If your hard drive is starting to fill up, you may be wondering what exactly is taking up all that space. That’s where a disk space analyzer comes in: it scans your disk and shows you, in graphical form, where all that space is being wasted, giving you an idea of where to start cleaning. Our favorite analyzer is the powerful, free WinDirStat.
- Scan all of your disks, one of your disks, or just a folder to analyze
- Creates a clickable map of the data on your disk, color-coded by type
- Provides additional information about specific data when you click on an item on the map
- Easily revel specific folders in Windows Explorer, open them in a command prompt, or copy their path
- Delete space-hogging folders right from WinDirStat’s interface
- Show basic information about any file or folder you select
- View your entire disk by order of file/folder size so you can see the largest space hogs
- View your space consumption by file extension, so you know what file types are taking up the most space
Where It Excels
WinDirStat’s biggest strength lies not only in the fact that it’s free, but the fact that it gives you multiple different views all at once. In the WinDirStat window, you get a file tree with percentages and size calculations, an graphical view color-coded by file type, and a list of file extensions ordered by those that are taking up the most space. And, by clicking on any of the files, extensions, or squares in the map, you can get more information about where those files are stored and how much space they take up. Then you can delete them, show them in Explorer, or even open a command prompt at that location. It gives you all the tools you could need to clean up your drive.
Where It Falls Short
WinDirStat is our favorite, but it does have a few quirks. Namely, it’s pretty slow, so using it can sometimes seem like you’re running it on an old computer. The graphical view could also be a bit better organized. As it is, it’s just a bunch of colored squares that are kind of hard to click on, unlike SpaceSniffer, which has a really great graphical view (see below). WinDirStat also isn’t available as a portable application, which is annoying considering all of its competitors are—and because this is the type of app that you’d only use once or twice, rather than all the time.Correction: WinDirStat doesn’t offer a portable version on its web site, but the community at PortableApps.com has made a portable version available for download here.
SpaceSniffer is easily my favorite alternative to WinDirStat. Its graphical view is really great and easy to use. You can double-click on folders to see the subfolders inside, which is much nicer than WinDirStat’s model. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with the traditional file tree and the file extension view that WinDirStat does, which are frankly a bit more useful. If the two were mixed, you’d have a perfect application. I’d say that if you like using the graphical map better, check out SpaceSniffer, as it focuses much more heavily on that. It’s also available as a portable app, which is great, not to mention completely free.
SpaceMonger is slightly more advanced than the others, but costs a whopping $24.95, which is not something most people want to pay for an app you’ll only use a few times (though it does have a 30 day free trial). It’s similar to WinDirStat, offering a tree view and a graphical map, and the views are very configurable. It doesn’t have a super easy way to browse or manipulate the map like SpaceSniffer does, though. It also comes with a page of handy stats and bar graphs, which are a nice complement to the traditional tree and map, but probably not worth the price. SpaceMonger is also available as a portable app.
Lastly, TreeSize is another popular option, but doesn’t come with the clickable map that the other programs have—it’s basically a folder tree with a built-in bar graph, like the top pane in WinDirStat. If you don’t like the graphical map, TreeSize is fine, but it doesn’t offer you anything that WinDirStat doesn’t—except for the ability to use it as a portable app.
Of course, you could always try analyzing your drive with a simple Windows Explorer search filter, too—it can show you some of the bigger files on your drive without any extra software necessary. It won’t show you big folders, though, so if your problem is large groups of files rather than large files, you’ll need one of the above to help you out.