Where is my free disk space hiding?
June 17, 2006 4:13 AM   Subscribe

What happened to my disk space?

I have a 120 gig hard drive. I have about 15 gigs of free space left. I have a sum total of about 17 gigs of data and programs loaded onto it. I vaguely recall starting out at about 20 gigs on my last clean install. That leaves 60+gigs unaccounted for. Where the hell is it?
posted by zorro astor to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
What's your exact operating system and how old is your computer/motherboard?
posted by onalark at 4:22 AM on June 17, 2006

Formatted correctly?
posted by vanoakenfold at 4:22 AM on June 17, 2006

Open up your Logical Disk manager. (Start -> Control Panel -> Administrative Tools -> Computer Management, under the Storage tree option.)

Select your drive letter in question to see the true partition sizes, and note if there is any free space remaining. (Some may have been left unpartitioned.)

Furthermore, consider trying out SizeExplorer, a shareware (cheap, with free trial) application that visually graphs out your storage usage in each folder. Start at the root and work your way down to see where the offending parties may be.

If you partitioned it incorrectly, you may be able to create a partition to make use of the space using the disk manager itself or a third-party tool like Partition Magic, but beware—altering partition tables is the devil's work, and you could easily lose access to your data.
posted by disillusioned at 4:25 AM on June 17, 2006

MOS = windows XP pro. The computer is about 3 years old.
posted by zorro astor at 4:43 AM on June 17, 2006

Oops I meant simply "OS"
posted by zorro astor at 4:43 AM on June 17, 2006

  1. Realize that with default settings, Explorer does not show all files, and many things such as the page file and system restore points will not show up as taking up any space, though they do.
  2. Run the Disk Cleanup Wizard (under Accessories - System Tools.)
  3. Try a treemap-based program such as WinDirStat or SequoiaView.

posted by Rhomboid at 5:07 AM on June 17, 2006

I second SequoiaView. It's the easiest way of seeing how space is taken up on your disk. Files are represented as rectangles, with the size of the rectangle representing the size of the file on disk. Rectangles are nested within larger rectangles representing folders.

You can instantly see if there is a 20gb file hidden away somewhere, of if there is a folder containing several thousand smaller files that together take up loads of space.

I have a 120 gig hard drive.

When you go to My Computer and click on the drive, what does the "disk size" appear as in the left-hand bar? Does it say ~120g? If not, it may be a partitioning problem, as others have indicated.
posted by Jimbob at 5:21 AM on June 17, 2006

Did you install, even on a trial basis, some form of encryption software? These often work by seizing control of a defined area of hard disk real estate and making it invisible. After an uninstall, the cloak of invisibility may remain.
posted by megatherium at 5:58 AM on June 17, 2006

You need SpaceMonger. Similar idea to Sequoia View etc. but makes better use of color.

Also, open a Windows Explorer window, and go to Tools->Folder Options->View, and turn on the display of hidden files. You might be surprised what turns up.
posted by flabdablet at 7:21 AM on June 17, 2006

Bravo. Sequoia View is great.
posted by zorro astor at 8:13 AM on June 17, 2006

I see what the problem is. I have tons of progs, multimedia etc, all of which I keep in my My Documents folder. Problem is that windows explorer is showing them as taking up less space than they actually are. I'll just buy a backup hard drive.

Thanks all.
posted by zorro astor at 8:18 AM on June 17, 2006

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