Free up space on Surface – Part 3


Free up space on SurfaceUsing Tools to Free Up Space on Surface:

It’s been a couple of weeks since the last part of this series was posted. All the excitement around the new Surface 2 has been dominating our posts but now it’s time to get back to helping you free up space on your Surface tablet.

In part 1 of this series, we showed you how to remove the recovery partition from your Surface tablet which could free up 4 to 8 GB of space depending if you have a Surface RT/2 or Surface Pro/Pro2 tablet.

In part 2, we covered how you could expand the available storage on your Surface by adding a MicroSD card. Granted, that’s not technically freeing up space but it is making more free space available.

In this part, we’re going to cover using built-in or downloadable tools to delete temporary or unneeded files that are needlessly taking up space on your drive.

Free up space on Surface Tablets

These steps work on Surface RT/2 and Surface Pro/Pro2. They also work whether you’ve upgraded to Windows 8.1 or stuck with 8.0.

  • Don’t cache all of your e-mail: Caching your mail for long periods of time can really eat up your disk space. Especially if you get a lot of attachments and/or you have multiple mail accounts. By default, the Metro mail client will only cache messages received in the past two weeks. That’s usually long enough to have your important stuff is with you but not so much that it starts impacting your free space. So, if you’ve changed your mail caching but are running out of space, change it back to 2 weeks. If you’re using a mail client other than the default Metro one, the same advice applies.
  • Cleanup Wizard: Microsoft included a handy tool to help you clean up unused or temporary files on your Surface.
    • Log in to your Surface with admin rights.
    • Open the Charms bar (swipe in from the right of the screen) and select the Search charm.
    • In the Search charm, tap on settings and search for “free up disk space”.
    • Tap Free up Disk Space by Deleting Unnecessary Files.

Free up space on Surface1

    • The Disk Cleanup wizard will start in desktop and will start scanning your hard drive for files it can safely remove.

Free up space on Surface

    • After the scan finishes you’ll get this window.

Free up space on Surface

    • Tap the Clean up system files button. The clean up system files option will let you free up a little more space than just doing the basic cleanup.
    • The scan window will appear again.

Free up space on Surface

    • This time, you’ll notice the Disk Cleanup application is now missing the “Clean up system files” button but has gained a “More Options” tab.

Free up space on Surface

    •  Tap the More Options tab.
    • From here, tap the Clean Up button under the “System Restore and Shadow copies” section.

Free up space on Surface

    • You’ll get a warning prompt. Click Delete.

Free up space on Surface

    • Next, tap on the Disk Cleanup tab.
    • Check all of the boxes in the “Files to Delete” section. You’ll probably need to scroll down to do so.

Free up space on Surface

    • Tap OK.
    • You’ll get another warning prompt. Tap Delete Files.

Free up space on Surface

    • Your Surface will start performing the cleanup. You’ll get the following progress window. It can take some time so be patient. After it finishes, you don’t need to close anything to do anything else and you can go back to using your Surface.

Free up space on Surface

  • Uninstall Unused Apps: This one is so simple sometimes people overlook it. You can easily uninstall apps you are no longer using (or are no longer worth the space on your drive) with a tool built into your Surface that let’s you see how much space each app is taking up.
    • Log in to your Surface with admin rights.
    • Open the Charms bar (swipe in from the right of the screen) and select the Search charm.
    • In the Search charm, tap on settings and search for “free up disk space”.
    • This time, select Uninstall Apps to Free up Disk Space.

Free up space on Surface1

    • You’ll get the following window. Wait until the scan is finished, it’s determining the sizes of your installed apps.

Free up space on Surface

    • Tap on one of the apps you want to uninstall. In this example, I chose SugarSync.

Free up space on Surface

    • Tap Uninstall. You’ll get a warning screen like this one. Tap Uninstall again.

Free up space on Surface

    • Repeat until you’ve uninstalled all of the apps you want to.

  • Folder Compression: Another thing you can do is compress folders that have data in them that you don’t use often but want to keep. There’s a performance hit if you try to access data in a compressed folder because your Surface has to decompress it for use but if you are careful about what you compress, you will be able to pick up some valuable space and never notice the performance loss.
    • Go to desktop mode and open Explorer.
    • Tap and Hold on the folder you want to compress (right-click). In this example, we’re compressing my Videos folder.

Free up space on Surface

  • When the dialog popup appears, tap Properties.

Free up space on Surface

  • In the Properties window, tap Advanced.

Free up space on Surface

  • In the Advanced Attributes window, check the Compress Contents to Save Disk Space box.

Free up space on Surface

  • In the Confirm Attribute Changes window, tap OK. You’ll end up back on the main Properties page. Tap OK again.
  • You’ll get a Confirm Attribute Changes window. Ensure the Apply Changes to this Folder, Subfolders and Files radio button is selected.

Free up space on Surface 8

  • You’ll get a Applying Attributes progress window.

Free up space on Surface

After it’s done compressing the files, you might notice the the font for your compressed files changed from black to blue (like below). This is normal and is an easy way to determine which files on your drive are compressed. The file on the left is compressed and the file on the right is not.

Free up space on Surface

Note: If you ever need to decompress a folder(s), just follow the same steps but, uncheck the “Compress this folder” box.

OK, that’s it. If you’ve followed some or all of the advice above you should have freed up at least some space to fill back up with more interesting data.

As always, if you have questions or comments, please let me know.



  1. Great series of articles, although Part 2 ought to be updated now to indicate that Win 8.1 allows app/Library access to the MicroSD card by default with no additional complicated VHD creation/mounting etc. steps required.

  2. Windows Update on my 32GB Surface RT kept failing so I had to use the refresh method recommended at

    The (unmentioned) catch with moving the recovery files to an external USB is that windows will require a massive amount of free space on the c: SSD drive before it will actually refresh from the USB. In my case I had to somehow liberate +7.5GB of space, which I eventually achieved by moving all user data to a MicroSD card and applying the tips in this series, aggressively uninstalling across four user accounts. (The article could also mention moving OneDrive to MicroSD: even if you’re using ‘online only’ mode all the shortcuts to the actual files also take up space; in my case 450 MB for a 28GB OneDrive account)

    After a looooooooong refresh, finally the SSD reported 14.5 of 28.5 GB free: woohoo, fantastic!
    But no updates had been applied yet. Today, jan-2015, a good 100 updates later, and with only 20MB of apps reinstalled, again I am faced with only 4.7 out of 28.5GB free. Which is getting close to the borderline ~3GB where the SSD performance starts to drop dramatically due to insufficient free working space (PC Benchmark Linear Write on the full SSD drops to 0.34MB/s where it gets to 27MB/s with more free space).

    So my question is, in spite of all the useful tips in these articles, is there a remedy for the Windows Update space creep? It seems to me that if this continues, within another half year or so of updates, the Surface RT SSD will simply be so full of O/S it will stop performing altogether.


    • Johan,

      I’m sorry to say that I think Windows RT will continue to creep up in size as updates are made and features are added/removed.

      One thing you could do is make sure you select the cleanup system files option when using the disk cleanup wizard. It should remove, at least, the installation packages for those updates.

      Another thing you could try is to remove some Windows components that you’re not using to free up space. (Control panel/Programs/turn windows features on or off) which might free up some space for you.

      It might change some things a bit but, could help free up a little space for you.

      I’m sorry I don’t have a better answer but, unfortunately, OS bloat is something Microsoft has struggled with.


      • OS bloat has now overtaken my Surface RT 32 GB. Shame on Microsoft. This is planned obsolescence. My Surface is virtually like new, not cluttered with apps, data. But C drive is in the red with under 1 GB free space.

  3. Great stuff. Here are my three suggestions for cleaning up space on your hard drive:

    0) configure the SD card as primary storage
    1) move your microsoft index file to the SD card (that is about 2GB for me)
    2) use webroot, the smallest antivirus software (that is about 1GB versus symmantic),2817,2470312,00.asp
    3) if you use outlook and cache messages, move the cache to teh SD card (that is about 1GB for me)

  4. Here’s the answer. Delete all of the Windows installer programs that are needlessly hanging around on the hard drive, and then empty the recycle bin. This freed up half of my Surface RT hard drive.

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