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How to Free Up Space on Your Hard Drive for Steam

Do you love gaming but find your hard drive always running out of space for new Steam games? I‘ve been there too!

As an avid PC gamer myself, I know firsthand how frustrating it is when Steam gives you that dreaded "not enough disk space" error. You get excited for a new game release, try to install it, and bam – not enough room.

Don‘t worry my friend, there are plenty of ways to free up drive space for Steam. In this guide, I‘ll share all the tips and tricks I‘ve learned over the years to keep my gaming library from hogging my entire hard drive.

Why Does Steam Take Up So Much Space?

Before we dig into the solutions, let‘s quickly discuss why Steam eats up hard drive real estate so fast.

Modern AAA game file sizes are massive, often exceeding 50GB per title for games with high-resolution textures, character models, cutscenes and expansive environments.

For comparison:

  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) takes up 175GB of drive space!
  • Red Dead Redemption 2 requires 150GB free.
  • Even indie games like Ark: Survival Evolved occupy 100GB.

When you have a few of these gaming behemoths installed through Steam, they can quickly fill up your hard drive.

Additionally, Steam stores cached download data in the background even after games are installed. This allows it to verify and repair files, but means it hangs onto extra update data.

So between huge game install sizes and cached download files, Steam can monopolize your storage faster than you might expect.

Now let‘s go over all the ways to take back control of your hard drive!

Clean Up Your Hard Drive

One of the quickest ways to free up a good chunk of space is by running the Disk Cleanup utility that comes with Windows.

Disk Cleanup searches your hard drive for:

  • Temporary files
  • Old Windows updates
  • Empty system caches
  • Recycle Bin contents
  • Other unnecessary junk

And then it deletes all these files with a single click.

Here‘s how to put Disk Cleanup to work optimizing your hard drive:

  1. Hit the Windows key and type "Disk Cleanup"
  2. Select the system drive Steam is installed on
  3. Click "Clean up system files"
  4. Check all the file types you want to delete
  5. Click "OK" and then "Delete Files"

This one simple process can recover 5GB of space or more, depending on how much cruft is eliminated.

And don‘t worry – Disk Cleanup is totally safe to run regularly without damaging your system or files. I put it to work every couple months to keep my PC lean and mean.

Uninstall Old Steam Games

Another fast way to open up significant storage is by uninstalling Steam games you no longer play regularly.

I know it‘s tempting to keep old games installed just in case you ever get the urge to revisit them. But let‘s be real – if you haven‘t launched a game in over a year, you probably aren‘t going to play it again any time soon.

Here are the steps to easily uninstall Steam games:

  1. Open your Steam library
  2. Right-click any game
  3. Select "Uninstall"
  4. Confirm you want to remove the game
  5. Repeat for other games you don‘t play anymore

Depending on the game, you might recover anywhere from 10GB on up to 100GB or more per title uninstalled.

Auditing your Steam library yearly and removing titles you don‘t play anymore is an easy "set it and forget it" way to regularly free up space.

Clear Out the Steam Downloads Folder

Steam has a dedicated downloads folder located at \Steam\steamapps\downloading that contains pending updates and new game downloads.

Sometimes if an update or installation gets interrupted, leftover installer data gets stranded here hogging your hard drive.

Deleting this entire folder forces Steam to start fresh with a clean slate the next time you download something. Just keep in mind you‘ll have to restart any pending downloads from scratch.

I like to clear out the downloads folder periodically and have recovered 3-4GB of stranded installer data in the past.

Verify Integrity of Game Files

An underused Steam feature that can help optimize your hard drive usage is verifying game file integrity.

This scans your Steam library and checks installed games for:

  • Missing files
  • Corrupted data
  • Incomplete installations

Steam will then download and replace any damaged or missing resources.

Here‘s how to verify game files:

  1. Open your Steam library
  2. Right-click on a game
  3. Choose "Properties"
  4. Go to the Local Files tab
  5. Click "Verify Integrity of Game Files"

Depending on the size of the game, verification can take awhile to complete. But it ensures you aren‘t losing HDD space to corrupted data.

I try to verify my most-played games every few months. It often discovers a couple GB of wasted space that is then freed up after re-downloading files.

Change the Steam Library Location

If your primary hard drive is constantly maxed out even after freeing up space, try moving your Steam library to another drive.

For example, you could:

  • Create a Steam folder on a secondary HDD/SSD
  • Set this as the new default install location in Steam
  • Download new games to that drive instead

This keeps your primary system disk lean by storing games elsewhere.

Here are the steps to change the Steam default install folder:

  1. Open Steam
  2. Click "Steam" > "Settings"
  3. Select the "Downloads" tab
  4. Click "Steam Library Folders"
  5. Choose an existing library or "Add Library Folder"
  6. Set this as the default folder

The one catch is that existing game installs stay behind on the original drive. You‘ll need to manually move them over to the new Steam location.

But going forward, all fresh game downloads automatically go to the new destination drive.

Expand the Steam Partition

Let‘s say your Steam library is installed on its own partition that‘s running out of room.

You may be able to expand that partition using free space from an adjacent partition. This gives Steam more breathing room without moving anything.

A handy tool for this is MiniTool Partition Wizard. I‘ve used it in the past to quickly resize my Steam partition larger.

Just be careful not to overwrite other partitions and back up your drive first.

Here‘s how to easily resize a Steam partition:

  1. Download and install MiniTool Partition Wizard
  2. Launch the program
  3. Right-click the partition next to Steam and choose "Move/Resize"
  4. Drag its arrow icon to take space away and add it to Steam‘s partition
  5. Click "Align Partitions" and then "OK"
  6. Click "Apply" to grow the Steam partition

With this trick, I was able to gain an extra 20GB for my Steam library without relocating it.

Uninstall and Reinstall Large Games

As a last resort, you can completely uninstall and reinstall large Steam games to potentially recover lost disk space.

This forces a clean slate by wiping the game totally from the drive before re-adding a fresh install.

The steps are:

  1. Backup any saves for that game
  2. Completely uninstall the game
  3. Restart your PC
  4. Reinstall the game again

This takes some time depending on the game size, but is worth trying if you have any stubborn space-hogging titles.

I once recovered over 50GB after wiping and reinstalling Ark this way!

Upgrade to a Larger Hard Drive

If you have maxed out your hard drive‘s storage capacity even after trying these tips, an upgrade might be your best option.

Bigger hard drives have never been cheaper:

  • A 2TB hard drive provides plenty of room for dozens of Steam games.
  • 4TB offers even more future-proof capacity.
  • For the ultimate in speed, a 1TB SSD can significantly reduce game loading times.

For under $100, you can massively boost your storage and get your Steam library running smoothly again.

I hope these tips help you get back precious hard drive space for installing new games on Steam! Let me know if you have any other questions my friend. Game on!



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.