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I have a Lenovo desktop running Win 7 with a Hitachi 1 terabyte hard drive and 8GB of RAM. I also have a WD My Passport 1T external drive running as backup. I'm now receiving messages that

the system is critically low on disk space

Here's the situation:

  • When I right-click the local disk (C:) it shows 306MB bytes free of 906GB,
  • yet when checking C: Properties there are only 87.48GB appearing:
    • Program Files = 1.13GB,
    • Program Files (x86) = 940MB,
    • Windows = 506MB,
    • Users = 84.9GB,
    • several others.

What happened to all my disk storage space, and what can I do to get it back?

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Find a copy of WinDirStat portable and run it against the drive to see what it shows you. – uSlackr Mar 5 '12 at 14:57
possible duplicate of Reclaiming disk space on Windows – Oliver Salzburg Mar 5 '12 at 15:12
possible duplicate of What's using up my disk space? – Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007 Mar 6 '12 at 1:08

I would recommend running the Disk Cleanup tool that is located in the Start / Accessories / System Tools folder. This program can identify and free disk space that can generally be released. It also reports the size of each category which will help you see if your trouble area is being identified.

You can also check your System Protection settings to see how much disk space is allowed for use by the system restore and previous versions. You can check this by Control Pannel / System / System Protection. Select the drive you want to check from the list and click the Configure button.

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Thanks tchester -- ran Disk Cleanup and recovered only 66MB of space. Per uslacker1 suggestion ran WinDirStat which verified only 124GB of 906GB space is being used. But when I check Local Disk (C:) Properties my computer tells me I've used 905GB with just 625MB of free space! I'm stuck. Which part of my machine is lying to me? – Alan in Oxford Mar 5 '12 at 16:14
Make sure you are running WinDirStat as administrator (ie, right-Click and select run as administrator) as opposed to merely being logged in as an Administrator. – sgmoore Mar 5 '12 at 16:58
Your HDD is full. WinDirStat only has access to calculate the space that your user account has access to. You cannot calculate files owned by another user. – Ramhound Mar 5 '12 at 17:39
I'm the only user. No one else has ever logged on to this machine, which is on a private network at my home. How can ANY files be owned by another user? I'll follow your advice, sgmoore, and report back. Ramhound, any other ideas?? – Alan in Oxford Mar 5 '12 at 18:28
SGMOORE -- Yes! Running WinDirStat as Administrator uncovered the problem. My drive is filled with etilqs files in my TEMP folder. Now the question is, can I safely delete them? How do I do it? Thanks so much!! – Alan in Oxford Mar 5 '12 at 18:50

A typical Windows 7 installation directory holds 15GB of data, so if you are only seeing 506MB then this indicates that your user account does not have permissions to see all the data on the disk. Checking again while logged in as an administrator should show you where the space is being taken up.

Also, if you have large hidden files taking up a lot of space, it's going to be useful to show these too. You can do this by opening Explorer and going to "Organize" > "Folder and search options" > "View" > "Show hidden files, folders and drives".

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