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Why is my hard drive almost filled up?

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(called via 1-800-39-ONLINE; click to listen to the audio)

Yes, hello...my name is Clarence.

I'm calling because I want know regarding the information being stored on your hard drive? I only have 7 gigabytes left, and I don't know where all the other information is.

Thank you very much...bye bye!


If I'm understanding your question correctly, you've got a hard drive that you've stored data on: programs, documents, music, movies, whatever, but in your mind, there should be a lot more room left than there is.

It could be that you simply have more stored on your hard drive than you think. We do an awful lot of downloading of large files these days, and that just might be the case.

But, I've heard this complaint before, and usually, it's due to one thing: computer companies storing backup software in hidden directories on those hard drive, eating up space that you could use for all those downloads.

I'll bet that's the case. And I'll show you how to reclaim that space. Keep reading.

See, in the old days (and with Macintoshes, even today), computers shipped with a set of floppies, CDs or DVDs that stored the backup software needed should you ever have to reinstall all the original stuff that came on that computer: the operating system, applications, sample programs, games and the like.

Today, computer companies cut corners wherever they can. And they don't do a very good job of telling people what's going on.

Instead of shipping physical disks that you can use if things go kablooey, they just store the data that would go on those disks in a hidden directory on your hard drive. Then, they expect you to go out, buy some blank disks, and at some point, burn your own original content recovery disks.

Read on... (more ahead)

This data may be hidden, but it still takes up part of your hard drive - a major part, given how large this data is. It can be as much as 20 gigabytes, depending upon what your computer ships with.

The data is in the form of disk images, and you can follow your computer manufacturer's instructions for burning that data onto CDs or DVDs. Everyone's directions are slightly different, so follow them carefully.

As an example, if you want to create a set of recovery disks on a ThinkPad, you go to All Programs > ThinkVantage > Create Rescue and Recovery Media, and then choose your media (CDs or DVDs). Then, you choose Create a set of Product Recovery Discs now, and off you go. Again, every company's instructions are a bit different, so be careful. Once you've deleted the hidden backup data, you won't be able to create any more recovery disks.

Then, once you've created that set of recovery disks, you can safely delete that hidden directory of backup data disk images. Again, each companies directions are slightly different, so get out the manual or consult the help files.

Again, as an example, if you're looking to reclaim the space on that Lenovo/IBM ThinkPad, you first have to muck about with the BIOS. Have someone qualified do this if you have any trepidation - you can really screw things up if you do something creative. Press F1 or Access IBM at the beginning of the boot sequence when the ThinkPad boots. In the BIOS setup menu, choose Security, and then set the IBM PreDesktop Area to Disabled. You can then use a great product called Partition Magic to merge that hidden data area (you'll recognize it as the size of your backup data) into your C drive (or any other partition you may have created). Partition Magic can be found here:

There are ways to do it by hand, but believe me, Partition Magic is, well, magic.

Follow this according to the manufacturer's instructions, and you'll gain back that space - and have a set of recovery disks to boot.

And again, if you're a Mac user, you don't have these issues - you have recovery disks in the box your Macintosh arrived in.

Thanks for listening, and for calling in and asking!

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