Over time, your hard drive will have less free space because you downloaded a lot of files, or created a lot of files. Buying a new hard drive can be expensive if you do not know how to install one, and hire a computer technician to manually install one for you, and sometimes USB external hard drives can be expensive if they are not on sale, or you live in a country which sells computer parts at a very high price. You might also has a lot of temporary system files, temporary internet files, and duplicate files which are taking up space which you can better use for more important files like videos, photos, music, and other files. On some operating systems like Microsoft Windows, it is recommended for you to have at least 20 percent free space, so your computer can defrag correctly. Plus, you won’t run out of free space, so Windows System Restore can work properly since Windows System Restore need free space for backing up your System Restore Points. You can do simple things like cutting and pasting unused files to another hard drive, external hard drive, USB flash drive, USB storage devices like Mp3 players, video players, digital cameras, or burn CD, and DVD discs.
However, there are more ways to increase your free space which require software, and some technical knowledge like uninstalling unused programs, finding duplicate files, removing old Windows Updates back up, and installers, file compression, and drive compression.
Most operating systems has a way for you to easily uninstall programs. In Windows, you can use the add/remove programs to uninstall programs which you do not use. For Ubuntu Linux, you use the Ubuntu Software Center to remove programs. By uninstalling programs which you do not need, you can save hundreds of MBs or even GigaBytes of free space. If you still have old software installer files which you downloaded from the internet to install software like chat programs, games, etc, you can delete those files as well.
You can also use software which require very little disk space to install on your hard drive compared to your current software which uses a lot of space. VLC media player, Pidgin Instant Messenger, FoxiT PDF Reader, OpenOffice, LibreOffice, IBM Lotus Symphony, Maxthon 3 Web Browser, Opera Web Browser, FileZilla FTP Client, and Gimp image editor are example of free software which don’t require a lot of free space, and work very well.
Glary Utilities has an easy to use disk cleanup, and program uninstaller tools for Windows. Glary Utilities also has a duplicate file finder to remove duplicate files which are on your computer which means you don’t have more then one version of the same files.
There are programs like TuneUp Utilities 2012 which can help you remove old Windows backup files which take up a lot of space, but are usually safe to delete to free up space. TuneUp also deletes temporary files from Web browsers, and other files which Windows does not need to run. TuneUp Utilities can also be used to removed un-used Windows programs like Windows Live Messenger, and other software which you do not to save even more space, and optimize your computer to run faster.
Using file compression for Jpegs, picures, MP3, audio, MP4 and movie files will also make your files take up less space. Compressing your files too much will result in poorer quality when saving the file. Smaller files will also load faster on websites.
Windows and other operating system let you compress your drive, so it uses less space. But, a compress drive is slower then an uncompress drive, so I don’t recommend it unless you are running very low on space.
You can also choose to store your less important files on free online storage like Google Docs, Dropbox, MediaFire, Mozy free, Windows Live Skydrive, and other online storage accounts, so you can save space on your hard drive.
If you have a Wireless or Wired Router or Switch, and a old computer which can connect to your router wirelessly, or with networking cables, you can use your old computer to host large files to share with multiple computers on your home network, or you can just take out the hard drives, and install them on your primary desktop compute, USB external drive enclosure, or use a USB hard drive to transfer files which you rarely use to your old computer to save space on the computer which you regularly use.
More Advance Tip to get back 6-10GB of space by removing the System Restore Partition on newer Windows Vista and 7 computers.
Some newer computers let you remove the 6-10GB Restore partition from your hard drive which is used to restore your hard drive if Windows break. But, if you already imaged your hard drive to an external hard drive with drive imaging software like Symantec Norton Ghost then you can delete your System restore partition since you already have a copy of a hard drive which you made with Norton Ghost. It is usually safe to delete the System Restore Partition if you have recovery disc, or a copy of the Windows Installer CD.
You can usually remove the System Restore Partition with a program for removing the system restore partition which your computer manufacturer like HP, Dell, Acer, or other company provided with Windows.
Switching Operating Systems to maximize your free space
In my experience, Linux based operating systems like Puppy Linux uses very little free space, or none if you run it off of a CD, or USB thumb drive which has a capacity of 256MB or more when your computer is starting up, so technically you can use all the free space on an empty hard drive to store only your files, and no operating system since your operating system is located on a CD, or USB thumb drive.
Ubuntu, and many other Linux operating systems can also be run off a CD, or USB thumb drive, but Ubuntu works best when installed on a hard drive. Ubuntu also uses a lot less space then Windows 7, and Vista in my experience, and doesn’t suffer as much from disk fragmentation, and temporary files slowing down your PC.
Linux based operating systems also uses less system resources like CPU, and RAM, so an older computer with slower computer parts will run faster while use hard drive space compared to using the same computer with Windows 7.
Windows XP is the most stable, and modern Windows operating system which uses very little space, but it is not as feature rich as Windows 7, but it can run almost all the same programs which Windows 7 can run, but only uses a few GigaBytes of space on your hard drive compared to 10GB or more of space for Windows 7. Windows XP also uses less RAM, and CPU resources then Windows 7.
Using RAID 0 to turn 2 or more to combine them to make one big drive.
However, you should backup your data on a regular basis to prevent data loss since if 1 drive fails, you lose all your data.
RAID 0 is also a lot faster then 1 hard drive. You can make two or more 1TB drives and turn them into 1 2TB or greater RAID drives.
Since your files on a RAID storage device is stored in multiple drives in RAID 0, your drives read and write times will be faster, and you won’t be spending as much money on Solid State Drive, or 10000 RPM drives which can cost a lot more for less storage compared to buying multiple high capacity 7200RPM drives to make a RAID 0 Storage device.
If your motherboard does not support RAID, you will need a RAID 0 PCI card to connect two drives, and configure them to run in RAID 0.
Splitting 1 file into two files, and storing them on different drives to maximize your free space. With Movies, and audio files you can split the files into multiple pieces to store on multiple hard drives to save more space by storing 1 half on one drive, and another half on another drive. Storing 2 files which are split on 1 drive can also make defraging your hard drive more efficient since I notice when I have very big files on one drive, you can’t defrag the entire file if you do not have enough free space to properly defrag the one big file vs being able to defrag multiple small files on a drive which is almost full.
WinRAR and some other file compression files can also split files into multiple files, so they can be stored on multiple drives, and may also download faster from the internet since smaller files download faster, or you can download a few files at a time if your internet is slow, or unreliable, and you can reconstruct the file when all the files are downloaded, and you use WinRAR to reconstruct it.
WinRAR is also a file and folder compression software, so compressing your files, and deleting the uncompress files will also save you some space on your hard drive.