Who Eats Your Disk Space & How to Find Out?

Let me start with a question – do you remember such a storage device as floppy disk? Though not so much time passed many of us cannot even imagine how people could use 1MB data storage devices.

If someone had told us that in just a half dozen or so years our desktop PCs would be equipped with 1TB hard drives, I bet, we simply would not have believed it possible in a foreseeable future.

In the days of floppy disks, the average hard drive was no larger than 75 GB – maximum possible capacity in 2000 was about 137 GB. Of course, in those days the disk space was at a premium and people were watching carefully what data and how much they stored.

No doubt, now times have changed and people are no longer surprised by high capacity storage devices of, say, dozens of terabytes. It may seem that the problem of disk space monitoring no longer exists.

Disk Space Usage

However, it’s not all that easy and there are still situations where it is important to know how your disk space is used. Let’s discuss some of them.

Who eats my Disk Space

Laptops

On the one hand, there are laptops equipped with a 1TB hard drive; on the other hand, only a three year old laptop has a 350 GB hard drive. So for sure there are many laptop owners who know firsthand about disk space usage issue.

SSD

Solid State Drive (SSD for short), a relatively recent invention, can be thought of as a memory card of large capacity. In a simplified comparison a regular hard drive, an SSD gives an order of magnitude greater read and write speed.

Such drives have the only drawback which is the price per gigabyte of storage. So, typically people use SSDs of less than 256 GB. This means that those who use SSDs in their computers should keep an eye on how disk space is used as well.

Regular Hard Drives

It would seem that with a 1TB hard drive you can forget about disk space usage issue. However, the paradox is that having a TB hard drive ten years ago and having it now are not the same thing.

At that time, you would need an eternity to fill it up with data. Nowadays, you can easily download dozens of gigabytes in just one evening.

It is not surprising that the growth of the amount of data stored on our devices doesn’t lag behind growth in storage capacity.

Let’s digress for a moment from the storage devices and look at clothing. For the last 50 years, the average home in USA has changed from 983 square feet to 2,349 square feet resulting in the growth of clothing a person owned. Simply put, the more our wardrobe, the more clothing we are trying to put there. Sounds familiar?

In addition to the growth in the number of files and folders stored on a PC, the average size of a file is steadily increasing as well. Thus, the resolution of many devices producing digital content like camcorder or camera has increased significantly leading to an increase in the average size of a multimedia file. Not for me to say, the share of multimedia files on the average PC is quite high.

Phones, Tablets, And The Like

Memory of a regular phone is not that big as compared to, say, the capacity of a regular hard drive. Nevertheless, we have plenty of data to store on it – images, music, apps, text messages. This means that the phone owners need to monitor disk space usage on a regular basis.

The same can be said about those who use tablets and other modern gadgets.

How To Reveal Disk Space Eaters?

Sometimes, it is difficult to detect which files of the thousands available take up the most disk space. For example, this can be a single file buried in the bowels of the folder tree. You once saved it and then it happened the file became unnecessary but you forgot to delete it, and now this file just eats your disk space.

To reveal such disk space eaters you need to use a special disk space visualization tool. Note that such tools have come to us from those days when every megabyte counted. You may ask what is the difference between the software and usual Windows Explorer which provides a user all the information about files and folders on a PC?

The difference is in the way the information is presented. It has long been known that people are much more receptive to images than to boring numbers. This rule is at the heart of disk space visualization software.

At the moment, there are both paid and free disk space visualization tools. Among the freeware I like the following:

  • Zero Assumption Disk Space Visualizer – very easy to use and I like the way files and folders are displayed.
  • WinDirStat – more complicated, plenty of settings, more suitable for system administrators who have to oversee several PCs.

It is very easy to use such software. All you need is to download, install, launch the software, specify a device for analysis, and wait until the software finishes its work and reveals the disk space eaters.

However, don’t expect to get the results quickly. It usually takes these tools a long time to analyze the device because they have to scan all files and folders. The more disk capacity, the longer you should wait.

Below is what Zero Assumption Disk Space Visualizer displayed for one of my drives.

Zero Assumption Disk Space Visualizer Sample

Looking at this, I immediately found out the folder named “TT” with the share of approximately 15%. It turned out that the folder contains files I no longer need which I have simply forgotten to delete.

Elena Pakhomova works with ReclaiMe, specializing in data recovery solutions for storage devices from MicroSD to Bigfoot hard drive, you name it.

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