When I want to tweak different aspects of the operating system, I generally prefer to use the built-in tools provided by Windows. Both Windows 7 and Windows 8 provide some great tools you can use. One such tool is the underrated Disk Cleanup, that allows you to free up space on your partitions and safely remove even system files that you no longer need. Let’s see how it works and why it is one of the best tools for cleaning up space in Windows.
How to Launch the Disk Cleanup in Windows 8
There are several ways to launch the Disk Cleanup application. One of the is to search for the word cleanup directly on the Start screen. Filter the results by Settings.
Then, look for the the result named "Free up disk space by deleting unnecessary files". Click or tap on it.
Another way is to open the Control Panel and go to System and Security -> Administrative Tools. There you will find the Disk Cleanup tool.
Click or tap on its shortcut to open it.
How to Launch the Disk Cleanup in Windows 7
You can open the Disk Cleanup in Windows 7 using the same Control Panel path as in Windows 8. However, there are several other ways to do it.
First, you can search for the word disk in the Start Menu’s search box.
Then, click Disk Cleanup.
Also, you can use the mouse and go to "Start Menu -> All Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> Disk Cleanup".
Alternatively, you can run the cleanmgr.exe file, found in
How to Cleanup Unnecessary Files from Windows
When you open Disk Cleanup, you are asked to select the drive you want to clean up. Click or tap the drop-down box and select the desired drive. Then, press OK.
Wait for Disk Cleanup to analyze the selected drive and display what can be cleaned up. A progress bar is shown during this process.
When done, Disk Cleanup shows the total amount of space that can be freed up. Then, in the 'Files to delete' section you see different types of files that can be deleted. This will include items such as 'Downloaded Program Files', 'Recycle Bin', 'System error' files, 'Temporary files' and others. For each category of items, you see how much space they occupy at the moment.
Select a category to see its description and what kind of files it includes. For some of the categories, Disk Cleanup allows you to view the files that can be deleted. Click or tap the "View files" button if it shows up.
Decide which files to delete by selecting their appropriate category. When done selecting everything you want deleted, click or tap OK. A confirmation message is shown. Press "Delete Files" and the cleanup process starts.
Disk Cleanup shows a progress bar similar to the one below.
When the cleanup is done, Disk Cleanup closes itself automatically. If you want to free space on another drive, you need to start the tool again and select that drive for analysis and cleanup.
Extra Cleaning - Delete Unneeded System Files & Programs
Disk Cleanup provides a hidden option that also allows you to clean system files like: previous Windows installations, Windows Defender files, Windows Update files and Windows upgrade log files that you might no longer need.
These files are not shown when performing a standard analysis for a drive. Also, such files cannot be cleaned up unless you log in as an administrator or you can provide the administrator password when requested.
First, run Disk Cleanup, select the drive you want to clean up and perform a standard analysis, as shown above.
Then click or tap "Clean up system files". You are asked again to select the drive you want to analyze. Select it and click or tap OK.
When the analysis is done, you will notice two important differences:
- The "Files to delete" list is longer and now it includes many types of system files that can be safely deleted. For example, in the screenshot below, I can delete quite a few Windows Update files that are no longer needed. The process for cleaning up the additional types of files being listed here is the same. You select the types of files you want to delete, click or tap OK and make the necessary confirmations.
- Second, there is a new tab being displayed. It is named More Options and it shares additional tools that can be used to clean up even more system files.
In the More Options tab, if you click or tap the Clean up button from the Programs and Features category, the Programs and Features window is displayed, from where you can manually remove some of your installed applications.
If you click or tap the Clean up button found in the System and Restore and Shadow Copies, you can clean up all System Restore points except the most recent one.
You are asked to confirm that you want to delete all but the most recent restore point. Click or tap Delete and, during the next system reboot, those files will be cleaned up, prior to your log in.
If you want to do some work prior to manually restarting Windows, close the Disk Cleanup window. The cleanup was scheduled the moment you pressed Delete.
Disk Cleanup is a great yet underrated tool for freeing up space on your partitions. You really don’t need any third party solutions that are likely to screw up something. Disk Cleanup works great, it is very powerful and it won’t ruin your Windows installation. Don’t hesitate to use it more often. You will love it.