How-to: Clean Up Windows with Storage Sense

Cleanup Windows using Storage SenseAfter Windows Update installs a major release, it sometimes helps to clean up Windows using Storage Sense. Or does it…? Stay for the suspenseful conclusion.

Those releases can use up a lot of storage space, keeping previous versions to create roll-back points in case it all goes wrong. On devices with small SSD’s or flash memory, you may not have the luxury of space.

Note that this deletes the roll-back points created by Windows Update; you will no longer be able to back out to the previous versions of Windows in the event of problems, as this deletes the previous versions. At least, that’s what you tell it to do…

Storage Sense 1To delete the old versions and reclaim some of that space:

Open Settings.
Click on System.
Click on Storage.

You can see the local disk on this machine is showing red for lack of space (9GB qualifies as low for a desktop install of Windows 10!)

Under “Storage”, select Configure Storage Sense or run it now.

You can click on the thumbnail images to see a larger version.

Storage Sense 2The first set of options cover the automatic deletion of files using Storage Sense. The on/off toggle will set it to automatic or disabled, the following drop list sets the conditions by frequency or in the default setting, ONLY run it when disk space is critically low.

The next option sets deletion of temporary files and the frequency to get rid of temporary files or unopened downloads.

Storage Sense 4The bottom of this pane contains the action button for Clean now.

Storage Sense 6The next pane shows you the options for which Temporary files to delete.

You can see here we’ve over eight gigabytes of previous Windows versions stashed away, plus logfiles, downloads and thumbnails for Windows Explorer. There’s also cache files, Delivery Optimisation files, old Windows Defender updates and browser cache. You’ll need to scroll down, it’s a long list.

Storage Sense 7Checking the boxes selects which of these Storage Sense will delete.

Storage Sense 8Hit the Remove files button at the top of the list, then wait while Storage Sense combs through and deletes the files. This can take a while, be patient.

You will get the “purging…” messages as it steps through everything you selected.

Storage Sense 9At the end of the process, the Storage Sense pane clears all the checkboxes for items that are gone.

Storage Sense 10Backing out to the previous pane shows the updated state of disk storage after the clean up.

You can see we’re no longer in the red on disk space.


The numbers don’t add up on this particular machine; according to Storage Sense, we selected 8.9GB to delete, but only gained 3.9GB in free space. Windows appears to override your selection in order to keep one previous version of Windows, even though we told it to delete all 8.64GB of previous versions and updates. Windows itself wants to keep a roll-back point so it gives you less space than you ask for.

This is not following the user’s instructions, not transparent and not good behaviour. It doesn’t explain what it’s doing or why and doesn’t give you the option to agree or override.  It’s another irritating example of ‘Microsoft knows best.’ Which it doesn’t.

If you want to get that other 5GB back – and that’s a big chunk of storage on a tablet, older desktop or a machine with a small SSD, for instance – you’re going to have to force it. That’s something for another post. AJS

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