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    Tame a new system’s hard-drive bloat

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    maxim9691

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    Tame a new system’s hard-drive bloat

    Post by maxim9691 on Sat Sep 03, 2011 6:55 am

    By Susan Bradley

    You just bought that new Windows 7 computer, and the next thing you know — you’re running out of space.

    Here are some tips and tricks to show where your hard drive space is going.

    Once upon a time, I bought a computer with a 1GB hard drive and thought
    I’d never outgrow it. A few years later, I think nothing of buying
    Terabyte hard drives. The pundits might declare we’re in a post-PC era,
    but the size of my C: drive begs to differ. It’s not
    just my basic documents that are taking up space, not even those
    hundreds of digital photos and videos. With Windows, there can be many
    hidden — and unneeded — files that are choking your hard drive.

    Start with the basic Windows cleanup tool


    It’s always best to start with Windows’ common maintenance tools such
    as Disk Cleanup, shown in Figure 1. In this example, I could reclaim a
    whopping 39.1GB of drive space. Selecting the Clean up system
    files button removes old dump files, log files, queued-up Windows error
    reporting logs, and previous versions files as well. For more on using
    Disk Cleanup, see the SevenForums article, “Windows 7 — Disk Cleanup — open and use.”


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    Figure 1. You get to Windows’ Disk Cleanup tool by selecting Computer
    and right-clicking the target drive. Select Properties and Disk Cleanup.


    Two simple ways to find space-wasting files


    The typical Windows system is full of large files lurking on the hard
    drive and consuming an extraordinary amount of space. Some of these you
    want to keep — others probably not. TreeSize Free (info page)
    is one of my favorite utilities for hunting down these hard-drive hogs.
    After installation, select TreeSize Free (Administrator) and let it
    scan your C drive. It produces a detailed, Explorer-like window (see
    Figure 2) of the largest to smallest folders and files. I found 60GB of
    Top Gear TV show videos (a BBC automobile show) that I can either move
    to another drive or put on my NAS storage device.

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    Figure 2. TreeSize Free helps you hunt down those folders and files that consume the most disk space.

    Another space-saving technique, as documented in MS Support article 920730,
    is to disable Windows hibernation. If you have a large amount of data
    in RAM, it will take a similar amount of space on the drive to save it
    in a hibernated state. Be aware, however, that you could lose data if
    you place the computer in hybrid sleep mode and the PC loses power.

    Trim down Windows’ system-update files


    But there’s another hidden disk hog: your operating system’s
    installation and patching contents. Windows 7 keeps a complete set of
    system files in the Windows Component Store (found at C:Windowswinsxs).
    The folder has everything needed for a full Windows installation plus
    all updates to the operating system. Decide at a later date that you
    want to install a Web server on your Windows 7 — just to play around
    with coding (hey, it could happen) — and the needed files are there in
    the component store. You may not have installed Spider Solitaire, but
    its files — and those of any other optional Windows app — are hiding in
    the component store.

    It’s the component store that lets you successfully roll back a service pack or patch to a pre-update state.

    Windows uses a technology called NTFS hard links
    to keep track of these important OS building blocks. And for the links
    to work, the component store must never be moved from the Windows
    system volume.

    Oddly, when you look at a list of these system
    files in Explorer, they appear twice their actual size. That’s because
    a file can be located in two places — the component store folder and in
    the windowssystem32 directory — both hard-linked and counted as one
    file by Explorer.

    To save some hard-drive space, Windows 7 and
    Server 2008 R2 perform an automatic background operation called
    scavenging, which removes unneeded Windows 7 components.

    Another
    way to save space is to make a service pack permanent — a process the
    scavenging feature does not do — and reclaim several gigs of drive
    space. However, once you make a service pack permanent, it cannot be removed.

    (Note:
    If you followed my advice and manually installed Windows SP1, there are
    unneeded, left-over files on your system. However, if you installed SP1
    via Windows Update, it automatically removed the unneeded files.)

    With
    that warning, and if you installed Windows 7 SP1 a few months ago and
    are comfortable making it a permanent part of your Win7 installation,
    you can run the following administrator-level command (shown in Figure
    3):

    DISM /online /Cleanup-Image /SpSuperseded

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    Figure 3. Use this command to make Win7 Service Pack 1 permanent and reclaim disk space.

    To run an admin-level command prompt, click Start/All Programs/Accessories, then right-click Command Prompt and choose Run as administrator. (Shown in Figure 4.) Now enter the command string.

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    Figure 4. Right-click Command Prompt for the option to run it as an administrator.

    Old
    Windows hands will by now be wondering about that old XP trick of
    removing system-patch folders — once the updates were installed and you
    were comfortable that they were working properly. Sorry; that doesn’t
    work in Windows 7. As noted above, Windows 7 stores all update files as
    noted in the WinSxS folder. Microsoft Support article 2592038 explicitly states that manually deleting files from the component store can cause serious problems with the OS.

    Given
    the relatively low cost of hard drives, the ultimate solution is to
    ensure you have a sufficiently sized drive — enough to account for
    growth of the WinSxS folder. Although a TechNet/The Windows Servicing
    Guy blog recommends a 40GB C: drive, my recommendation is at least 60GB to 120GB.

    One of the enduring debates is whether to have one large C:
    partition that uses the entire physical drive, or to use several
    smaller partitions. Even Window Secrets contributors debate this point.

    Having
    one partition is certainly simpler — and should alleviate the worry
    that WinSxS will fill up the main system partition. But there are some
    benefits to multiple partitions. The first is the ability to separate
    your personal data from system data. It makes it easier to move your
    documents from drive to drive or from computer to computer. Separate
    partitions also make it easier to perform system repairs and other
    maintenance tasks. If Windows needs to perform an automatic rollback,
    it could take significantly longer on a single, large partition. And
    running CHKDSK might also take longer than you’d like.

    So plan your drive space carefully and keep an eye on the C:
    drive. Running too tight on the system drive will degrade performance
    and cause problems with applications. And use TreeSize Free
    periodically to root out those forgotten monster files.



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