While modern Macs and PCs may come with expansive storage capabilities, that’s not always the case. Certainly, a move to solid-state drives (SSDs) and away from traditional platter drives with their larger formats can create space issues. But the main problem is with older PCs or Macs that originally came with smaller capacity systems and were never upgraded. When you’re having a system slowdown or a problem booting into the Mac OS or Windows OS, then you might need to free up disk space.
The Trouble with Startup Drives/C Drives
It is not always as easy as you’d imagine knowing when your hard drive or SSD is almost out of space. This is because the system stores temporary files and page swap files in place of available RAM to store current files, and it does other things that cause the available storage to fluctuate. This happens both with the Mac Startup disk and the Windows C drive usually used for booting up.
How to Spot When a Disk is Getting Full
One good way to see if your system is becoming clogged up with files is when it begins to slow down noticeably. While this may happen to an older PC or a Mac with an OS that hasn’t been freshly installed in years, it probably doesn’t improve after a restart or reboot either. While this can be caused by several unrelated things, it should trigger you to at least check about available space.
One way to view the available space is to move the mouse cursor up to the Apple logo (it’s in the top-left on the desktop), select it, and move it down to “About This Mac.” This feature provides some useful basic information. Access the “Utilities” folder next and look up the “Disk Utility” to load that up. The Disk Utility will give you a basic rundown on your storage capabilities and the storage remaining.
On the Windows systems, usually selecting the “My Computer” icon on the desktop or the “Windows Key + E” will bring up the “This PC” app. This typically happens quite quickly unless your PC is overloaded. The “This PC” Explorer displays the capacity of each located storage system and the available space for each. There’s a bar chart to quickly indicate the percentage and it shows in a harsh red color when the drive is dangerously low on available space.
What to Do on a Nearly Full Mac System
The “About This Mac” feature is a great starting point. It provides a rudimentary rundown of what you’re looking at. By selecting the Storage tab in the middle of the uppermost options, the information changes to provide a breakdown of the storage available and how it’s currently being used. When your disk is almost full, Mac systems benefit from going through a complete system cleaning process. One of the culprits is additional apps that take up space. When they’re malicious, they can expand the storage that they’re taking up. For this reason, it’s best to remove them and use a controlled environment for app installations, such as Setapp. Setapp provide a curated list of safe apps to reduce wasteful space used by unnecessary ones while keeping users safer on their Mac and iOS devices too. You can find out the best steps to take when your disk is almost full mac by reading their blog.
What to Do on a Nearly Full Windows System
On the latest Windows 10, there are a few ways to go about finding more space. The taskbar will have “File Explorer” and “This PC,” to see what you’re working with.
Storage Sense is a new feature in Windows 10 that can help to clean up the drives. You can access it via the Start button, and the clicking “Settings,” “System,” and “Storage.” Clicking on the “Temporary Files” can show the short-term files that are taking up space. Most of these can be deleted as they’re kept from one bootup session to the next despite no longer being required.
The Disk Cleanup utility built into Windows 10 makes short work of finding additional free space on your system. Access it by clicking the Window button and typing: “disk cleanup.”
From here, it’s possible to:
- Clean downloaded program executables
- Clear temporary internet cache files
- Remove graphical thumbnails
There is also the option to “Clean up system files.” Care should be taken here to avoid removing anything important to the smooth operation of the Windows 10 OS.
Going Beyond Using Utilities to Clean Up the Drives
When storing files on the system drive, either due to convenience or because you only have one storage device, it limits your options. Being able to offload infrequently used files to an external drive, it’s possible to leave more free space to run the operating system.
Certainly, with Windows, additional space allows the swap file to expand its storage to what Windows feels is necessary for smooth operations. Similarly, a Mac system is not well-managed when constrained by space limitations either.
When working your way through what’s stored on the existing drive to delete personal files that are no longer needed, back them up to a secondary drive, or upload them to the cloud. Whatever you can do to fix a low storage warning on a system drive is worthwhile. No operating system functions properly when starved of free space.
Other Options to Clean Space
In a situation where you’re really struggling and the hard drive or SSD is just too small for what’s required, then you need to look at alternative strategies. Certainly, it’s possible to lower the maximum size of the swap file within Windows 10 to better control how much space is used. By reducing the allocated virtual memory, Windows will adjust the file size on reboot, and this will free up space on the drive. It may slow your computer down a little, but that’s the best you can do for now.
With a Mac, the swap file size is automatically managed by the OS and so it’s not usually possible to tweak it.
Finding more space on the startup drive is possible for Mac and PC users. Replacing a smaller drive with a faster, larger one and cloning the existing drive is a medium-term solution worth exploring. Meanwhile, tackle the immediate issue by following some suggestions above to free up enough storage to get the OS running better again.