How to Use Storage Sense, an Alternative to Disk Cleanup in Windows

Go to Windows Storage Settings and turn on Storage Sense to delete files you don't need

What to Know

  • Go to Windows Settings by pressing Win+I. Select System > Storage.
  • Turn on the slider for Storage Sense and select it.
  • In Windows 10, select the items to delete and choose Remove Files. Windows 11 deletes files automatically.

This article explains how to free up space on your Windows computer using an alternative to Disk Cleanup. The instructions apply to Windows 11 and Windows 10.

How to Clean Up Windows With the Storage Sense Tool

Clean up the files on your Windows PC and free up storage space on your hard drive with the Storage Sense tool. The tool deletes temporary files, system log files, previous Windows update install files, and other files Windows doesn’t need.

In the April 2018 Windows Update, Microsoft deprecated the Disk Cleanup utility and replaced it with the Storage Sense tool, which searches a computer hard drive for files the operating system doesn’t need. Here's how to use it.

  1. Select Start > Settings or press Win+I to open Windows settings.

    Windows icon and Settings highlighted in the Start Menu on Windows 11
  2. Make sure Systems is selected on the left side, then select Storage.

    Storage highlighted in Windows 11 System Settings
  3. Turn on the toggle switch next to Storage Sense, then select it.

    Storage Sense and On toggle highlighted in Windows 11 Settings
  4. In Windows 11, select Run Storage Sense now. In Windows 10, the scan will begin immediately.

    Wait while Windows scans the computer to find files that can be removed to free up disk space.

    Run Storage Sense now highlighted in Windows 11 Settings
  5. In Windows 10, you must select which items to delete and select Remove Files. In Windows 11, files will be immediately deleted, and you'll see a message with how much space was freed up.

    'Done! We were able to free up 3.06 GB of disk space' highlighted in Windows 11 Storage Settings

How the Storage Sense Tool Works

The Storage Sense tool scans a computer disk drive for unneeded files. After these files are deleted, it frees up space on the drive. When your PC is running low on storage space, this tool quickly creates the extra space you need.

When the Storage Sense tool scans your computer, it may find several types of files. Windows 10 gives you the option to choose which files to delete:

  • Windows upgrade log files: If the PC is having problems after an upgrade, don't delete the Windows upgrade log files. These files may contain important troubleshooting information.
  • System created Windows error reporting files: In most cases, it’s safe to delete these files. However, if the computer is having problems, you’ll need these files to uninstall updates.
  • Windows Defender Antivirus files: These are temporary files and deleting them doesn't affect the applications installed on the computer.
  • Windows Update Cleanup files: These files are left over after a Windows update. If the computer operates fine, delete these files. If the computer has problems, you’ll need these to reverse any Windows updates.
  • Thumbnails: Thumbnails are the small preview images for files and folders that appear in Windows File Explorer. These thumbnails are stored in a cache database so you can quickly preview a file. Deleting thumbnails frees up disk space, but they'll take time to download the next time you browse your files.
  • Temporary Windows installation files: These files contain older Windows installations. If you don’t need to roll Windows back to a previous version, it’s safe to delete these files.
  • Temporary files: Temporary files slow down the computer. Before you delete these files, close all apps. Apps create temporary files to process data while the app is open. These temporary files go away when the app is closed.
  • Recycle Bin: Before you delete the contents of the Recycle Bin, recover any needed files first.
  • OneDrive files: If you sync your OneDrive files to your PC, your files are stored in two places. Create additional disk storage space by deleting the files on your computer and keeping those files online only. 
  • Delivery Optimization Files: Delivery Optimization files are updates your computer gets from other computers on your network. Windows clears the Delivery Optimization cache automatically but may leave residual files. These files are safe to delete.

To find out which version of Windows in on your computer, open Windows Settings, then select System > About.

  • How do I clean up RAM on Windows?

    To clear your RAM on Windows, check memory use and force quit problematic processes, remove unnecessary startup programs, clean up your background apps, clear your browser cache, turn off visual effects, and clear your page file on restart.

  • How do I clean up the Windows Registry?

    Use a Windows Registry cleaner like CCleaner or Registry Repair. Registry cleaners are programs that remove unnecessary entries from the Windows Registry that point to files that no longer exist.

  • How do I clean up startup programs in Windows?

    To change your startup programs in Windows 11, go to Settings > Apps > Startup and select the toggle next to each app to turn it On or Off. Removing unneeded startup apps can help your PC boot up faster.

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