Tuesday, September 1, 2015

How I got my 40 GB disk-space back from Windows

I was using the utility "Piriform Defragger" to defragment my  C-drive on an older Windows Vista PC. A nice thing about Defragger is it shows you the list of files it was NOT able to defragment, for whatever reason.  This list of files also often reveals what are some very big files on the disk because those are the ones that are hard to defrag, I think. Or maybe it's because some system process has locked them up for its own use only.

So I saw there was a 15GB file in the System Volume Information folder that would not defragment. The System Volume Information folders exist for storing the System Restore snapshots, which Windows creates automatically or on demand, right?  Plus they may contain some other stuff like "shadow copies" I don't  know about.  But so it looked like System Restore was taking up 15GB of my disk, which I think is too much. Yet I had  already asked the Disk Cleanup -utility to delete all but the latest snapshot, and so it was a bit puzzling.

Here's how I solved the problem and got my disk-space back:  I disabled System Restore totally.  The 15GB file was immediately gone. I then re-enabled System Restore and created a single new restore point. The 15 GB DID NOT COME BACK!  The size of the folder System Volume Information on my C-drive  is now 400 MB.

Now do we really need that additional free space so much? Well if the disk is getting full there may not be enough free space even to defragment it any more.  At that point this trick can help.

SOLUTION 1/2:  Disable System Restore totally, temporarily.  Then re-enable it and create a new restore-point. This will often (?) delete all old restore points that somehow are still hanging around.  At least on older Windows systems.

Having realized I'd been carrying 15GB of dead weight on my C-drive,  for who knows how long I thought:  Could there perhaps be something on the D-drive as well that was taking space for no good reason?  I don't usually have the "Show Protected System Files" -option on, but since I now did, I switched to the D-drive. And I and could see it too had a System Volume Information -folder. This one turned out to be even bigger: 25 Giga-Bytes. Holy Matrimony! I had never before even suspected this kind of thing  was going on, behind my back.

So I tried the same techniques as on the C-drive and more, turning the System Protection on and off on D-drive, but it wouldn't go away.  There was no way I could delete it either, and trying to change myself to be its "owner" didn't work, access was denied. Booting to "Safe Mode" did not help. And any of the cleaning utilities I'd been deploying like "CCleaner" never once told me this wasted space, this dead weight, was there, about to sink my ship .

A DISCLAIMER: I don't necessarily recommend that you do what I describe next, what I did to solve my problem. If you do remember, you are solely responsible for your own actions.  But so I did find  a way to reclaim that further 25GB as well. But buyer beware:

SOLUTION 2/2:  I downloaded the "Knoppix Live CD" Linux -distribution from the web, burned it on a CD and rebooted the PC from that CD. Meaning I booted into Linux. After that everything was relatively easy.  I navigated to the D-drive and DELETED the System Volume Information -folder.  The Windows was not there preventing me from doing it. Windows was in deep sleep while I surgically removed this large chunk of "dead tissue" from it. I then removed the CD from the tray and rebooted again. Everything worked fine and now I have 15 + 25 Giga-Bytes more space on my PC.

This is especially good for the system-drive C:\ since it was to about run out of space, meaning it would have been difficult or impossible to defragment it any more, meaning it would have just kept on fragmenting more and thus getting ever slower. And the system-drive is where speed matters because that affects how fast your Windows reacts, starts, or even shuts down.

15 + 25 GigaBytes freed. Not a bad day :-)

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