Disaster Recovery

Review: WinDirStat disk usage cleanup tool

WinDirStat reads the entire directory tree of your Windows machine and reports back exactly what it is that is taking up that space on your drive.

Recently I had a client whose file backup had reached over 400GB. As you can imagine, Acronis was only allowing us to fit a single backup on their 500GB external drive. In some instances that may be a fine backup solution, but this particular client wanted to have multiple backups saved. The client had two choices, get a larger external drive or reduce the number of files included in the backup.

The obvious choice (for the client) was to weed out files that were taking up too much space. With that choice in hand, I had an obvious task - find out what types of files were causing the backup to grow so large. I could have simply dug around the hard drive and checked every file for size and tracked them with a spreadsheet. That, of course, is simply not an efficient means to what should be a simple end. However, WinDirStat will do all of this leg work for you.

Specifications

  • Product: WinDirStat
  • Located: SourceForge
  • Storage: Small, can be run from flash drive
  • Operating system: Supports Windows 95 through Windows 7
  • Cost: Free

Who's it for?

WinDirStat is for any Windows user who needs to gather exhaustive statistics about what is installed on their machines. WinDirStat reads the entire directory tree of your Windows machine and reports back exactly what it is that is taking up that space on your drive. For that reason, WinDirStat is for anyone (from user to administrator) who needs to be able to do quick audits on the contents of their machines.

What problem does it solve?

WinDirStat quickly and easily audits a machines physical hard drive and reports back what is taking up the space on the drive. With the results of this audit, you can easily determine what is using up the bulk of your hard disk space and act upon that knowledge.

Features

  • Quick to read extension list
  • Percentage of space each extension takes up
  • Color-coded map of each extension on the drive
  • Audit external and networked drives
  • Portable
  • Zoom into color-coded block and easily delete files
  • User-created clean up jobs
  • Easy to use interface
  • Open source
  • Send report via email

What's wrong?

The biggest issue with WinDirStat is the documentation. The minute you try to create your own user-configured cleanup routines you will quickly experience a complete lack of documentation, which makes the task rather challenging, if not impossible.

The other issue isn't really a product of WinDirStat, but of possible user error. In the hands of the wrong user, WinDirStat could easily help someone delete precious system files that would render the machine unbootable. With that in mind, you will not want to let this application out of your hands and into the hands of your end users.

Competitors

Bottom line for business

Regardless of the lack of documentation, WinDirStat is one of those simple little apps you are going to be very thankful you have when you need it. If space is an issue or, if you run into a task where you need to exclude file types for a backup, you will see just how much time this tool can save you. If you are an administrator who needs to be able to make sure disk space is used efficiently (for whatever reason) WinDirStat is the exact tool you need to help you out with this job.

User rating

Have you encountered or used WinDirStat? If so, what do you think? Rate your experience and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review in the TechRepublic Community Forums or let us know if you think we left anything out in our review.

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About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

6 comments
ambraun
ambraun

Add Directory Report to your competitors to WinDirStat http://www.file-utilities.com What good is it knowing how many bytes are used for a file extension? You need to know about individual files. Directory Report looks just like the MS-Explorer but always shows the folder size. Plus you can get a listing of all files in decreasing size order. I immediately found a 1 gig file from my son's Shaiya game

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Spacemonger provides the same top-down city style view of storage usage though without the additional tree view. I think it's since become a shareware offering but the older version is still kicking around the freeware sites.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Have you used WinDirStat? What do you think of it? Do you have a better tool to suggest to your peers?

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Directory Report looks interesting - thanks for the suggestion.

Tolga BALCI
Tolga BALCI

I know WinDirStat from Linux [KDirStat] and I am using it for a long time. In order not to install anyting unnecessary on the server, I use the portable version. It is a great tool for looking at the files and folders, especially for cleaning up the folders. After my colleague sysadmins saw this tool, they immediately made it one of their indispensible programs. Although the mentioned lack of documentation is correct, for years I did not feel the need to consult it.

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