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July 6, 2020

Toolkit Item: WinDirStat

WinDirStat stands for Windows Directory Statistics. It’s a storage survey program that focuses on viewing one or more Windows storage volumes. It offers a detailed list of folders and files, organized in descending order by size. That same file and folder hierarchy is also visualized very nicely, in a specialized form called a “treemap.” The color scheme and rendering inside WinDirStat make its treemaps attractive, but the important thing about them is what they tell the eye about disk holdings/volume contents. Take a look at the information about my production PC’s OS drive (C:), for example:


To appreciate this info, click the image to display full-sized. Even at this paltry resolution (500×385) you can see that archive.pst (green) and hiberfile.sys (red) are the two largest files on this drive.

Working with WinDirStat

WinDirStat (home site: WinDirStat.net) is Open Source software. Thus it is in the public domain, and free to anyone who wants to download the program. Personally, I find this tool invaluable for checking my Windows storage. For my C: drive that happens at least once a month. For the other 9 storage devices currently visible in Explorer on my production PC (see next screencap), that happens less often. It might occur when I go wandering off onto the drive, and notice it needs cleaning up. Or it might happen when I see a drive filling up past the 75% full mark, and I need to decide if cleanup is warranted, or migration to a bigger drive. Right now, drive sizes on this system run from nominal 128 GB (F:) to as large as 8 TB (E:), with numerous 0.5 and 1.0 TB drives, and some larger drives as well.


Right now, I have 10 drives attached to my production PC. Only 3 are internal. 3 more reside in a 5.25″ drive bay that holds up to 4 2.5″ drives. Four more attach via USB.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

Other Drives Show Other Layouts, Depending on Use Cases

Now, we’ll take a look at a couple of other drives. Notice along the way how I can move sliders on the divisions between the text information at the top of the window (which show disk contents left, filetypes right) and the treemap at the bottom to best fit the particular drive contents shown. I’ll start with my E: drive, which is an 8 TB (nominal; 7.27 TB in Explorer) drive I purchased for backups and archival storage. It’s a daily target for Macrium Reflect backups, including full-blown image captures (blue) and incremental snapshots (green). There are a couple of virtual machines there, too (.VHD, which shows up as filetype “Hard Disk Image File” in red).windirstat.backupdrive

As you’d expect, image files of one kind or another dominate storage on a backup drive.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

On my production PC, I use the F: drive (an aging but still fast-enough OCZ Vertex-4 128 GB SSD) for my everyday work files. Thus, it’s mostly a collection of a huge number of documents (PDF files, blue), ZIPs (red), images (green for JPG, yellow for TIFF), and a few other odds’n’ends. This shows up in its treemap, where the largest files are ZIPs. These come mostly from project archives or document libraries. Thus, the large red block at center is a document archive from a legal case from 2014; to its right is a collection of documents related to infringement contentions in another case from that same year.WinDirStat.DriveF

On my current work-in-progress drive, there are mostly large numbers of documents and images, with some large ZIP archives.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

In looking at those large files on F:, I realize that those 2014 cases have long since settled or been decided in some other way. They really should move from the current work drive to one of my archive drives. This is exactly the kind of insight that WinDirStat can — and should provide — for users willing to take the time to examine and ponder their disk holdings, and figure out what goes where. WinDirStat is a useful tool, and can find a place in almost anybody’s admin toolbox. There is another alternative, though: a program called TreeSize. Like WinDirStat, it uses treemaps (though not as nice-looking) to show disk holdings. But it can do more than WinDirStat (the free version is pretty similar, but the for-a-fee versions are more powerful, as you’d expect). I’ll write about TreeSize soon, in another Win10.Guru Admin Toolkit story. Stay tuned!

Author: Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.

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