I recently bought a cheap Windows 10 mini PC with only 32 GB of space.

I installed it two days ago, and after the installation (more activation than installation) I had about 13 GB of free space.

A few minutes after activating the Windows instance, I enabled Windows Update, and a few hours later, I noticed that only 3 GB left.

This morning I found out that less than a GB of free space is left.

Please note that I have NOTHING installed on this computer, besides Windows and the Windows Update service (and an upgraded driver of the Intel HD graphics).

I knew it's going to be a challenge to work with only 32 GB of disk space, but I didn't expect that Windows alone takes more than 30 GB.

I have an SD slot, and I planned to use it for my files and applications, but it seems that the OS directory is not enough for the OS alone, so the question is what can I do? I have already run the disk cleanup, deleted temporary files, etc. How can I minimize the storage space consumed by Windows?

Can I move things to the SD card?

The Windows feature updates will consume approximately 3-5GB once ready to install, but the download of the feature update itself is done via Windows update and can consume a lot more in preparation for the update.

After the update you will have the old Windows directory as well as the new one. The Windows.old directory is regularly around 20Gb on a PC with a reasonable amount of software installed.

You might be able to compress your operating system files by opening an administrator cmd prompt and using the built in command

compact.exe /CompactOS:always

Which might save you a few GB of storage space once it it done.


What you can do to free up disk space after updates, particularly a feature update, is to use the Windows Disk Cleanup tool.

You can get to the tool by going to "This PC" (formerly "My Computer") in Explorer, right clicking the disk, then selecting properties and clicking the disk cleanup button.

It will spend a few moments checking what space can be freed up before opening properly.

Once it has opened look towards the bottom right of the tool for the "Clean up system files" button and click it. This will then scan again but this time the "files to delete" list will be populated with feature updates and windows update cleanup amongst others.

Hopefully that should be enough to free up sufficient space.

  • Thanks for that. I assume there is a performance penalty for the compression. How significant is it (the PC is running on ATOM CPU)? In addition - Now we are 2 days after I enabled the update, and the space is not released, so I guess we will not be in the "after the update" phase... – Matan Dec 5 at 15:45
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    @Matan in theory the penalty should be minimal, as you are trading slow read speed for some increase in CPU usage. You can easily turn the feature back off with compact.exe /CompactOS:never in order to benchmark. I've also added some detail of how to use Disk Cleanup to recover some space. – Mokubai Dec 5 at 16:45
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    It's unclear if you are recommending the deletion of the Windows.old directory. – JPhi1618 Dec 5 at 19:28
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    Does this mean that if OP fills up his computer with a reasonable amount of stuff, Windows updates won't work correctly, because they won't have enough free space to do the download/install? If OP had nothing of his own on his machine, and he only had less than 1 gig left, must he always keep to under a gig then? Your suggestions help after the update. – pushkin Dec 5 at 20:48

Do you have any specific needs that require the PC to be running Windows 10? Perhaps you could instead install a lightweight Linux distro such as Lubuntu? I ask because I was in the same boat as you. Bought a super cheap Lenovo netbook with 32GB eMMC and 2GB Ram. I thought it'd be fine since my only intent was to use it for browser based items.

However, the Windows update process was always consuming ALL of the 32gb of space but still never enough space to actually do the update. That combined with the limited ram meant the thing moved like a slug.

I tried many of the techniques mentioned in other answers here. But eventually got tired of constantly fighting the battle and decided I didn't need Windows 10 on this machine. I wiped Windows and installed Lubuntu. It's been great, meets my needs for this machine, and it runs much better now.

  • Yes. I also have a raspberry pi which handles the linux stuff... I need it in order to run applications and services that runs only on windows. – Matan Dec 5 at 21:01
  • +1. Did a similar thing last week on my tablet as it simply refuses to upgrade to 1803, was surprised that Ubuntu actually has fair hardware compatibility after minor tweaking. OP has a point though, there are usecases that just can't be satisfied by Linux distros. – Andy Yan Dec 6 at 3:02

It seems likely that this is a feature update which requires at least 16GB free space.

I've been keeping a 32GB HP Stream 7 going for a while. The best way to install a feature update on something this size is to do a clean install. The procedure I use is this:

  • When a feature upgrade is announced set the internet connection to metered to prevent it being downloaded in the background.
  • On a better provisioned computer, use the Media Creation Tool to make an installation USB drive.
  • Download drivers from the manufacturer's website to a USB drive in case Windows doesn't include them all.
  • Save all the data you need to keep on the 32GB device to an external drive or OneDrive, for example.
  • Boot from the USB drive.
  • Choose Custom Install and delete all partitions.
  • Install Windows.
  • Run Windows Update. If there are still any drivers missing install them from the ones you downloaded.
  • Reinstall any programs.
  • Restore data.
  • On the other computer I have windows 10 pro so I'm not sure I can use it to create the USB drive. In addition, what should I do with the license? If I create the drive on a different computer? – Matan Dec 5 at 21:02
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    @Matan It's fine. The downloaded version is good for Home and Pro. It will get activated either from the BIOS or via your Microsoft Account. – David Marshall Dec 5 at 23:47
  • Thanks! Can you please let me know how to do that? – Matan Dec 6 at 11:51
  • @Matan You don't have to do anything. It happens automatically. If you get asked for a key during installation, just skip it. – David Marshall 2 days ago

As noted by @spikey_richie, the likely culprit is your winsxs or (Windows Side-by-Side directory). Every patch or update that happens on the system gets duplicated and stored in this directory. It is Windows way to provide rapid roll-back of a patch or update in case of error/component failure. It can get very large (dozens of GBs) and grows over time.

Here are some very complete referenes talking about why it happens and how to resolve the size. This removal of older files is fine, unless you have system issues because removing the system backup will limit your ability to recover or roll back to a known-good state.

https://www.tenforums.com/tutorials/82643-clean-up-component-store-winsxs-folder-windows-10-a.html

https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/askpfeplat/2013/10/08/breaking-news-reduce-the-size-of-the-winsxs-directory-and-free-up-disk-space-with-a-new-update-for-windows-7-sp1-clients/

Edit: You should have about 100GB for the C:\ volume if you don't want to manage it manually just for Windows. That number grows if you install 3rd party apps to C:\ as well.

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    Could you perhaps summarize the steps outlined in the link(s) that solve the problem? Otherwise if the links go down your answer has little value to future users with the same problem. – Saaru Lindestøkke Dec 5 at 14:39
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    Thanks! I will try it. I did not understand the comment regarding the 100GB in C: - What do you mean by "if you don't want to manage it manually just for windows"? This PC has only 32gb, so it sounds like a relevant comment... – Matan Dec 5 at 15:56

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