These are the 11 best tips to free up space on Windows 11

Spread the love

On Windows 11, when your computer is running low in storage, you have several ways to free up space for more important files and improve performance.

For instance, you can use Storage Sense to get rid of temporary files quickly. OneDrive files on-demand to delete files already synced to the cloud. NTFS compression to shrink files to fit more content in the same physical space, and Compact OS to reduce the footprint of Windows 11 and apps. You can also uninstall apps and games you rarely use, move files to a different drive, and more.

In this Windows 11 guide, we will walk you through the most effective methods to free up space on your computer.

Free up space with Cleanup recommendations

On Windows 11, “Cleanup recommendations” is a new feature that automatically tells you the contents you might be able to remove to reclaim space on your laptop or desktop computer, including specific large and unused files, rarely used apps and games, and files already synced to OneDrive.

To free up space with Cleanup recommendations on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Storage page on the right side.

    Storage settings

    Source: Windows Central

  4. Under the “Storage management” section, select the Cleanup recommendations setting.

    Cleanup Recommendations

    Source: Windows Central

  5. Click on Temporary files.
  6. Select the files to delete to free up space.
  7. Click the Clean up button.

    Temporary files recommendations

    Source: Windows Central

  8. Click on Large or unused files.
  9. Select the large and unused files to delete.
  10. Click the Clean up button.
  11. Click on Files synced to the cloud.
  12. Select the synced files that you can delete locally.

    Quick note: If you delete synced files, they will still be available on your OneDrive account.

  13. Click on Unused apps.
  14. Check the recommended apps that you can delete to free up space on Windows 11.
  15. Click the Clean up button.

    Unused apps recommendations

    Source: Windows Central

Once you complete the steps, the content will be deleted from the system freeing up space for more important files.

Free up space with Storage Sense

Storage Sense is a feature that provides the tools to quickly delete many types of junk files, such as previous installation files, temporary files from apps, and more from the device to reclaim storage space.

To enable, configure, and use Storage Sense on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Storage page on the right side.

    Storage settings

    Source: Windows Central

  4. Under the “Storage management” section, turn on the Storage Sense toggle switch.

    Storage Sense enable option

    Source: Windows Central
    Quick note: When you enable Storage Sense, the feature will clear up files automatically based on your configuration. However, if the feature remains disabled, and the system needs space to perform specific tasks like installing a new feature update, Storage Sense will enable automatically.

  5. Select the Storage Sense setting.

    Open Storage Sense Settings

    Source: Windows Central

  6. Under the “Cleanup of temporary files” section, check the Keep Windows running smoothly by automatically cleaning up temporary system and app files option to allow the system to delete junk files as needed.
  7. Turn on the Automatic User content cleanup toggle switch.

    Run Storage Sense option

    Source: Windows Central

  8. Under the “Configure cleanup schedules” section, use the Run Storage Sense drop-down menu and select the best cleanup option for you:
    • Every day.
    • Every week.
    • Every month.
    • During low free disk space (recommended).
  9. Use the Recycle Bin drop-down menu to specify how to clear already deleted files.
  10. Use the Downloads drop-down menu to specify how to clean up files you downloaded from the internet into the Downloads folder.

    Quick tip: To delete the most files, use the 1-day option for the settings. The Downloads folder may contain important files, which means that it is recommended to backup those files manually before running Storage Sense.

  11. Under the “Locally available cloud content” section, use the drop-down menu to specify how long OneDrive content synced to the device becomes online-only.
  12. (Optional) Click the Run Storage Sense now button.
  13. Check the Delete previous versions of Windows option (if applicable).

After you complete the steps, if you click the run now button, Storage Sense will clear the files immediately. Otherwise, the system will clean up the files as space is needed.

Free up space deleting temporary files

As part of the storage tools available on Windows 11, you can also delete temporary files manually using the Storage settings.

To delete temporary files manually, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Storage page on the right side.

    Storage settings

    Source: Windows Central

  4. Click the Temporary files setting.

    Windows 11 temporary files

    Source: Windows Central

  5. Select the junk files to delete from Windows 11.
    • Downloads.
    • Windows Update Cleanup.
    • Recycle Bin.
    • Delivery Optimization Files.
    • Thumbnails.
    • Microsoft Defender Antivirus.
    • Temporary Internet Files.
    • Temporary files.
    • Windows error reports and feedback diagnostics.
    • DirectX Shader Cache.
    • Previous Windows installation(s).
    • Temporary Windows installation files.

    Quick note: The available items may differ in your installation. If you want to select the “Downloads” item, consider that this option will erase everything in the “Downloads” folder.

  6. Click the Remove files button.

    Clear temporary files

    Source: Windows Central

Once you complete the steps, the files will delete permanently, freeing up space on the computer.

Free up space with Disk Cleanup

If you prefer the legacy experience, Windows 11 still includes the Disk Cleanup tool to delete temporary files and recovery points.

Delete temporary files

To clear up space on the hard drive with Disk Cleanup, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Disk Cleanup and click the top result to open the app.
  3. Use the “Drives” drop-down menu and select the (C:) drive (if applicable).
  4. Click the OK button.
  5. Click the Cleanup system files button.

    Clean up system files

    Source: Windows Central

  6. Use the “Drives” drop-down menu and select the (C:) drive.
  7. Click the OK button.
  8. Check all the contents you want to clear:
    • Windows Update Cleanup.
    • Microsoft Defender Antivirus.
    • Downloaded Program Files.
    • Temporary Internet Files.
    • Windows error reports and feedback diagnostics.
    • DirectX Shader Cache.
    • Delivery Optimization Files.
    • Device driver packages.
    • Language Resource Files.
    • Previous Windows installation(s).
    • Recycle Bin.
    • Temporary files.
    • Thumbnails.
  9. Click the OK button.

    Disk Cleanup select files

    Source: Windows Central

  10. Click the Delete Files button.

After you complete the steps, those unnecessary files you selected will be removed from the device.

Delete System Restore and Shadow Copies

Using System Restore and the Shadow Copies feature, you can also delete older files to reclaim additional space.

To delete old system restore points on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Disk Cleanup and click the top result to open the app.
  3. Use the “Drives” drop-down menu and select the (C:) drive (if applicable).
  4. Click the OK button.
  5. Click the Cleanup system files button.

    Clean up system files

    Source: Windows Central

  6. Click the More Options tab.
  7. Under the “System Restore and Shadow Copies” section, click the Clean up button.

    System Restore and Shadow Copies

    Source: Windows Central

  8. Click the Delete button.

Once you complete the steps, you will reclaim some additional space to store more important files.

Free up space with OneDrive file on-demand

If you need to free up space quickly, you can use the OneDrive files on-demand feature to make files available online manually.

Enable OneDrive files on-demand

To enable files on-demand on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Click the OneDrive icon in the bottom-right corner of the taskbar.
  2. Click the Help & Settings option.
  3. Click the Settings option.

    OneDrive settings option

    Source: Windows Central

  4. Click the Settings tab.
  5. Under the “File On-Demand” section, check the Save space and download files as you use them option.

    OneDrive files on-demand enable option

    Source: Windows Central

  6. Click the OK button.

Once you complete the steps, you can move files to the OneDrive folder and make them available only online to free up space.

Convert local files available online-only

To make files online-only with OneDrive, use these steps:

  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Select the OneDrive folder from the left pane.
  3. Select the files and folders taking up space.
  4. Right-click the selection and choose the Free up space option.

    OneDrive online only

    Source: Windows Central

If you need to free up additional space, move other files to the OneDrive folder and repeat the above steps to make them available on-demand.

After you complete the steps, you will be able to access all of your content using File Explorer, but you will only be able to open them with an internet connection.

The free version of OneDrive only allows you to store up to 5GB of data, but you can upgrade to a Microsoft 365 subscription to lift the limit to 1TB. In addition to the 1TB of storage, the subscription also gives you access to all the Office apps and services like Microsoft Teams and Family Safety.

Free up space removing unused apps and games

On Windows 11, you can also reclaim a lot of storage by uninstalling apps you rarely use. Games can also use a lot of space, which means that keeping the list to a minimum or removing them all will make space for more important files. Also, reducing space usage will help improve the overall gaming performance.

To uninstall apps and games on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Apps.
  3. Click the Apps & features page on the right side.

    Open Apps & features settings

    Source: Windows Central

  4. Use the “Sort by” filter and select the Size view to quickly identify the apps and games using the most space.

    Sort apps by size

    Source: Windows Central

  5. Select the item to remove.
  6. Click the Uninstall button.

    Uninstall app on Windows 11

    Source: Windows Central

  7. Click the Uninstall button again.
  8. Continue with the on-screen directions (if applicable).

Once you complete the steps, repeat the same instructions to uninstall other apps and games.

If you use the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), you may also have one or multiple distros still installed on the device. You can always uninstall them to free up space on Windows 11.

Delete unused languages

If every byte counts, secondary languages can use some space, and removing them can free up additional storage.

To uninstall languages on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Time & Language.
  3. Click the Language & region page on the right side.

    Language & region settings

    Source: Windows Central

  4. Select the language no longer needed.
  5. Click the menu (three-dotted) button and click the Remove button.

    Remove language

    Source: Windows Central

After you complete the steps, you may need to repeat the instructions to delete additional languages.

Delete maps

You can also remove the offline maps to clear up some additional space.

To remove locally stored maps on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Apps.
  3. Click the Offline maps page on the right side.

    Office maps settings

    Source: Windows Central

  4. Click the Maps setting.
  5. Click the Delete all button.

    Windows 11 delete all maps

    Source: Windows Central

  6. Click the Delete all button again.

Once you complete the steps, the offline maps will be removed to make more space available on the computer.

Uninstall optional features

Windows 11 comes with many optional features (for example, Windows Media Player, Windows Hello Face, Math Recognizer, Windows Fax and Scan, Step Recorder, WordPad, Windows PowerShell ISE, and others) that you can remove to regain a little bit more space.

To remove Windows 11 optional features, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Apps.
  3. Click the Optional features page on the right side.

    Windows 11 Optional Features

    Source: Windows Central

  4. Click the “Sort by” menu and select the Install Size option to find the feature using the most space.
  5. Select the feature to remove.
  6. Click the Uninstall button.

    Uninstall Optional Features on Windows 11

    Source: Windows Central

  7. Restart the computer (as necessary).

After you complete the steps, you may need to repeat the instructions to remove additional features.

Free up space moving files to external storage

If you have tried everything and still don’t have enough space, you should connect an external storage device to transfer the files to free up space on the main drive. If the external storage remains connected to the computer, you can even configure Windows 11 to save files directly onto the secondary drive.

Move files to external storage

To offload files to a different location, connect an external drive with enough space, and use these steps:

  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Browse to the folder with the content taking the most space on the drive.
  3. Select the items.
  4. Click the Cut button from the command bar.

    Select and cut files on Windows 11

    Source: Windows Central

  5. Browse to the destination drive.

    Quick tip: If you want to keep files organized, you can create a new folder with a descriptive name and paste the files inside. Also, if you have a lot of data, it’s recommended to transfer the files in chunks and not everything at once.

  6. Click the Paste button.

    Transfer files new location free up space

    Source: Windows Central

Once you complete the steps, repeat the instructions to move additional files and folders to a new location to reduce the storage usage in the location running out of space.

Configure another storage as new default location

To configure Windows 11 to save files and install new apps on an external drive automatically, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Storage page on the right side.

    Storage settings

    Source: Windows Central

  4. Under the “Storage management” section, click on Advanced storage settings.
  5. Click the Where new content is saved setting.

    Where new content is saved

    Source: Windows Central

  6. Use the drop-down menus and select the new location to save files automatically for each content type.

    Select where new files and apps are saved

    Source: Windows Central

  7. Click the Apply button.
  8. (Optional) Use the “New apps will be saved to” drop-down menu to select the drive to install future apps by default.
  9. Click the Apply button.

After you complete the steps, files and apps from the Microsoft Store will be saved and installed in the new location.

Move apps and games to external storage

Similar to previous versions, Windows 11 also includes the option to move apps from the Microsoft Store and games to an external drive without having to reinstall anything. You could use this feature to move apps and games to another drive to free up space on the primary storage.

To move existing games and apps to another driver on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Apps.
  3. Click the Apps & features page on the right side.

    Open Apps & features settings

    Source: Windows Central

  4. Use the “Sort by” filter and select the Size view to quickly see the apps and games taking the most space.
  5. Click the menu (three-dotted) button on the right side of the item and select the Move option.
  6. Select the new storage location.

    Move installed apps new drive

    Source: Windows Central

  7. Click the Move button.

    Quick note: If the option is not available, the feature is not available for that particular app.

  8. Select the drive to move the app or game.
  9. Click the Move button again.

The external drive always has to be connected to the device when using this feature. Otherwise, you won’t be able to launch the apps or play those games in the new storage.

After you complete the steps, repeat the above instructions to move additional apps or games to the new location.

Free up space with NFTS compression

Windows 11 also comes with a built-in lightweight feature part of the NT File System (NTFS) to compress data maintaining their normal access without the need to zip your files. You can use this feature to compress files, folders, or the entire drive.

If you use data compression, consider that it can negatively impact system performance because it has to compress and decompress data on demand. You should use this option only if you do not have another option and you are dealing with capable hardware.

Set up folder compression

To enable NTFS compression for a folder, use these steps:

  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Browse to the folder to compress.
  3. Right-click the folder and select the Properties option.

    Open Folder Properties

    Source: Windows Central

  4. Click the Advanced button.

    Open folder Advanced

    Source: Windows Central

  5. Under the “Compress or Encrypt attributes” section, check the Compress contents to save disk space option.

    Compress contents to save disk space

    Source: Windows Central

  6. Click the OK button.
  7. Click the Apply button.
  8. Select the Apply changes to this folder, subfolders, and files option.

    Quick note: If the folder already contains a lot of files, the initial compression can take some time.

  9. Click the OK button.
  10. Click the OK button again.

After you complete the steps, the compression feature will enable in the folder, reducing the size of existing and future files. Also, you can use the same instructions to compress files individually.

You can revert the changes using the same instructions, but on step 5, make sure to clear the Compress contents to save disk space option.

Set up storage compression

To enable NTFS compression on a drive, use these steps:

  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Click on This PC from the left pane.
  3. Under the “Devices and drives” section, right-click the drive you want to compress and select the Properties option.

    Open drive Properties settings

    Source: Windows Central

  4. Check the Compress this drive to save disk space option.

    Compress this drive to save disk space

    Source: Windows Central
    Quick tip: Using compression on the Windows installation drive can negatively affect performance. It’s only recommended to use this feature on a secondary drive or partition.

  5. Click the Apply button.
  6. Select the Apply changes to drive (drive letter), subfolders, and files option.
  7. Click the OK button.
  8. Click the OK button again.

Once you complete the steps, the compression process will begin, but if the drive already had content, the process could take some time.

If you don’t need the feature anymore, you can revert the changes with the same instructions, but on step 4, make sure to clear the Compress this drive to save disk space option.

Free up space disabling Hibernation

On Windows, Hibernation has been around for a long time, and it’s a feature designed to save the data in memory onto the system drive before shutting down to preserve the current session the next time you turn on the computer.

Although it is a useful feature, it requires several gigabytes to save the memory contents into the hiberfil.sys file. If you are running out of space, disabling Hibernation can help free up storage quickly.

To disable Hibernation to free up space on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Command Prompt, right-click the top result, and select the Run as administrator option.
  3. Type the following command to disable Hibernation and press Enter:

    powercfg /hibernate off

    Disable hibernation to save space

    Source: Windows Central

Once you complete the steps, Hibernation will turn off, and during the process, the system will remove the hiberfil.sys file freeing up several gigabytes of space.

In the future, you can always re-enable Hibernation on Windows 11 with the same instructions, but on step No. 3, make sure to use the powercfg /hibernate on command.

Free up space with Compact OS

Compact OS is a command-line tool that you can use to reduce the installation footprint of Windows 11 and apps. The tool was designed for devices with limited storage, but you can use it to reclaim some space when you need the storage immediately.

Warning: This is a friendly reminder that modifying system files are risky, and it can cause irreversible damage to your installation if you do not do it correctly. Before proceeding, it is recommended to make a temporary full backup of your PC.

To shrink the size of the Windows 11 installation, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Command Prompt, right-click the top result, and select the Run as administrator option.
  3. Type the following command to compress the installation of Windows 11 and apps and press Enter:

    compact.exe /compactOS:always

    Compact OS clear up space on Windows 11

    Source: Windows Central

After you complete the steps, the process will reclaim around 2GB of storage without noticeably affecting performance.

You can always revert the changes using the same instructions, but on step 3, make sure to use the compact.exe /compactOS:never command.

Free up space rebuilding Windows Search index

On Windows 11, the database that holds the index for Windows Search can grow large if there’s an issue or the device has a lot of files. If this is the case, resetting the database and changing how the feature operates can help to reduce space usage significantly.

To rebuild the Windows 11 search database, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Privacy & security.
  3. Click the Searching Windows page on the right side.

    Open Windows Searching

    Source: Windows Central

  4. Under the “Related settings” section, click on Advanced indexing options.

    Open Advanced Indexing Options

    Source: Windows Central

  5. Click the Advanced button.

    Open Indexing Advanced settings

    Source: Windows Central

  6. Click the Index Settings tab.
  7. Under the “Troubleshooting” section, click the Rebuild button.

    Windows 11 rebuild index to free up space

    Source: Windows Central

  8. Click the OK button.

Once you complete the steps, the system will clear and rebuild the Windows Search feature’s index database.

The only caveat is that during the database rebuild, searches might be incomplete until files are indexed one more time.

Change Windows Search settings

You can prevent the database from growing large by specifying only specific locations.

To modify the indexable locations, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Privacy & security.
  3. Click the Searching Windows page on the right side.

    Open Windows Searching

    Source: Windows Central

  4. Under the “Related settings” section, click on Advanced indexing options.

    Open Advanced Indexing Options

    Source: Windows Central

  5. Click the Modify button.

    Open Modify Index Settings

    Source: Windows Central

  6. Click the Show all locations button.
  7. Clear the options for apps you want to exclude in the index.

    Windows Search exclude location to save space

    Source: Windows Central

  8. Expand the C drive and clear the folder you do not wish to appear in search to reduce the footprint of the database.
  9. Click the OK button.
  10. Click the Close button.

After you complete the steps, Windows Search will update the database, excluding the locations you specified and reducing the database’s overall size.

Free up space deleting users and data on shared devices

If you share a computer with other people, you may be able to delete the accounts that are no longer needed to free up additional space.

To delete user accounts and data on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Accounts.
  3. Click the Family & other users page on the right side.

    Open Family & Other Users Settings

    Source: Windows Central

  4. Select the account to remove.
  5. Click the Remove button.

    Windows 11 delete account to free up space

    Source: Windows Central

  6. Click the Delete account and data button.

Once you complete the steps, Windows 11 will delete the account and data for the user you selected, freeing up more space for other files. You may need to repeat the instructions to delete any other accounts.

More Windows resources

For more helpful articles, coverage, and answers to common questions about Windows 10 and Windows 11, visit the following resources:

We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more.

Leave a Reply