What would make a HDD's amount of free space fluctuate?

March 16, 2012 at 17:43:51
Specs: Windows XP, 139GB Hard Drive
I have been getting low disk space issues for a week now. I have deleted files and programs several times, run disk cleanup several times, ran CCleaner, Norton and scanned for viruses and malware. Each time I gain some free space it dissappears in a few minutes. If I do nothing the amount of free space still changes every few minutes. Now I can't do anything more to free up more space and I'm having problems downloading software that may help, can't watch videos, can't use System Restore or save files in Corel and other programs. I also get "high memory usage" messages.

See More: What would make a HDDs amount of free space fluctuate?

Report •

March 16, 2012 at 20:50:56
Try clearing out older Restore files in "Disk Cleanup"

Report •

March 17, 2012 at 00:40:11
And you could not include any details of your drive capacity and used/free space figures?

Goin' Fishin' (Some day)

Report •

March 17, 2012 at 09:42:42
It would be helpful to list the complete system specs. What is 139GB? Is it the partition size or do you have a 150GB HDD?

Report •

Related Solutions

March 17, 2012 at 12:07:17
You DO NOT get the low disk space warning unless you have VERY LITTLE free space.
Description of the Low Disk Space Notification in Windows XP

It's NOT recommended that you disable that warning for the partition Windows was installed on because that can result in you not being able to do anything at all in Windows if that partition gets too full.

Are you getting the low disk space warning for one drive partition, or more than one ?

If you have a brand name system computer and you can see a smaller second partition in Windows on the hard drive that has data that was placed there by the system builder, if that's the drive you're getting the messages about, it originally has only a little bit more free space on it than the percentage that triggers the low disk space warning - DO NOT add any of your own data to that partition.

When the partition Windows itself is installed on, which is usually C, has less than about 10% free space, Windows will run slower than it would if the drive partition had more free space - the less free space on that partition below about 10%, the slower Windows runs.

These things will make your free space fluctuate even if you add no new data yourself...

- The Windows page file (swap file) varies in size as you use the computer, depending on what you're doing at the time.
- Windows makes temporary files in the background every time you use Windows. All or most of those are deleted automatically while loading Wnidows the next time, and new ones are made by Windows. As time goes by with the same Windows session, Windows makes more temporary files, those will take up more space.

This will decrease your free space even if you add no new data yourself...

- When you're using an internet browser, Windows is making temporary internet files. They are not deleted automatically right away, but there is a limit regarding how much drive partition space they can occupy, and probably a limit regarding how old they can be. When the drive space maximum is exceeded, or probably when the oldest files are too old, some of the files are deleted automatically

You can remove the temporary internet files
- by going to
Control Panel - Classic view - Internet Options
or in IE, Tools - Internet Options
See Browsing history
- Internet Options - Advanced
Scroll down to near the end of the list under the Security heading.
Click on the blank box before
Empty Temporary Internet Files folder when browser is closed
to insert a check mark (enable it).

- or by using Disk Cleanup on the drive letter for partition Windows itself is installed on.

"Try clearing out older Restore files in "Disk Cleanup"

RIGHT click on the drive letter, select Properties, then click on the Disk Cleanup button,
then the More Options tab.

Select System Restore - Clean up .
All restore points except the last one are deleted.

You can change the max % space System Restore can use to a lower amount in System Restore's settings.

Un-install programs listed in Control Panel - Classic view - Add/Remove Programs that you're SURE you never use (if you're not sure, then don't).

Copy files that don't necessarily need to be on the hard drive, or that you rarely use, e.g. music, movies, videos, pictures - to another location, such as a flash drive, or an external drive, or a hard drive partition that has lots of free space.
OR burn them to a CD or DVD. Delete the original files once you're sure the copies work fine.

Control Panel - Classic view - Folder Options - View tab.

If you have not already done so, change these settings from defaults to
Show hidden files and folders
de-select Hide protected operating system files

Click on OK at the bottom of the Folder Options window.

Go to the C:\Windows\Installer folder

Hold your cursor over the Installer folder to show it's size, or RIGHT click on the folder, select Properties to show it's size.

That folder's data amount should NOT be really huge.
E.g. mine is presently 2.39 gb - I've had the same (XP) MCE 2005 installation at least two years.
If your Installer folder has a LOT more data than that, say, more than 10 gb, that sometimes happens for unknown (to me) reasons, and you can do something about that.

See response 4:

If you have another drive partition that has free space, you DO NOT have to install all programs that did not come with Windows on the same partition Windows was installed on, which is usually but not always C for XP.
Usually you can choose a Custom install or similar rather than an Express install or similar, and/or you can change the drive letter at the beginning of where the program is installed by default to another drive letter.
If you can do that, the vast majority of the program is installed on the other partition, and only a little bit of it is installed on the same partition Windows was installed on. Your personal files that you save for the program are usually stored on the partition Windows was installed on, somewhere in C:\Documents and Settings\(your user name)\(your user name's sub folders and files).
E,.g. that's where your personal My Documents, My Pictures, and My Music files are by default, and where your personal emails and email related info are stored, if you use an email program that was installed in Windows.

If this is a desktop computer, your problem is easily solved by buying and installing another hard drive so you have another place to put data on.

Whether you have a desktop computer, or a laptop or netbook computer....

You always have the option of buying a larger hard drive, then copying all the data that is on your original hard drive to the larger hard drive - cloning your data - then using the larger hard drive to load Windows from instead of the smaller one. .
The hard drive manufacturers have free versions of software on their web sites that you can use to copy the entire contents of a smaller drive to a larger one, if at least one of the hard drives their brand, or a brand they support (e.g. Seagate supports Seagate and Maxtor drives) .

"I also get "high memory usage" messages."

I have AVG 2012 installed, and it produces messages about IE having high memory usage or similar while I'm using IE 8.
Perhaps the Norton software is doing the same thing.

How much ram do you have installed in the mboard ?
XP just barely runs as it should when you have 256 mb installed - you should have at least 512 mb .

Otherwise, obviously, have fewer programs running at the same time, and make sure you're not loading two instances of something
- e.g. if you double click on any icon next to the Start button in the taskbar that's what you've done.
- you only need one instance of your internet browser to be running.

You said you have Corel software. NOTE that if you have a lot of images from any program open and/or minimized at the same time, that uses a LOT of memory, and just that could cause "high memory usage" messages.

Report •

March 17, 2012 at 18:35:06
I found large files that had been copied to several locations and
old backup files I no longer needed. I now have more that 5GB of free space. Thanks for all your suggestions.

Report •

March 17, 2012 at 18:52:03
Thanks for the thanks, but....

5 gb of free space on what size of partition, and what partition drive letter ?

E.g. if you have only one ~ 139 gb partition, 5 gb is only 3.6 % of that.

You need about 10% or more free space on the partition Windows was installed on in order for Windows to be able to run at it's full speed.
5 gb free space on that partition is enough for Windows to run at it's full speed only if the partition is ~ 50 gb or smaller.

Report •

Ask Question