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HDD rapidly losing space on 2 week old laptop, what's the culprit?

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January 19, 2008 1:49:39 PM

Hi all. I am posting for a guy that I work with because he doesn't know much about computers and I am trying to help him out, but I know little about Vista. Here's the deal...

He bought a new Gateway laptop from Bestbuy a couple of weeks ago and his HDD seems to be RAPIDLY shrinking. First, here are the main specs:

Gateway P 6xxx series Laptop
CPU: C2D T5250 @ 1.5GHz
RAM: 2GB DDR2 (not sure of speed, shouldn't matter)
HDD: Toshiba MK1637GSX 5400RPM 8MB cache http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

OS: Vista Home Premium 32-bit

Now for the main problem. He says that his HDD is getting used up pretty quickly and isn't sure why. The HDD is marketed as 160GB but I did some checking and it's actually ~149GB...no big deal. He has 2 partitions set up on teh computer. His c: drive contains ~138GB and his d: drive (for recovery) has ~10GB. Of his c: drive, he only has 104GB free, currently and has not added much for programs. Of the programs listed in the "Add/Remove Programs" section I see maybe 2GB being used total. Now I know Vista takes up ~15GB or so but he SHOULD have somewhere in the neighborhood of 120+GB left on his HDD. I asked him if he deleted cookies, history, etc. in an attempt to see if that did ANYTHING to raise the size of the drive even a little...it didn't not surprisingly. Next, he told me something that didn't make sense to me. He told me that he defragged his drive but he actually LOST space. He claimed that he had roughly 118GB of storage (not too far from my 120GB estimate) before defragging and then it lost 2GB or so. He then did a system restore to the day after he bought it thinking it might increase the size of the drive and it went down to a little under 110GB! Defragged again and went to about 108GB or so...what's the deal? Is there some problem with Vista using lots of space on the drive or possibly something wrong with the drive itself? I don't understand why this keeps happening and he has no clue either. Hopefully one of you has some clue to what may be happening and might be offer a way for me to help him. Please post your thoughts about what the problem may be. Thank you in advance for your help.
a b D Laptop
a b G Storage
January 19, 2008 2:18:53 PM

How much space is system restore using? It can go up and down and vary a lot depending on what you are doing.
This does not look or appear to me as much of a problem. 110gig is still a huge amount of space. Now if for some reason it keeps dropping down until you only have like 80gig for no good reason, then I would start asking questions.
January 19, 2008 2:56:14 PM

Thanks for the reply. The "RECOVERY" partition is 10.1GB and has used roughly 4.5GB....is the system restore something completely separate from this? I was thinking the same thing about it not being much of an issue at the moment unless it keeps on doing that and dropping the space like you say. I know that it's still a lot of room and I think he's just a little worried since it's a new computer and all but honestly, I don't see what is causing this and I am a little baffled too. I told him to use it normally for a week of so and not to load anything on there and see what happens.
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a b D Laptop
a b G Storage
January 19, 2008 3:05:05 PM

Have a look for some freeware called windirstat it will show you what is being used in a relatively easy to interpret fashion.

The 149 vs 160 is just a difference in definition of a Gb in either binary (correct) form, or decimal (for normal people).

System restore is a windows thing, it stores sufficient information to be able to back-out any changes to the system, so that could get quite large. Can be turned off in the control panel/system.

I think that any software that gateway installed from scratch would not appear on add/remove so you probably wouldn't see it there.

Use windirstat to monitor it over a few days, write down the values. Do a scan disk, it could be a failing HD.

The other partition will be where gateway has placed the equivelent of the restore disks, so if you ever had to go back right to square one (if a hdd failed) you can do, of course they are on the hdd so there is normally some software to make a bootable disk out of it.
January 19, 2008 3:15:44 PM

System Restore can also be resized or reconfigured.

Reconfigured to save only the last system restore.

Resized to only save X-GB worth of restore data.
a b D Laptop
a c 154 G Storage
January 19, 2008 3:49:50 PM

One of the features of vista is the indexing capability. I think it is turned on by default. When vista is first started up, it will start indexing everything it can find,. You will see lots of unexplained hard drive activity as the index is being created. I have no idea how large the index can get.

Indexing can be turned off if you want, but it can be very useful. It lets you search for things when you don't know where they are. For instance, you want to retrieve an e-mail that you got from Joe Shmo a year ago, just key "schmo" in the search panel and you will get links to all his e-mails.
January 19, 2008 4:24:46 PM

13thmonkey - I'll check out that program, thank you for the suggestion. You may be right about the default programs not appearing in the menu, I hadn't even thought of that.

StevieD - That may be what one of the problems is... System Restore saving EVERY restore point and not just the last one. I had thought of having the amount of stored information changed I just couldn't find it. I am slightly familiar with it only having to use it about 3-4 times with XP. I couldn't remember how to get to that setting though. It should be in the Control Panel right?

geofelt - What you say makes a lot of sense to me. I do faintly remember hearing something about the "indexing" a long while back now that you mention it. I bet this may be the cause of a lot of the space being taken up.

Anyway, the HDD storage space might continue to be depleted but I would expect it to curve shortly otherwise something is wrong. Thank you all for your help and input.
January 19, 2008 4:48:15 PM

The HDD just went to 108GB from 104GB and I didn't touch anything....... what's the deal?
January 19, 2008 4:51:14 PM

Does that computer have Lightscribe by any chance? There is a known issue with Lightscribe software on some laptops that causes it to create huge (30gb+) log files.

Check C:\Documents and Settings\*username*\Local settings\temp\LSBurnWatcher.log or the Vista equivalent and see if there is a huge log file there.
a b D Laptop
a b G Storage
January 19, 2008 4:54:35 PM

you should be able to see the files on windirstat big files will stick out like a sore thumb.

edit, hadn't seen your reply.
January 19, 2008 5:09:40 PM

boogityboo04 - It isn't really ONE big loss, it's more like several smaller (1-4GB) fluctuations in the HDD size. It was decreasing for a while but then it went from 104GB-108GB without touching/removing/installing anything.
January 19, 2008 5:36:57 PM

does the computer have errors? i know it takes up lot of space for errors so it can look them up later.. like when u go to the drive and clean drive look all the way down there it will say something about errors mine had 32 gb in there..
a b D Laptop
a c 105 G Storage
January 19, 2008 6:07:24 PM

As to the first part, remember that marketing people go to the same "school" as politicians where they learn how to lie with a plausible excuse. Computers use a base 2 whereas humans use base 10. The definition of gigabyte is 1024 MB. But arketing people, who didn't take any math courses, can't seem to handle the number 1024 and use 1000 instead.

A gigabyte is 1,073,741,824 bytes or 2^30 bytes.

So a drive "marketed as a 160 GB drive is a 149 GB drive "in real life".

As to the next part:

-Turn off system restore and see if the "eating" goes away
-Perhaps you are using the internet ? Cache files can add up pretty quickly. Use Steve's Cleanup (link below)
-E-mails w/ attachments can eat up space
-There's numerous disk utilities which list the sizes of files and folders but you can simply to a Find *.* in explorer (well i think Explorer does this, haven't used it in 10 years in favor of ExplorerPlus / Powerdesk) and sort by file size.....shouldn't have many files over a gig.....see if number of files found changes.....see if the big file sizes are changing. Use by folder if nevessary to nattor it down
-pay specific attention looking for *log and *.dmp files.
-,make sure you have set "hidden files and folders" to be visible in folder options

http://www.stevengould.org/index.php?option=com_content...
January 19, 2008 6:17:31 PM

In Vista, system restore can take up up to 15 percent of your hard drive. So in this case, that is 160*.15=24gbs.

You can not change the percentage that it uses, but you can turn it on or off for each drive.

I'm not sure if it is using the D drive for system restore, but that would only let you use about 1.5gbs, and wouldn't take from the C drive.

Go to start>computer>system properties(at the top)>advanced system setting(at the right)>system protection.

You can see which drives are being used for system restore. If it is the C drive, you can delete all but the most recent by going start?search for "cleanup">click on disk cleanup> and go to the more options tab.

From there, you can delete all old restore points, if you wish. The problem with this is that restore points will keep being made, and he will have to keep deleting them if he wants his space. I personally don't find system restore that useful, so I turn it off.

It won't take a huge amount of space, but it will take a nice chunk. He can decide if he thinks it is worth it or not I guess.

Also, there might be issues other than system restore going on. I just thought this might be part of the problem, and wanted to explain so you can see if it helps at all.
a b D Laptop
a c 105 G Storage
January 19, 2008 7:17:10 PM

>n Vista, system restore can take up up to 15 percent of your hard drive. So in this case, that is 160*.15=24gbs.

You can not change the percentage that it uses, but you can turn it on or off for each drive.

I'm not sure if it is using the D drive for system restore, but that would only let you use about 1.5gbs, and wouldn't take from the C drive. <

1. There is a system "hack" (read registry edit you can perform to change this. Read about it IIRC on Compuserve's WinNT forum

2. That would be 149 * 0.15 ..... only people in marketing think a GB is 1,000,000,000 bytes

3. It a pretty safe bet on a Gateway / Dell / HP etc laptop that "Recovery Partition" is the kind OEM's use to restore system to "factory state:
January 19, 2008 7:35:02 PM

perhaps its the paging file; the file on the hdd that is used as ram. When the system auto adjusts, the paging file could be real BIG. On my 40gb hdd the paging file was 6gb, must be huge on the 160gb. Perhaps also the system restore, also check the virus scanners. Kaspersky anti virus(dont know what ur using) like backs up virus's (dont know why,)that also could be huge. My comp found 2800+ virus's and it stored a 2gb log.
January 19, 2008 8:26:10 PM

bs6749 said:
boogityboo04 - It isn't really ONE big loss, it's more like several smaller (1-4GB)

If it was the log issue it would look like what you are describing. The driver occasionally seems to hit some sort of a loop and will start writing to its log file thousands of times per second which can cause huge losses of space.
January 19, 2008 8:32:51 PM

One way to begin to diagnose this would be to go into the C: drive and hover the mouse over each folder until the size pops up. Make sure you have the view hidden & system files checked first. Then when you see that either Users or Program Files is larger then they should be (or any other folder) so go inside the folder and hover the mouse over every folder and repeat until you find some large files.
If it is a log file or something you will be able to find a large file somewhere like in appdata or in the users subfolders.
Then it is a simple matter of googling when you find a large file.
a b G Storage
January 19, 2008 9:28:50 PM

Vista uses it for your hibernation, error logs, or restore points.

So far I have no idea how to get it with UAC turn on, but what you have to do is
first of all disable UAC, then restart. After restarting go to computer and right click on your C:\.
Then click no disk clean up and once it's done you should see a few list of items that you can
get rid off. Once I cleaned up to 10GB of my HD space!
!