Where does my space on the system drive go?

By Valor
May 24, 2011
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  1. I have been having a very annoying problem for almost a year now. I never bothered much with it but its getting to the point where I need to figure out whats going on.

    I have two internal hard drives. Each hard drive has two partitions. The problem is the system partition (where Windows XP is on). After a week of having the computer on (or longer) the space on the partition is getting smaller and smaller. Although I didnt install anything or stored any data. Sometimes when I clear the Firefox cache it helps to clean the space up a bit but never completely. Same thing with rebooting. That sometimes gets rid of some of that "ominous space" but sometimes it doesnt at all. So I always end up dragging some non-system files from the system partition on to another partition to clear up the space. But Im running out of storage room! The system partition would have 1GB free space again but after a few days it will show only 300MB or so. When it gets under 200MB it gets critical. Where does this occupied space come from?

    I have gone through all the folders on the system drive, including temp and hidden ones. And I just cant figure out where this huge amount of "ominous files" is located. By this time there should be 5 GB or so worth of "ominous data". What could this be? I was thinking maybe the virtual memory file (pagefile.sys?). But when I check its size its nothing like "5GB" or anything. And if it was just the virtual memory, shouldnt I get all my "5GB" back once the computer restarts? Also, I have the virtual memory spread out among all four partitions (between 200-1000MB) so I dont get it.

    Any help is appreciated! Thanks.
  2. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,292   +44

    Downoad and install this http://www.jam-software.com/treesize_free/ or http://www.snapfiles.com/get/treesize.html which will give you a clear picture of where a lot of hidden files may be accumulating. The most common reason for such invisible space usage is many restore points. Or sometimes memory dumps if you suffer a lot of errors.

    You can control memory dumps and space available for system restore, both from the System properties panel (advanced tab and System restore tab respectively)
  3. Valor

    Valor Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 69

    Hmm, so youre suggesting I should turn off system restore? I only have it activated on the system partition....not sure I would like that. However it never really seems to help much anyhow so I may be willing to give that a try.

    I do remember doing something with the memory dump settings a couple of years back...do you mean "minidumps"? Ok, I just turned them off. However when I go into the "minidump" folder where they should have been written to all these years, it is completely empty. Are you talking about something else? Thanks.
  4. Valor

    Valor Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 69

    Btw, my computer has been running very smooth these past years (no BSODs or anything) so actually, having no minidumps there seems right.
  5. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,292   +44

    Whilst there is some truth in that :) I am saying control the space it is allowed, not turn it off entirely. There is a slider for % of HDD and a translation into Mb which is more understandable. I have 4% or 850Mb which seems to allow room for 3 system restore points, which seems ok. I could turn it off, but never bother. I always take an actual drive image for backup before each monthly MS bug-fix (aka update Tuesday) which is a better and safer way of doing things.

    Then go help and support, disk cleanup .. more options tab and clear all but the last system restore.

    BTW apart from the inevitable download caches, one more disturbing thing that can absorb space is actual NTFS faults. A thorough check is advisable.

    chkdsk /f

    if any faults appear to be corrected (or reported uncorrectable) you should try chkdsk /r or simply replace the drive. Warning. Needs a reboot to run and can take hours. You might also benefit from defragmentation, but that will often fail to complete or take days if there is as little room on the drive as you seem to have.

    All-in-all, your best approach is a new, bigger drive.
  6. Valor

    Valor Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 69

    Thanks for all your help, gbhall. I did do disk cleanup and also removed the system restore points. All in all that removed about 300 MB worth of space. Not bad but it doesnt account for all the mystery storage. I did go into system restore space allocation and lo and behold it was set to 12% (which was like 12GB!) and set it to 1% (1GB). Oddly enough that didnt free any space though. Maybe upon reboot?

    Again, could you clarify regarding memory dumps and mini dumps? Maybe theres another memory dump folder that Im not aware of...
  7. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,292   +44

    I already suggested how you could actually see what is occupying space....treeview
  8. g4mer

    g4mer TechSpot Enthusiast Posts: 340

    Best program i found for finding hidden files is SpaceSniffer or maybe Treeview. Also, check you paging flie size. I takes lots of space sometimes. More paging size means less space.
  9. red1776

    red1776 Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe Posts: 5,847   +64

    after you download that , check out win.sxs files. secondly how many restore points/HDD space do you have set?
    Just a couple ideas.
  10. Valor

    Valor Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 69

    TreeSize just saved my life! What an awesome program. Thanks ya'll!

    LOL, you wouldnt believe where I found the culprit...I dont think I would have ever thought of this. Anyone here familar with PeerGuardian? Basically its an IP blocker. It creates a history database where it logs all connections, allowed and blocked. Since I never cleared it or was aware of this process A LOT accumulated over the years...it was up to 25GB!! Yep, thats right...25GB!

    I cleared the database now and changed a few logging settings. Woohoo, 25GB new free space! :grinthumb
  11. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,292   +44

    yes, unexpected logfiles - hard to remember those when you cant see them.....when people ask for 'why is my space filling up?' treesize is always my first recommendation (check post#2 - 2 weeks ago)


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