How to reclaim hard drive space after upgrading to Windows 11

If you are happy with Windows 11, you can safely remove old Windows 10 reversion files and reclaim a substantial amount of lost hard drive storage space on your PC.

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Through its security updating and patching process, Microsoft continues to roll out Windows 11 to Windows 10 PCs meeting the specific hardware requirements of the new operating system. Many users have already been updated to the new OS, and many more will be updated soon. So, unless you take steps to stop it, an update to Windows 11 is practically inevitable.

After the update to Windows 11, sharp users may notice a substantial increase in the amount of used hard drive storage space on their PCs. A good portion of this new storage profile are recovery files that you could use to revert to Windows 10, if you are so inclined. However, if you are happy with Windows 11, you can safely remove these files and reclaim some of that lost hard drive storage space.

SEE: Windows 11: Tips on installation, security and more (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

How to reclaim hard drive space after upgrading to Windows 11

The process for reclaiming storage space in Windows 11 is similar to Windows 10, but as you might expect, there are some subtle differences.

The first step is to open the Settings menu, which in Windows 11 is found pinned to the Start Menu. With the Settings menu opened, select the System tab from the left-hand navigation bar, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

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Now, scroll down the right-hand menu of settings and select Storage from the list. The system will do a quick scan to determine what temporary and other removable files are taking up storage space on your hard drive. As you can see in Figure B, the GB of files necessary to revert to Windows 10 after the Windows 11 update are significant.

Figure B

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For our immediate purposes, we will now scroll down and select the "Cleanup recommendations" item from the right-hand list. As you can see in Figure C, this feature will list the various sets of files you can safely remove from your system to reclaim hard drive storage space.

Figure C

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In our example, you can see that we can reclaim about 20GB of storage space with this one process. Select the files you wish to remove from this list and then click the "Clean up" button to start. Considering how many files are involved and how much hard drive storage we are attempting to reclaim, the procedure could take a few minutes to complete.

When it is finished you will have reclaimed a considerable amount of storage and can close Settings or you can click the back arrow to return the Storage screen.

SEE: Windows 11: Tips on installation, security and more (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

When you click back to the Storage screen (Figure B), you may notice there are other files and applications taking up hard drive storage space that Windows 11 considers potentially unnecessary. Select a category from the list, and the system will provide more details.

For example, if you drill down on the Apps & Features item, as shown in Figure D, the system will provide a list of installed applications. Some of which you may use every day, others you may have never used. Removing unused and unwanted apps could also reclaim a significant amount of storage space.

Figure D

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Also available on this page is the Storage Sense feature of Windows 11. Activating this feature will allow the system to automatically delete files from your hard drive as they become obsolete and expendable. There are numerous detailed settings available with Storage Sense, including instructions for cloud services.

Take special note

Keep in mind, deleting the recovery files in this way will eliminate the possibility of reverting to Windows 10 after updating to Windows 11. Once those files are deleted, the only way to return to Windows 10 is with a clean install. Be certain Windows 11 is the operating system for you before you reclaim the storage space.

Also see

By Mark Kaelin

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.