How to free up disk space on Windows XP

One of the computers at Chez Donahue is quite old in the tooth, an old PII with just enough memory and a teeny little hard drive. Sometimes that little hard drive is too small for it's install of Windows XP, so here's what I do to free up hard disk space on Windows XP:

Prefetch

Windows XP's Prefetch folder helps programs to start faster. Unfortunately, it has a tendancy to get bloated – pre-loading for every program you ever start, not just the ones you use frequently. I empty the pre-fetch folder about once a month. You can simply delete the contents – it won't affect your programs or data. Or, if you want some automation, here's a great Prefetch utility.

Clearing System Update Files

When you install security fixes, updates, patches etc in Windows XP, several folders with odd looking names are placed in the Windows directory (usually C:\Windows). The folder names will look something like this: $NtUninstall. These are backup folders containing the files needed to uninstall updates, should they cause problems. After a month or less of using XP with the new updates, I delete the folders and remove their entries from Control Panel / Add or Remove Programs. Here's more information from Microsoft on safely deleting the Service Pack Uninstall folders.

Take back System Restore space

If you're using System Restore, you can get back disk space by going into disk cleanup and clearing all but the most recent restore points.

  1. Start Menu / All Programs / Accessories / System Tools / Disk Cleanup
  2. from the Select Drive dialog, click OK or press ENTER
  3. click the More Options tab and click Clean up… under System Restore click OK or press ENTER at the next dialog which asks if you want to clean up all but the most recent restore points
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