you want to broaden your hard drive cleaning activities, then you can delete all temporary files.

What exactly are you getting rid of here? Well, Windows temp files manage document editing, some application processes, various printing tasks, and so on.

These files are usually automatically deleted, but sometimes they hang on. Please get rid of them all by ticking the box next to each file type, then clicking on the Remove Files option at the top of the screen.

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Another time files are automatically created occurs when you download anything from the internet. These files pop up in your downloads and tend to stick around — which means they can quickly stack up if you are downloading a lot of content to your Windows 10 desktop.

Go to your Downloads folder via File Explorer > This PC > Downloads and delete any files that you no longer need by highlighting them in groups or individually. This method is a great way to clear out space manually without accidentally deleting something you’ll need later.

How to uninstall apps

Too many apps can lead to an eventual slowdown or lack of space for other content, especially on smaller, lighter Windows devices (looking at you, Surface tablets). Some apps can take up a lot of space — the trick is finding which hog the most room on your hard drive and which you can live without.

From the Start menu, go to Settings, select Apps, and then select Apps & Features. Here, you can see all the apps downloaded. Windows 10 allows you to arrange them by various statistics — if you have a long list, organize them by the amount of hard drive space they are taking up.

See which apps are hogging the most data, and delete those that you don’t use. Double-check that the app doesn’t have anything too valuable, then select it and choose Uninstall.

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How to change how you use OneDrive

OneDrive is a cloud service for Windows, so you would think that all the cloud data it uses would help free hard drive space, not take it up. This is true, except for one particular OneDrive feature — the ability to save files offline, which you may not even know that you are using.

Sometimes this is handy. If you are dealing with sensitive files or big projects with some sharp deadlines, it’s a good idea to have a backup. But if you are using OneDrive and automatically saving offline for every file and doc at work, school, or home, you probably waste hard drive space.

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The OneDrive icon should be waiting on the right side of your taskbar (it may be lurking under the Show Hidden Icons arrow). Click on the Cloud icon, choose Settings (the three dots in the upper-right corner), and then select the Preferences option. Doing so will take you to all the file types that OneDrive is saving offline and how much space each takes up.

Unselect all the OneDrive folders that you don’t need. Remember, you can still access all these files online at, so you aren’t losing anything.

Use your Xbox One

Microsoft platforms are growing increasingly interconnected, and the convergence is very apparent in Windows 10, which connects more freely to other Microsoft devices like the Xbox One game console. If you have an Xbox One, you can use it to help save some space by swapping out select apps and data. You can stream content from the Xbox to your Windows 10 PC with just a few steps.

This service allows you to store data on the game console and free up your PC if you have content you only use at home. Just remember to delete the data from your PC after you transfer it to the Xbox.

Use an external drive

From USB drives to full external hard drives, one of the simplest ways to clean up your hard drive on Windows 10 is to move extra data outside your computer.

First, hook up a hard drive and make sure that it is properly formatted and ready for uploads. Dragging and dropping a file into the new drive using File Explorer will create a copy of the file, allowing you to erase the original.

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However, it is also possible for you to move large chunks of files at one time. Go to the taskbar and open your File, Explorer. From there, select all the files you want to transfer outside your PC hard drive. Once you have them all highlighted, go to the Home menu at the top of the screen. Select Move To, then select Choose Location. Find your external drive on the list and select it. All of your files will drop into that destination. This is a full transfer, so you don’t even have to erase anything from your computer afterward.

Use a cloud storage service

Purchasing an external hard drive or USB device isn’t your only option for offloading and saving your files. Instead, you can copy your files to free or paid cloud storage services. You can then delete the copy on your PC, which will free up more space on your computer.

Cloud storage is a safe and easy way to store your files. Some of the advantages include the ability to copy your operating system and files to transfer and restore them on a new device if you need to.

Rather than relying on physical storage like USBs and external hard drives, you can use a cloud-based service to “carry” documents with you and access them anywhere you need to. All you need is a login email or username and password to access your files.

Many smartphones will automatically save certain files, such as photos, to the cloud. The cloud is an ideal backup system because you can save your files even if your phone crashes. You’re also able to access any files in the cloud from different devices.

PC users can either drag-and-drop data to cloud storage or upload the files with little difficulty. Be aware of how much cloud storage space you have so you’ll know you have room for all of your files.

Widely-used examples of cloud-based services include iDrive (our favorite), plus Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and iCloud. Companies are constantly developing cloud options, so you’ll be able to find the perfect fit for your storage needs.

Read reviews and consider how big of a name your cloud service has so you can be sure it’s trustworthy and secure. That way, you can practically guarantee your files aren’t going anywhere — ever.

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Tyler Lacoma
Former Digital Trends Contributor
If it can be streamed, voice-activated, made better with an app, or beaten by mashing buttons, Tyler's into it. When he's not…
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