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Missing Space?

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July 12, 2012 10:40:00 PM

Why is it that the space taken up in Computer different than from if you go inside the actual drive, highlight all the folders and right click for properties?

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a c 87 G Storage
July 12, 2012 10:56:49 PM

Are you comparing 'actual size' vs 'size on disk'?

If so, there is a reason for this.

The elementary storage unit on a hard drive is called a 'sector'. Traditionally, each sector contains 512 bytes but some are starting to use 4096 bytes (or 4kb). Managing individual sectors is quite painstaking so to reduce operational overhead most filesystems group sectors together into system-specific names. On Windows these are known as 'allocation units' or 'clusters'. The size of each cluster is variable but must be a multiple of the sector size, typically the default allocation unit size is 4kb which works out to 8 sectors on most drives.

When a file is created it first receives only an entry in the filesystem, it does not actually receive any space on the disk until there is actually data written to it. Try this now, create a blank text document on your desktop and take a look at the size, even change the name. The actual size and size on disk will be 0 bytes. Now write one single character in the file and save it, then examine the size again. You'll notice now that the size is '1 byte' but the 'size on disk' is '4096 bytes'. This is because the file now exists both as a directory entry and as a file on the disk, it has been assigned a single allocation unit. If you keep writing to the file each character will be written to the same cluster until the cluster has been filled completely. Once you hit 4096 characters in the file, the next character will result in the filesystem assigning it a new allocation unit when the file is saved.

As for space that may have gone 'missing', Windows uses parts of the hard drive for non-filesystem storage. This includes garbage collection (recycle bin), system files (hidden unless you explicitly make them visible, don't do this), and system restore. Some of these operations can be turned off if you're pressed for space.
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July 12, 2012 10:58:09 PM

samuelspark said:
Why is it that the space taken up in Computer different than from if you go inside the actual drive, highlight all the folders and right click for properties?

You sure you are reading it right? Computer shows the amount that is free compared to the total amount not the amount used (that is indicated in the blue bar). Also you might not be highlighting the hidden files and folders or it could be that Computer tends to round numbers up while properties is a more accurate usage count. Without showing how much it says is used in computer and properties it is hard to tell what might be the problem.
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July 12, 2012 11:18:49 PM

Camikazi said:
You sure you are reading it right? Computer shows the amount that is free compared to the total amount not the amount used (that is indicated in the blue bar). Also you might not be highlighting the hidden files and folders or it could be that Computer tends to round numbers up while properties is a more accurate usage count. Without showing how much it says is used in computer and properties it is hard to tell what might be the problem.


I turned hidden folders on. I'm not dumb lol.
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July 12, 2012 11:24:07 PM

Pinhedd said:
Are you comparing 'actual size' vs 'size on disk'?

If so, there is a reason for this.

The elementary storage unit on a hard drive is called a 'sector'. Traditionally, each sector contains 512 bytes but some are starting to use 4096 bytes (or 4kb). Managing individual sectors is quite painstaking so to reduce operational overhead most filesystems group sectors together into system-specific names. On Windows these are known as 'allocation units' or 'clusters'. The size of each cluster is variable but must be a multiple of the sector size, typically the default allocation unit size is 4kb which works out to 8 sectors on most drives.

When a file is created it first receives only an entry in the filesystem, it does not actually receive any space on the disk until there is actually data written to it. Try this now, create a blank text document on your desktop and take a look at the size, even change the name. The actual size and size on disk will be 0 bytes. Now write one single character in the file and save it, then examine the size again. You'll notice now that the size is '1 byte' but the 'size on disk' is '4096 bytes'. This is because the file now exists both as a directory entry and as a file on the disk, it has been assigned a single allocation unit. If you keep writing to the file each character will be written to the same cluster until the cluster has been filled completely. Once you hit 4096 characters in the file, the next character will result in the filesystem assigning it a new allocation unit when the file is saved.

As for space that may have gone 'missing', Windows uses parts of the hard drive for non-filesystem storage. This includes garbage collection (recycle bin), system files (hidden unless you explicitly make them visible, don't do this), and system restore. Some of these operations can be turned off if you're pressed for space.


I recently installed some programs and uninstalled them, yet even after running CCleaner, I ended up with less free space than I originally had.
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July 13, 2012 12:07:24 AM

samuelspark said:
I turned hidden folders on. I'm not dumb lol.

What are the numbers though? Can't even really guess at it unless it is known how much the difference is.
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a c 87 G Storage
July 13, 2012 12:12:49 AM

samuelspark said:
I recently installed some programs and uninstalled them, yet even after running CCleaner, I ended up with less free space than I originally had.


As useful as CCleaner is, it's not going to override functions like system restore, pagefile and the recycle bin.

Also, hidden folders are not the same as protected system files
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July 13, 2012 12:49:53 AM

I didn't change the pagefile size. It's ok though. Thanks for the explanation.
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July 13, 2012 12:50:06 AM

Best answer selected by samuelspark.
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