The Best Way to Clean Windows 10 A Step-by-Step Guide

Over time, each Windows installation creates junk that takes up space and wastes resources. It’s easy to neglect routine maintenance, so problems often stem from outdated files and programs.

If you don’t clean up your computer, soon you’ll be faced with low disk space warnings and it will slow down. Let’s take a look at how to clean clean Windows 10 (and Windows 11) using a step-by-step plan with a variety of tools for different situations.

Clear temporary junk

Windows 10 and 11 include a pair of similar tools for cleaning out old temporary files from your disk, which means you don’t need a dedicated Windows cleaner app. They are the first stop on your Windows cleanup journey.

Disk Cleanup

If you don’t mind an old-school interface, the classic Disk Cleanup tool does the job of cleaning up. Access it by typing disk cleanup in the Start menu and selecting the disk you want to clean.

After a while, you will see a list of unnecessary files that Windows can clean up. Assuming you are an administrator, you should first click the Clean up system files button to re-scan for additional types of data.

Feel free to remove every category of data available here, with a few exceptions. On older versions of Windows 10, focus on Downloads, which will delete everything in that folder. You may also want to avoid cleaning out the Recycle Bin unless you’re sure you won’t need to restore anything from it.

If you’ve recently updated to a newer major version of Windows, you’ll see a previous Windows installation entry. Deleting it will remove old files that Windows 10 keeps for days—allowing you to easily revert to an earlier version. You should also avoid the Delete Windows ESD installation files option, as it is used to reset your PC via Settings.

You can delete Windows folders to save space for more information on specific items that can be deleted with Disk Cleanup.

Storage sense

Both Windows 10 and Windows 11 include the same functionality of Disk Cleanup, with a nicer interface at Settings > System > Storage. You can use the Storage Sense feature found there to automatically clean up files when your disk space is low, or every so often. To change these options, click Configure Storage Sense or Run it now (on Windows 10).

In the list of things using space on your PC, click Temporary files and you can delete the same type of data as Disk Cleanup does. Show More Categories Provides more information about data types that are not using much space.

Delete large files

you have deleted unnecessary files; The next step in cleaning Windows 10 is to find old data that is taking up a lot of space on your computer. To help with this, download TreeSize Free, which will scan your storage and show you where the biggest files are.

Once installed, search for TreeSize on the Start menu and launch it using the (administrator) link so you can scan everywhere. To start, select Directory in the top-left and select your main storage disk.

After a few moments, you’ll see a visual breakdown of your PC’s storage, with the largest files at the top. Click the dropdown arrow on a folder to expand it one level.

The largest folders will probably be Users, Windows, and Program Files (and/or Program Files (x86)). There’s not much you can do in the Windows directory without issue (be aware of Windows folders you should never touch), so let’s look at the others.

uninstall large programs

Under Program Files (and/or Program Files (x86)) on 64-bit Windows, you’ll find files for most of the apps you have installed. If you don’t use some of these, go to Settings > Apps > Apps & features (on Windows 11, Settings > Apps > Installed apps) to uninstall them.

Remove large items from your user folders

Most of the space-hogging files are usually in your account folder under Users. This includes your documents, pictures, videos and the like.

You’ll probably notice a lot of space in the AppData folder, where many apps store information and preferences. For example, Chrome and Spotify’s caches can take up several gigabytes here.

Take a look at these files and see if there is anything low hanging fruit. You can delete files you no longer use or move some data to an external hard drive. If you have a lot of files in Dropbox or other cloud storage, use their preference panels to de-sync the cloud files you don’t need. You can always access them through the web interface.

You can see some other huge files in TreeSize, such as WinSxS. If you have this problem try moving the large WinSxS folder.

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