How to Check Free Hard Drive Space in Windows

Here's how to find your drive's capacity, used space, or free space

What to Know

  • Checking free space on a drive is helpful if you suspect it's filling up or you're getting random error messages.
  • Head to This PC, Computer, or My Computer (depending on your OS), find the drive, right-click, and choose Properties.
  • Follow the same steps for hard drives as well as network drives and external drives like flash drives.

You can't just add stuff to a drive forever, be it your main hard drive, the little flash drive in your pocket, or the giant external hard drive on your desk.

Even an arguably humongous 16 TB hard disk has a limit: 16 TB! As crazy as it sounds, it, too, can fill up. True, it'll take two million high-quality photos to do it, but "only" about 150 feature-length 4K movies.

Performance Suffers on a Full Hard Drive

Regardless, you get the idea—you may need to check the free space on a drive from time to time, especially if it starts to slow down or act funny, which is very often the not-so-clear consequence of too much stuff in a single place.

Unfortunately, especially in Windows operating systems, you don't get a friendly "Hey, your hard drive is almost full!" warning. Instead, you get strange behavior, cryptic error messages, or serious problems like BSODs.

How to Check Free Hard Drive Space in Windows

Fortunately, it's super easy to check how much free space you have on any of your drives, and it only takes a minute or two.

PC monitor showing Used and Free Disk space
Maddy Price / Lifewire 

These steps work for Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP.

  1. In Windows 10, select the Start button, followed by File Explorer (the small folder icon). If you don't see it, check under the Windows System folder or type file explorer into the search box.

    In Windows 8 or Windows 10, search for this pc and then select This PC.

    In Windows 7 or Windows Vista, select the Start button, followed by Computer.

    In Windows XP, go to Start and then My Computer.

    See What version of Windows do I have? if you're not sure which you're using.

  2. On the left-hand side of File Explorer or Windows Explorer (depending on your version of Windows), make sure This PC, Computer, or My Computer is selected (again, based on your version of Windows).

    This PC highlighted in left pane of a Windows 10 window

    If you don't see anything on the left side of this screen, open the View menu and enable the Navigation pane. In older versions of Windows, go instead to Organize > Layout > Navigation Pane (7 and Vista), or View > Explorer Bar > Folders (XP).

  3. On the right-hand side, find the drive on which you want to know how much free space is left.

    Windows C: drive showing free space in File Explorer

    In Windows 10 & 8, all storage devices are listed in the Devices and drives area. In Windows 7, Vista, and XP, Hard Disk Drives and Devices with Removable Storage are listed separately.

  4. In newer versions of Windows, you can see right under the drive listing how much free space is left on it, as well as the total size of the drive, in a format like this:

    Local Disk (C:)
    [storage space indicator]
    49.0 GB free of 118 GB

    If that's all you need to know then you're done! However, there is a bit more information about your drive's capacity buried just a bit deeper:

  5. To see more, right-click or tap-and-hold the drive you want more storage space information on, and then choose Properties.

    Properties right-click menu item in Windows 10
  6. In the General tab, you'll see all the important details about the storage device you're looking at, reported in bytes as well as rounded space included:

    • Used space: This is the sum total of every piece of data on this device.
    • Free space: This is the difference in the total formatted capacity of the device and the sum total of every piece of data being stored on it. This number indicates how much more storage you're allowed to fill.
    • Capacity: This is the total formatted capacity of the drive.
    • Also there is a pie graph, showing used vs free space on the drive, helpful for visualizing how much space you're using on this hard drive or other device.
    Windows C: drive properties window showing free space in bytes and GB

You should now know exactly how much hard drive space is available on your computer. If you're running low, delete files you don't need or move them to a different hard drive that has more free space.

How to Check Free Hard Drive Space Using Command Prompt

Another way to check free space is with Command Prompt. The results aren't as easy to read because the values are represented in bytes instead of gigabytes, but it's still possible with this command:

wmic logicaldisk get size,freespace,caption
wmic free space command in Windows 10

How Much Free Space Do You Need?

Microsoft has historically recommended that to avoid problems, you should leave at least 100 MB of free space on whatever drive you have Windows installed on. However, because we've seen problems at levels higher than 100 MB, we have always recommended 10 percent free space instead.

Calculate 10 Percent Free Space on Windows PC

To calculate 10 percent free space, just take the number next to Capacity from Step 6 and move the decimal to the left one space. For example, if the hard drive you're viewing has a total capacity of 80.0 GB, moving the decimal one space to the left makes it 8.0 GB, meaning that you shouldn't let the free space drop below that for that particular device.

Examine Types of Files Taking Up Storage Space

In Windows 10, much more detail about what sorts of files are using up your drive's capacity can be found in Settings > System > Storage. Just choose a drive you're interested in and Windows will analyze it, breaking it down into categories like System & reserved, Temporary files, Apps & features, Pictures, and more.

There are also several free disk space analyzer tools you can download for Windows 10 and older versions of Windows, that'll show you which files and folders are occupying the most space.

In any version of Windows, choosing Disk Cleanup from the drive's properties (Step 6 above) will start the Disk Cleanup utility, a one-stop-shop for removing files that are no longer needed by Windows.

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