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Where’s your junk?
Find out what’s hiding on your hard drive

06/09/11
By John Andrews jandrews@hippopress.com



I’m a Windows guy, but one of its many persistent weaknesses is its inability to give you a real sense of how much space you’re using. Sure, you know your total hard drive capacity and total free space, but where is all that junk you’ve saved, and what is it? Plunging down through directory trees to discover (totally legally!) downloaded movies and bloated applications is a royal pain. Wouldn’t it be nice to see where all the biggest useless junk is without hunting around?

Yup, sure would.

• WinDirStat (pictured at right, top) is one of the best out there, but it’s so darn ugly. I’m sure its squarish, fake-bubbly, odd-colored sections appeal to lots of folks, but to me, bleah. Its website refers to “cushion shading,” which must be the spotlight effect on each square that makes it resemble a cushion or pillow rather than a flat tile.

Aesthetics aside, the program works beautifully. You can scan your whole hard drive or just a particular folder and get both a listing and the aforementioned graphical representation of every single folder and file in there, arranged by size. Click to expand the largest directories, exposing giant files you’d forgotten about and really don’t need cluttering things up. Deleting one huge file (right from the interface, sweet) is a lot easier than compressing 1,300 Word documents to gain a smidgen of space, huh?

Oh, and WinDirStat’s progress indicators are little Pac-Man-looking sprites that chomp back and forth when a scan is in progress. So that’s adorable.

• Folder Size Freeware from MindGems has much more elegant graphics, giving you the choice of simple but pretty bar or pie charts. The chart is interactive, so it does a little animation (which you can turn off if you want) when you drill down to a new folder. You can easily toggle between GB, MB, KB and just plain bytes; go backward and forward to retrace your steps between folders; and delete and open the Windows file explorer right from the interface. You can even run it by right-clicking any folder in Explorer. Actually, I think this might replace WinDirStat as my favorite.

This program has just informed me that my Tears for Fears music folder is somehow bigger than my Muse folder, despite having fewer albums. Oh, apparently I ripped one of them twice at different and extravagant bit rates. What, they’re cool.

• Free Disk Analyzer from Extensoft starts scanning as soon as you open the program, and defaults to scanning your main system disk. Its pie chart compares your current folder to the whole disk, while only the clickable list of folders shows the percentage of space taken up in the current directory. One nice feature is its list of all the largest files on your disk, no matter what the location in the directory tree. Of course, this shows you system files like pagefile.sys (your virtual memory file, usually equal to or larger than the amount of memory you have installed on your system) or hiberfil.sys (about the same size and required if you use the hibernation mode). Don’t delete those.

My one wish for any of these tools is an export option, so I can get a plain text list of folder sizes. Pay versions of some programs do that, but for free, one has to be content with pictures and lists.






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