Gain hard drive capacity by reducing disk space for Windows XP's System Restore

The fastest way to a few gigabytes more on a disk is to reduce the amount of disk space devoted to XP's System Restore feature.

Every so often, you're going to need an emergency capacity boost on a Windows XP system, especially with single-drive DAS systems, such as those found on desktops or laptops. These systems are often "managed" not by storage administrators but by individual users, who have been known to ignore warning signs until they're flat out of space.

While the long-term fix is to add storage capacity or archive some of the stored material, there's a fast way to get a few gigabytes more on a disk: Reduce the amount of disk space devoted to XP's System Restore feature.

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System Restore keeps multiple snapshots of the system to allow quick recovery of damaged or accidentally deleted files or partitions. It's a handy feature, but it takes up a good deal of disk space. The default setting is 10 percent of the hard disk devoted to System Restore. That's enough to hold a number of restore snapshots – or to save someone's bacon in an emergency.

Here's how to proceed in three easy steps:

  1. Right-click on My Computer and select Properties>System Restore.
  2. Choose the drive you want to add storage space to (if you have more than one) and click Settings.
  3. You'll see a box with a slider. At the bottom of the box, you'll see the number of megabytes currently devoted to System Restore. Move the slider from its Max setting toward Min until you've freed up enough space. Note: Don't set it all the way down to Min because you want at least one snapshot left in System Restore.

There are other measures that can free up disk space quickly, such as compressing partitions or offloading files. But decreasing the System Restore space is about the fastest. It's also simple enough that you can walk a user through it over the phone. . .which can be a lifesaver for an administrator who's got a user sitting in a hotel room on another continent.

About the author: Rick Cook specializes in writing about issues related to storage and storage management.

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This was first published in September 2006

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