Where has my hard disk space gone?

It always happens eventually. I’ve had my latest laptop for about a year, and the other day I got that dreaded message that my hard drive was almost full. I’ve used various tools in the past to analyse where the space has gone, but the latest one I have found beats them all by a mile.

WinDirStat is a free Windows disk analysis tool. You tell it which drive(s) to analyse and it quickly gets to work, eventually producing a three pane output of results.

Pane 1 (top left of the screen) is a list of your top level directories ordered with the largest first (though you can change the sort order if somthing else is more useful to you). Clicking the [+] beside an entry opens up the next level down, again ordered by size. This is a great way to find the biggest directories on your hard drive. It’s amazing how many big directories you can simply remove all together. You can delete directly from this pane, either deleting to the Recycling bin or deleting permanently.

Pane 2 (top right of the screen) lists file types and the amount of space occupied by each type. Again, this is ordered by space occupied and you can change the sort order. So now I know that 17% of my hard drive is filled with Outlook data files. I’m not going to simply remove those files, but that lets me know that there is scope to save significant space if I can go into Outlook and purge some old emails.

The third pane (at the bottom of the screen) is a graphical representation of the hard drive. Each file is represented by a rectangle. The larger the file, the larger the rectangle (though I don’t know if the smallest files are ignored or aggregated into a rectangle together). The rectangles are colour coded by file type. Clicking on a rectangle opens the entry in the first pane, so that you can see the details of the file; Clicking on a directory or file in the first pane highlights it on the third pane.

Great tool, great UI. Did exactly what I needed. Highly recommended.

A final thought, it’s almost worth getting just to see the Pacman style progress bars as it chomps its way through your hard drive, analysing what is where!