Skip to main content

How to clean up your hard drive

Performing regular maintenance is crucial for ensuring a PC delivers a smooth experience for the system owner and keeping all the core functionality of the computer intact. Generally, as time goes by, data, files, applications, folders, and more all play a part in cluttering hard drives.

Without cleaning your hard drive, HDDs will ultimately turn your machine into a shadow of its former self — opening programs is now a tedious and drawn-out process, performing simple tasks takes longer than usual, and nothing operates as efficiently as it once did. Before you know it, your PC’s hard drive has reached a state where you have no option but to rely on external hard drives to store files on.




5 minutes

What You Need

  • A Windows PC

The window for uninstalling apps on Windows 10.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Uninstall apps

Uninstalling apps is the first obvious step in cleaning up your hard drive. We generally install apps and forget about their presence if they’re not used regularly. As a result, it takes up valuable space on your system, and certain apps even contribute to the PC running slower — such as outdated apps that haven’t been updated.

Step 1: Go to Settings > Apps. Have a look at this applications list, and you’ll probably surprise yourself in terms of programs you rarely make use of. A lot of these inactive apps may even require a considerable amount of storage space.

Step 2: Click the Sort by field and select Size. You can also sort by Install date. This should help you quickly pinpoint any applications to remove.

Click an application you want to get rid of and click the Uninstall button.

Get your weekly teardown of the tech behind PC gaming
Check your inbox!
Running a disk cleaning procedure on Windows 10 via CCleaner.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Disk cleaner

The importance of a decent disk cleaning program cannot be understated. Dormant files that have no use, browser caches, and outdated software drivers regularly take up storage space, and getting rid of them without having a program do it for you can prove to be tricky. CCleaner is one of the most popular disk cleaning programs available, and as its name suggests, cleans up unnecessary files.

Once CCleaner is installed (download here), open it and click the Custom Clean option from the sidebar. Now click the Run Cleaner button at the bottom right to commence the process. Another useful component of the program is its Health Check feature. Access this via the sidebar and click Start.

Disk Cleanup

Microsoft also offers its own built-in disk cleaning feature in the form of Disk Cleanup. It’s a perfect tool for clearing temporary files (although CCleaner generally provides more depth in regard to its functionality) and clearing up your hard drive.

Step 1: Search for Disk Cleanup on Windows (we will show the process on Windows 10). Alternatively, click the Start menu and select Windows Administrative Tools. Choose the Disk Cleanup tab.

Step 2: Within the Files to delete menu, select what you want to delete permanently. Unsure about what certain files/folders are and its contents? Click a file or folder and then select the View Files button at the bottom right side of the window.

The Disk Cleanup utility on Windows 10 where you can clear unnecessary files.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Step 3: Conveniently, Disk Cleanup also includes a method to clean up system files. In terms of size, these particular files can actually reach several gigabytes, so clearing them can go a long way in cleaning up your hard drive.

Storage Sense

Introduced in Windows 10, Storage Sense is another default clean up tool. Enabling it can automatically remove unused data like temporary files.

Step 1: Click the Start menu and then select Settings > System > Storage.

Step 2: Click the turn on Storage Sense button.

Step 3: If you’ve enabled Storage Sense with default settings, it will automatically start cleaning up unnecessary temporary files once your PC’s disk space is running low. However, you can customize Storage Sense to determine exactly what to clean and how often the feature should run for. Click the Configure Storage Sense option:

Run Storage Sense: Select how often you want Storage Sense to run for.

Temporary Files: Here, you can select preferences for deleting temporary files on your PC.

The Storage Sense configuration options on Windows 10.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Step 4: Click the Clean now button at the bottom once you’ve set your preferences.

Removing temporary files

Over time, temporary files start accumulating on your system. This aspect is a common contributor to a cluttered hard drive, and removing them is generally the core functionality for numerous HDD cleaning programs. Windows 10 provides a tool to remove temporary files, too.

Step 1: Head to the Storage page via Settings and then click Temporary files.

The Temporary files option on Windows 10 located within the Storage tab.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Step 2: Select the type of files you want to remove and then click the Remove files button.

The Temporary files window that allows you delete various file types to clear up space on your hard drive.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Removing system restore points

Deleting multiple restore points on your Windows PC can also clean your hard drive. If you don’t have much use for various versions of previous system restore points, Windows allows you to remove all of them except the most recent restore point.

Step 1: Open Disk Cleanup. Search for it or go to the Start menu > Windows Administrative Tools > Disk Cleanup.

Step 2: Select the More Options tab and click the Clean up button within the System Restore and Shadow Copies section.

The deleting system restore points window in Windows 10.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Large download files

A common trait among PC users is forgetting about a file after downloading it. As such, another effective method to clean your hard drive is navigating to your Downloads folder, sorting by size, and deleting any large files that you no longer need. Be sure to empty your recycling bin after you’ve done so.

Using cloud storage

Looking to shift some of your data to storage solutions that don't rely on your PC’s internal hard drive disk? Cloud storage such as Google Drive or Microsoft’s OneDrive services can play an important part in cleaning your hard drive and alleviating some of the load on your system by shifting files to a safe place. Another added benefit for using cloud storage is the fact that sensitive data won’t be affected in the event your hard drive starts malfunctioning or simply fails.

For more information, check out the best cloud storage services.

It’s important to remember that, if your cloud storage account is synced to your system, this could easily clutter your hard drive. As such, synchronize any files and folders that you need constant access to, while everything else can remain exclusively online.

Editors' Recommendations

Zak Islam
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Zak Islam was a freelance writer at Digital Trends covering the latest news in the technology world, particularly the…
How to remove the Recycle Bin from your desktop
A Windows 10 laptop sitting atop a desk.

If you’re a Windows user, then you’ll be familiar with the Recycle Bin icon ever since you used your first system. It’s been a mainstay feature that is synonymous with any PC. After all, we all need a place to delete our unwanted files and folders. But if you find yourself not having much use for the Recycle Bin, or you simply want to hide it, then here’s a guide explaining how to remove Recycle Bin from the desktop.

Read more
How to change your PC name
Office computer with login asking for password and username.

If you don't like the default name your PC has, you can always learn how to change it. Changing your PC's name lets you call it whatever you like while getting rid of that non-descript product-ID-style name that it came with it. It lets you give the system a little flair and personality, or just name it something more descriptive and recognizable on your network.

Here's how to change your PC name in a few quick steps.

Read more
How to wipe a hard drive on your PC or Mac
Internal hard drives together.

Many people spend a lot of time trying to preserve their hard drives or even upgrade them, but it isn’t every day that you try to completely wipe it clean. If you’re planning to replace your computer, you probably don’t want all the sensitive information to end up in the hands of a stranger.

Read more