How to Determine Remaining Storage Capacity on a PC Hard Drive - dummies

How to Determine Remaining Storage Capacity on a PC Hard Drive

By Dan Gookin

The stuff you create and collect on your PC’s hard drive — the primary storage device — can grow to colossal proportions. Yet while all that stuff accumulates, the hard drive itself doesn’t change from its original capacity. It’s like a closet: You can keep buying new clothes, but it doesn’t make the closet any larger.

The hard drive is the PC’s primary storage device. It’s home to three vital items:

  • The computer’s operating system: Windows

  • The software — programs and applications — that let you do things with your computer

  • Your stuff: files, documents, media, and other things you create or collect

The ideal situation is to have a hard drive that boasts a capacity to hold all three things, not only for now but also for as long as you plan to own your computer. Most people, sadly, aren’t that forward-thinking. Not only that, but the casual computer buyer also doesn’t have a clue to how much storage is enough. So they buy less than they need.

You can check on how the hard drive is doing. How much space is being used? How much space is available? How soon before you run out? These questions can be answered by following these steps:

  1. Open the Computer window.

    In Windows XP, it’s the My Computer window.

  2. Right-click the main hard drive icon and choose Properties from the shortcut menu.

    On the General tab, you see detailed information about disk usage as well as the handy purple pie chart, illustrating disk usage.


  3. Close the disk’s Properties dialog box when you’re done looking.

  4. Close the Computer/My Computer window.

The more purple you see in the pie chart, the better, because purple is the Free Space chunk of the pie. The smaller the purple slice, the sooner you’re due for a disk capacity solution.

Your options are to remove files, compress files, or compress the entire disk to recover some space. Another solution is to buy a second hard drive. The most complex solution is to replace the hard drive, though that strategy can be quite technical.

At what point do you worry? I’d say when utilization reaches 80 percent, it’s a good time to start seriously cleaning up a hard drive. Even before that point, however, you should prune away things you don’t need.

  • When hard drive storage (free space) ever falls below a certain percentage, Windows displays a warning message. If you see the message, act immediately to clean up your hard drive or install a second drive.

  • The term hard drive applies to the PC’s primary storage device. It’s known on most PCs as drive C, though it can be another drive letter or you can have multiple hard drives inside your PC.

  • The typical PC is sold with a hard drive capacity of about 300GB. That’s fine for most usage, though more is always better.

  • Perhaps the best solution for dealing with the storage situation is a hardware one: Get another hard drive, either an internal or external model. More important, use that hard drive.

  • Another storage space solution is to remove software you don’t use.

  • Optical discs are always shown as being full. That’s because they’re read-only. When you’re burning a new optical disc, the software you use to burn the disc reports how much space is available.