Question: I know this letter is hopelessly NOT as “brief as possible,” but I thought I’d write it anyway. My Dell Windows 8.1 laptop’s C drive has recently started filling up for unknown reasons, sometimes as much as 1 GB a day. I’ve tried some of the fixes like disk defrag/cleanup, disabling hibernation, uninstalling old programs, deleted old restore points and of course the Recycle Bin is empty. While I gained some space in doing so it was a brief reprieve as I still continue to lose space regularly. I also wanted to try removing the Windows.edb file (I’ve never used the Windows search anyway) but couldn’t figure out how to do it.
I use CCleaner often, Malwarebytes has found nothing, and I got a panoply of colorful results with WinDirStat that were mostly geek to me.
Using TreeSize Free I did see a large amount of space delegated to System Recovery/Repair (79% – 363.4 GB) and to my untrained eye this doesn’t seem right. However the culprit could also be my Kaspersky Total Security. I have used Kaspersky for many years and never had any problems. I’m also not having any problems on two other Windows 10 computers that are currently running Kaspersky. However, I think the problem may have started after the last time I reinstalled it earlier this year on the affected computer. I have read of an issue where Kaspersky was continually loading virus definitions and updates constantly and thus I just need to delete the redundant files, but I don’t know how to check for or do this.
Or all this could just be the wages of using a 6+ year old computer and a sign that it’s time to let it go. I both enjoy and learn from your columns and any opinion or ideas would be most welcome, thanks.
– Barry R.
Answer: Much as I like to make the point that older systems are more prone to problems, I cannot in all honesty say that I believe this problem is in any way connected to the “wages of using a 6+ year old computer.” Now, the fact that you’re running Windows 8.1 when free upgrades to Windows 10 have been available literally for years is another point altogether, and one which I will leave the consideration of its wisdom to you.
I will also say that all the frantic deleting you’re doing is like bailing water out of a boat with a leak. Until you fix that leak, you can bail all you like, and you’re not going to improve your situation. In your case, you’re eventually going to (if you haven’t already) run out of things to delete, and your ongoing “leak” is just going to consume that space as well. If it’s not yet clear to you, what I’m saying is that you need to plug that leak!
Were this a Windows 10 system, I’d refer you to some built-in functionality that helps you to determine where all your disk space is being used. Since you’re on Windows 8.1, that functionality is unavailable in Windows itself. The unfortunate case with a tool like TreeSize is that it only tells you the raw sizes of files and directories, but doesn’t break things down into categories that help clean-up the drive, such as Windows Updates, or obsolete installers, or Temporary Files.
I suspect your eyeballing of Kaspersky puts you closer to the problem than you think. I don’t necessarily mean Kaspersky itself, though, as you mentioned there has been problems noted in the past with it over-downloading virus signatures. It might also be generating copious amounts of Trace files. See this article for more information: TinyURL.com/IGTM-0721.
Other programs could be using up space behind-the-scenes, including Windows itself. Mainstream support for 8.1 ended in January 2018, but extended support doesn’t end until January 2023. It’s possible that numerous software applications are updating themselves and creating space-consuming Restore Points along the way. You mentioned having multiple laptops available. Perhaps you could back-off using this one, and run some experiments. I’d start by first disconnecting it from the Internet for a day, and see if the hard drive consumption halts. That should help prove the cause is from something it’s downloading. Then disable or uninstall programs one or two at a time until the problem stops. Start with your Kaspersky. Eventually, the culprit(s) will be revealed. In the end, remember these words of wisdom: “You can make a whole lot of problems go away with a new computer.” Good luck, and happy computing!
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