How to maximize storage space on your Windows tablet

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One of the unfortunate hallmarks of affordable Windows-based tablets is limited storage space. It is not uncommon for low-priced tablets to come with only 32GB or 64GB drives.

A large chunk of that space is taken up by the Windows operating system and any preinstalled applications. Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to rid Windows tablets of unneeded data to stretch that storage space as far as possible.

Delete Temp File and Prefetch Data

Windows accumulates temporary and cache files like it's in an episode of Hoarders, filling your limited storage with old items you probably don't need. Performing a disk cleanup will delete a good chunk of the junk data stored in the Windows temp folder. To get rid of it all though, you’ll have to delete it manually.

Windows 8.1 prefetch file folder Marco Chiappetta

Windows is notorious for amassing tons of junk data over time. Delete it to reclaim storage space on your tablet.

Restart your tablet, and when Windows has fully loaded, close or exit from any applications that placed an icon in your system tray (usually by right-clicking on its icon and choosing close or exit) to ensure they’re not using any temporary files.

Next, click on the Libraries shortcut in your Taskbar, select This PC from the left column in the resulting window, and then double-click on your C: drive. Double-click on the Windows folder and delete all of the files in the Prefetch and Temp folders (C:\Windows\Prefetch and C:\Windows\Temp). As long as you have restarted and don’t have any applications running, deleting the contents of these folders should have no ill effects.

Finally, go back to the root of the C: drive and navigate to the C:\Users\[Your User Name]\AppData\Local\Temp\ folder and delete everything in there as well.

If you haven’t taken the time to purge old prefetch and temp data from your system, you may be surprised by how much space it was taking up.

Purge Your Download Folder

Download folders are often the junk drawers of computers. They are often chock full of installers that will never be used again. Navigate to your Downloads folder (My Documents > Downloads) and delete any files you don’t absolutely need.

Make sure to empty the Recycle Bin too: The files in the Recycle Bin aren't actually deleted until you empty it.

Shrink Your Paging File

Windows 8.1 page file utility Marco Chiappetta

Shrinking your paging file is a quick and easy way to free up some storage space.

By default, Windows creates a paging file (also known as a swap file or page file) on the drive that it is installed on, which acts somewhat like additional RAM. It stores bits of data for applications that are running in the background. The paging file dynamically changes size based on how large a file Windows thinks it may need.

Many users like to disable their paging files altogether to regain all of the space used by the files. Not having a paging file can cause problems with some applications though, so instead of disabling it completely, you can simply shrink it.

Go to the Start screen, swipe from the right of the screen (or click Search on the bottom-right of the screen) to open the search panel and type Advanced in the text box. In the search results, click View advanced system settings.

In the resulting window, click on the Settings button in the Performance section at the top. Click the Advanced tab in the Performance Options window that opens, and click Change in the “Virtual Memory” section at the bottom.

When the Virtual Memory window opens, note the current size of your paging file in the line at the bottom labeled 'Currently allocated.' Whatever the number is, cut it in half. Tick the radio button labeled 'Custom size,' and enter that number into the 'Maximum size' field. Enter 16MB for the initial size. Then, click on the Set button, and click OK in all of the other windows that remained open.

You may be prompted to restart the system when you’re done.

Put It In The Cloud

Many cloud-based storage providers offer up multiple gigabytes of free storage space just by signing up for an account. Microsoft’s own OneDrive service (formerly known as SkyDrive) is already integrated into Window 8.1. If you’ve got non-critical personal files taking up storage space on your tablet, move them to the cloud and reclaim that space. It is also recommended that you back up that data to a thumb drive or other backup solution.

Perform a Disk Clean-up

Windows 8.1 Disk Cleanup utility Marco Chiappetta

By performing a Disk Cleanup and purging old restore points and other system files, we were able to free up about 3GB of space on a relatively new, hardly touched Surface Pro 3.

Running Windows’ built-in Disk Cleanup utility with its default options deletes some of the temporary data, log files, and installers that Windows can build up over time, among many other things. If you dig a bit deeper into its menus, however, you can also purge shadow copies of system files, error dumps, and old system restore points that can consume a ton of space.

Note: Deleting system restore points makes it much harder to fix problems later. While you may reclaim some space by doing away with restore points, you are also effectively doing away with one of the operating system's safety nets.

If you are absolutely positive you don’t need your older restore points, click on the Libraries shortcut in your Taskbar. Select This PC in the left column of the resulting window, right-click on your C: drive and select Properties from the menu. In the resulting window, click on the Disk Cleanup button, and in the window that pops up, click on the button labeled 'Clean up system files.'

The window will close while Windows calculates how much space will be freed up. When it pops back up, click on the More Options tab, and then click on the Clean Up… button in the “System Restore and Shadow Copies” section at the bottom.

Once a confirmation prompt opens, click the Delete button, and then click back to the Disk Cleanup tab. Tick all of the boxes in the list and click OK.

Run CCleaner

If your tablet is running an x86 or x64 architecture version of Windows—not Windows RT—CCleaner is a great utility for routine maintenance.

Note: If you’re not sure which architecture version of Windows you’re using, open the Control Panel and click on System. In the resulting window, look for the label named “System type.” The Windows architecture version—x86, x64 or RT—will displayed to the right.

CCleaner will rid Windows of a ton of junk data from temp folders and various caches, and it’ll do the same for many popular browsers and applications as well.

Download and install CCleaner and launch the application. On the Cleaner menu, you’ll see tabs for Windows and Applications. Read all of the items that CCleaner will purge from the operating system and various applications. Tick each checkbox for each item you want removed (I typically tick everything except the "Wipe Free Space" option).  If you're unsure, click Analyze and CCleaner will do its best to guess for you. Hit Run Cleaner when you're ready.

If your system is fairly polluted, it may take a while for CCleaner to finish.

Use That micro-SD Card Slot

Surface Pro 3

If your tablet has a slot for an SD or micro-SD card like this Surface Pro 3, take advantage of it to add more storage to your device.

Many Windows-based tablets feature micro-SD cards slots that can accommodate cards of up to 128GB in capacity. Use the card to store photos, videos, documents and other files that take up lots of space.

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