What does it mean when your Windows device says you don’t have enough disk space for an update even though it appears that you do? At times the System files, apps, reserved storage, and virtual memory can overconsume the available space for a proper update. This leads to a “not enough disk space for Windows Update” or “Windows needs more space” message. Follow the solutions below to fix this problem.
Tip: if you don’t want to deal with updates for a while, here’s a variety of ways to stop Windows updates.
- 1. Perform Disk and System Files Cleanup
- 2. Uninstall Apps You Don't Need
- 3. Apply Repairs Using Windows Update Troubleshooter
- 4. Use an External Storage Device to Install Updates
- 5. Follow Cleanup Recommendations and Run Storage Sense
- 6. Extend Your C Drive Using Disk Management
- 7. Fix Bad Storage Blocks Using Command Prompt
- 8. Fix Background Processes Causing Update Errors
- 9. Enable OneDrive Files On-Demand
- Frequently Asked Questions
1. Perform Disk and System Files Cleanup
It is surprising how much disk space gets filled up over time due to the Recycle Bin, system files, apps, virtual memory, and update histories. The Windows Disk Cleanup tool is the most effective tool to reclaim all of this missing disk space.
- Open the Run window by pressing Win + R or launch it using the Windows search bar.
cleanmgrto open Disk Cleanup.
- The utility will take a few seconds (or even minutes) to calculate the space you can save on your disk drive.
- In a new pop-up window, you can see the amount of disk space that will be gained by deleting different kinds of files. These include downloaded program files, temporary Internet files, delivery optimization files, and Recycle Bin backups.
- Check all the options and click “OK” to proceed with the disk cleanup.
- You will see a message asking for permission to permanently delete these files. Click “Delete Files” to continue.
- The Disk Cleanup utility will slowly start cleaning up the unnecessary files on your Windows device. Depending on how much space is reclaimable, you may have to wait for several minutes.
- You may see another option called “Clean up system files” in the Disk Cleanup utility. View the files to see whether you need anything there.
- Wait a few minutes for Disk Cleanup to calculate the space you will be able to gain on the disk drive by deleting unnecessary system files.
- Some kinds of files, such as Windows upgrade log files, Microsoft Defender, and System Restore files, can consume a very large amount of memory.
- Click “OK” to remove unnecessary system files.
Tip: free up your system by uninstalling these apps from your Windows computer.
2. Uninstall Apps You Don’t Need
It isn’t uncommon for disk usage to touch 100% when you’ve accumulated large applications you do not use. Microsoft Store games and apps can leave a large footprint and often go unnoticed, as they resemble system apps.
Even after you uninstall the heavy-duty applications, there may be additional files and Windows registry keys that can cause your disk drive to run out of space. Therefore, it is advisable to check the Installed apps in Windows from time to time and remove the ones you don’t need.
3. Apply Repairs Using Windows Update Troubleshooter
Sometimes the Windows disk space problem isn’t be due to the disk drive and is instead due to the Windows Update tool. The Windows Update troubleshooting tool is an advanced tool that automatically applies repairs to all update issues.
- Start the Windows 11 Update troubleshooter from “Settings -> System -> Troubleshoot -> Other troubleshooters.” In Windows 10, the same option is available at “Start -> Settings -> Update & Security -> Troubleshoot.”
- You can also launch the troubleshooter in Windows 11 using the “Find and fix problems with Windows update” shortcut.
- Once the Windows Update troubleshooter window is open, click the “Advanced” icon at the bottom and click “Next.”
- Check the option for “Apply repairs automatically” followed by “Next.”
- Wait a few minutes for Windows to complete the update troubleshooting. Any bugs and issues will be resolved.
Good to know: we have covered how to fix the update issues in detail for Windows 10 and Windows 11.
4. Use an External Storage Device to Install Updates
If you’ve noticed a “Windows needs more space” message while performing a Windows 10 or 11 update, then you will see a link in the window that says, “Choose another drive or attach an external drive.” If you click that option, you will find a drop-down list of drives that includes any external storage devices, such as USB drives. You can use this method to update your Windows device.
For those who can’t see this message, there is another way. Download the Windows media creation tool and use the setup to create a Windows 11 or 10 operating system on your USB drive.
Make sure you choose an USB drive as the media for installing the operating system. Follow the on-screen instructions to finish the pending installation.
5. Follow Cleanup Recommendations and Run Storage Sense
Microsoft recommends using its Cleanup Recommendation and Storage Sense tools to free up space.
- Go to “Settings -> System -> Storage” in Windows 11 and click “Cleanup recommendations.” The option isn’t available for Windows 10.
- Find the list of temporary files and large/unused files in your device that you can delete. If the files are important to you, make a backup on another device or through cloud services.
- Select the files you want to download, then click the “Clean up” button.
- On top of “Cleanup recommendations,” you’ll notice “Storage Sense.” Enable the option that helps with the automatic cleanup of temporary files.
- Or you may run it to regain disk space. You’ll need to tap on “Storage Sense” to view this option.
6. Extend Your C Drive Using Disk Management
Most Windows users will have configured their C drives for managing installations and Windows updates. If there are too many disk partitions, you may run into space shortage during updating. The problem can be fixed by extending your C drive using the Disk Management utility.
- Open the Disk Management utility from Run menu by typing
compmgmt.mscor searching for “Create and format hard disk partitions.”
- Under “Disk Management,” go to the C drive. If there is unallocated space nearby due to additional drive partitions, you will find an “Extend Volume” option with a right click. Otherwise, it is disabled, so any unallocated space partition cannot be extended.
Tip: there are many other ways to free up space in C drive that include disabling hibernation in Windows 10 or 11 and reducing the size of the WinSxS folder.
7. Fix Bad Storage Blocks Using Command Prompt
On any computer, bad blocks can be a source of not enough space, and Linux computers have unique ways to deal with it. In Windows, the bad storage blocks can be fixed using simple commands in Command Prompt.
- Open the Command Prompt in elevated mode or Administrator settings.
- Navigate to “C:\Windows\System32” (if you’re not already there).
- Run the following command to check for hard disk errors and fix them:
Note: if you want to check another disk drive that is not “C”, replace the “C” with the disk drive letter.
- If you cannot update the device due to disk space issues, consider a system reset in the Command Prompt window. This will delete all unnecessary files and give you a fresh Windows installation.
8. Fix Background Processes Causing Update Errors
Sometimes background processes in Windows, such as Tiworker.exe, can lead to high disk usage. Even though you have a lot of space on your computer, you cannot utilize it for an update, so it’s important to stop these unnecessary background processes.
- Open “Services” from the Windows Run menu.
- Right-click the “Windows Update” service to stop it temporarily.
- Go to a folder named “SoftwareDistribution” under “C:\Windows.” It has all the file components of your latest Windows device.
- Make a backup of all these files on a USB drive and delete the entire folder contents. (Don’t worry; it is safe.)
- Restart your Windows computer and put those files back in.
9. Enable OneDrive Files On-Demand
You can free a lot of space on your hard disk using a OneDrive tweak called “Files On-Demand.” Instead of downloading full versions of synced OneDrive files, a small placeholder is used, which is as lightweight as other File Explorer windows.
- Launch the OneDrive app from the Search bar. Don’t open this in Administrator mode.
- Make sure you have configured the OneDrive folder with your Microsoft account to ensure its path is visible in File Explorer.
- If the OneDrive folder path is not visible, remove OneDrive from your Windows device and reinstall it from Microsoft Store.
- Go to the OneDrive cloud icon on the left side of your screen, right-click it and select “OneDrive -> Settings.”
- OneDrive Settings opens in a new pop-up window. Keep the option for “Files on Demand” turned on as shown here.
Good to know: File Explorer has gained tabs in a recent Windows 11 update. Follow this guide to start using them.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to tell whether your PC has enough disk space to run Windows updates?
The following methods can help you determine whether your Windows device has sufficient space to run an update:
- You do not see a “Windows needs more space” message when you start a new update.
- There is much free storage space available under “System -> Storage.”
- You can copy-paste and save large files in your C drive without any issues.
How much reserved space do I need to run Windows?
The latest Windows versions need at least 50 GB of reserved space, the more the better. The OS contains at least 12 GB of system files, and your PC won’t work without them. If your device is using a lot of virtual memory due to Hyper-V and other clustering, the space requirements can be as high as 128 GB. Since all of this space is coming out of the C:\ drive, you need to keep enough of it to avoid conflicts such as update and installation problems.
How do I resolve Windows update problems?
Windows offers two built-in tools to deal with any update problems. The Windows Update Troubleshooter is the easiest to use. But if you can deep dive a bit, SetUpDiag gives a more precise solution.
Image credit: Pixabay. All screenshots by Sayak Boral.
Our latest tutorials delivered straight to your inbox