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Windows Directory Statistics

Most computers today are built with 500GB hard drives and larger, yet we keep finding ways to fill them to capacity. We collect movies, music, pictures and other large files as if there is no limit to what our computers can store then we are surprised when Windows starts telling us that we are running out of space on our C: drive. Or maybe it's that your nightly backups are failing because they are now too large to fit on your external drive any more. Whatever the case, if you need to clean up some disk space, I have a tool for you.

It's called "Windows Directory Statistics" or "WinDirStat" for short. It is a great little utility designed to show you in both a tree view and a graphical view what is consuming your hard drive space. I use WinDirStat most often when I have a client's server running out of disk space or their backups have gotten so large they are taking too long to run. Knowing that their typical user will not have much disk space to work with, the WinDirStat folks made it tiny. It takes up less than 1MB of disk space.

To install WinDirStat, visit http://windirstat.info/wds_current_setup.exe in your browser. Run the download and step through the simple installation wizard.

Run the WinDirStat program and choose "Individual Drives". Select your C: drive or other drive that is full and click OK. WinDirStat will begin scanning your drive. This process may take several minutes depending on how many files you have and how fast your computer is.

When the scan is complete, you will see three main sections on the screen. At the top left is the folder tree view. This list displays the largest folders at the top. When you click to open a folder, its subfolders are then listed with the largest one at the top. The folder sizes are to the right of the folder names. This view allows you to quickly see which folders are consuming the most space. You can select folders and files and delete them from here.

The file type view on the right side of the screen shows how much drive capacity is being consumed by each file type starting with the largest at the top. This view may quickly show you that your problem is a large cache of music or downloaded movies. If you click on a file type here, it will highlight the graphical area at the bottom to show you all the file blocks of the selected type.

The large graphic at the bottom shows a block for each individual file. The size of the block is relative to the size of the file. The color of the block is relative to the file type. One large block represents one large file. Many small blocks together represent a folder full of smaller files. Click on a block to jump to that file in the folder tree list above.

You can use this utility to quickly find files you didn't know existed on the drive. Maybe its movies the kids have hidden away under a maze of subfolders or a 3 year old email archive you thought you had deleted. Whatever it is you need to clean up, WinDirStat will help you find it quickly and easily.

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Posted by Charles Swihart on 1/1/2012

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