Something is eating up my disk space as I watch. What should I do?
January 3, 2009 5:03 PM   Subscribe

Something is eating up my disk space as I watch. What should I do? (somewhat urgent)

I'm not by any means a computer expert, please keep this in mind in your responses.
I have a 60 GB Acer Laptop running Vista. In the last hour my free space has gone from >2 Gb to 1.37GB. I haven't done anything during this time except browse the internet. I have already received a warning about low disk space. This scares me because that's what computers say before they die. Being concerned, I started scanning my computer for viruses. I use AVG Anti-Virus Free. Is there anything else I can/should do?
posted by Gor-ella to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Delete your temporary internet files, reboot. If you're watching videos or something, it could be storing them.
posted by mhuckaba at 5:05 PM on January 3, 2009

Could also be swap. You may have an application eating up memory (If Windows, possibly your web browser or exporer.exe). Ctrl-alt-tab to bring up the process list, and look for anything gobbling up 500MB+ of memory.
posted by zippy at 5:08 PM on January 3, 2009

Definitely reboot, as said above. Any runaway process should stop. Grab WinDirStat afterwards to find where all your diskspace has gone. Of course, feel free to start deleting anything that looks strange.

I doubt this is malware, but take all the normal precautions anyway.
posted by mad bomber what bombs at midnight at 5:18 PM on January 3, 2009

Could also be Vista's Shadow Volume Copy: generally, what happens when you're down to your last 5% or so of disk space is that there's the potential for a tailspin with swap, memory-leaks and the shadow volume stuff.

See if there's anything that you can offload, delete the temp files, install WinDirStat and see if there's any big useless stuff hiding on the drive.
posted by holgate at 5:20 PM on January 3, 2009

Install SpaceMonger, which will show you where the biggest files are. Delete unwanted big files until you have at least 20% free disk space.
posted by flabdablet at 5:20 PM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Open the explorer, right-click your drive and choose "properties". In the popup, click "disk cleanup" and let it search for useless crap. The other day I did this and found out I had more than 4 gigabytes of old temp files in hidden directories.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:21 PM on January 3, 2009

Filemon shows you what is using the disk right now. You should always have at least 20% of the disk free. If your machine only had 2gb free this morning and is down to 1.3, well, thats normal in the world of windows. There are a lot of logs written and caching done. You can use the application flabdablet mentioned to clean out your drive, but be careful to not delete any system files or the swap file.
posted by damn dirty ape at 5:49 PM on January 3, 2009

Do you have any sort of screen capture video software installed? If so, check to make sure it isn't running.
posted by nomisxid at 6:05 PM on January 3, 2009

60 GB Acer Laptop running Vista

Seriously? The fix might be a small investment.
posted by SirStan at 6:07 PM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

The download link for the old, free version of SpaceMonger just redirects to the new version now, but I found it here as well.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:23 PM on January 3, 2009

I like CCleaner myself. You'd be amazed how much worthless shit gets accumulated.
posted by kbanas at 6:38 PM on January 3, 2009

i'm going to have to disagree with SirStan. Unless you carry a bunch of x264 blu-ray rips around on your laptop, 60GB is more than enough.

At a guess, your OS should take no more than 5GB. The rest is yours to play with.
posted by mad bomber what bombs at midnight at 7:06 PM on January 3, 2009

"At a guess, your OS should take no more than 5GB" seems to be an underestimate for Vista, which likes to use 12 - 20 GB in my experience. But yes, unless you have a LOT of stuff, 60 GB is enough for "normal" use.

Scanner (freeware) is a great tool for looking at disk consumption, with the data presented much more intuitively than WinDirStat for example.

Running with under 2 GB free is not viable in the longer term. Windows needs more free space, for temp files, etc. 20% free is good. Clear out some of your hard drive.

Fwiw last week I found Dropbox eating several GB of my hard drive, by writing temporary files into the Application Data directory. (On Windows XP that's under Documents and Settings; it's somewhere else on Vista and I can't check just now -- open %appdata% in Explorer to look there.) If you have Dropbox installed, check that you're not storing more than a GB or so.
posted by airplain at 8:22 PM on January 3, 2009

second Filemon. you want to see what program is eating up the disk space.
posted by kenliu at 9:07 PM on January 3, 2009

A friend had this happen to him. In his case it was because he was inadvertently invoking Fraps' record video ability.
posted by alex_reno at 11:34 PM on January 3, 2009

Thirding Filemon.
posted by phrayzee at 2:16 PM on January 4, 2009

Have Vista delete all but your most recent restore point. Adjust the percentage of your drive that the recycling bin reserves. Disable hibernation if you don't use it.
posted by PueExMachina at 2:18 PM on January 4, 2009

Thank you everyone about the responses and sorry about the silence from my end. My computer has stopped acting like a crackhead. I ended up moving a bunch of "stuff" to an external hard drive. My biggest worry was that the memory was changing before my eyes. I guess that is normal depending on what programs are running.
posted by Gor-ella at 10:09 AM on February 26, 2009

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