How to free up disk space in Windows Server 2012 (R2)?

The longer you running the server, the less free space left in system C: drive. Windows updates, system service, applications, cache and many other files eat up the free space very fast. One day, the system C drive will become red after opening Explorer.

C drive red

When your server starts to run low on space it can not only impact performance but also prevent certain processes from running properly. For example: you cannot download and install updates especially the important security updates. If your server is hosting SQL Server and space is critically low then the scheduled backups will fail to run. If you then needed to restore some data this could be a serious problem.

You should free up disk space on this server as fast as possible. The most common tool to free up space is Windows built-in Disk Cleanup utility, however, when you right-click the low disk space C drive on Windows Server 2012, you won’t see the Cleanup button.

no cleanup

If you try to start from Run, you’ll receive the error: Windows cannot find ‘cleanmgr’. Make sure you typed the name correctly, and then try again.

cleanup error

The reason is that the disk cleanup utility is not installed by default on Windows Server 2012, then how to install it?

How to add/enable/install Disk Cleanup in Windows Server 2012

Step 1: Click Server Manager on bottom left, click the 2nd option “Add roles and features“.

server manager

Step 2: Click Next till you see the Features.

Add roles

Step 3: Click the check-box in front of “Desktop Experience” and click Next.

Select to install

Step 4: Within several minutes, the installation complete, click Close.

Install complete

Step 5: Restart the server to finish adding features.


After booting to desktop, when you right click C drive in Explorer, you’ll see Cleanup utility.

disk cleanup

Another way is pressing Windows and R on keyboard to start from Run, type cleanmgr, Disk Cleanup will be launched.


Free up space in Windows 2012 Server

It is very easy, in the pop-up window, select the files you want to delete and click OK, you may also try to clean up system files.

select files

Windows Cleanup utility is a great tool to free up disk space, as you see, it is able to free up many types of files, such as Temporary Internet Files, files in Recycle Bin, Temporary files, Log files, Thumbnails and Windows Error Report files. I do not suggest delete files with 3rd-party software, because some people reported mess-up after using these software.

In some other website, which provide ways to free up disk space listed as 1, 2, 3… such as Cleanup Windows Temp Files, Cleanup Windows Error Reports, Empty the recycle bin. Why waste so much time if you can complete these operations in one step with Cleanup utility?

Extend C drive after freeing up disk space

A server administrator who has more than 15 years experience says that the best idea to fix low disk space issue is expanding this drive, why?

  1. It costs too much time to free up space.
  2. You won’t get large amount of free space in most cases.
  3. Potential danger of losing data or messing up the server if you try some methods that you are not familiar with.
  4. The server runs low disk space again in a short time.

With some partitioning software, you can extend the C drive by taking free unused space from other data drives, keeping Operating System and all data intact.

Step 1: Download NIUBI Partition Editor, right click D: drive and select “Resize/Move Volume“.

Drag to resize

Step 2: In the pop-up window, drag the left border rightwards to generate free Unallocated space.

Shrink volume

You may also input a value for the Unallocated space directly.

Drag to resize

Click OK and back to the main window, where you’ll see 20GB Unallocated space created behind C: drive.

Unallocated space

Step 3: Drag the right border rightwards to hold the Unallocated space.

Drag to resize

Hold unallocated space

Step 4: Click OK and back to the main window, where you’ll see C drive extended to 60GB by robbing 20GB free space from D. Press Apply on top left to execute, done!

Partition resized

Video guide to increase C drive free space

NIUBI Partition Editor integrated unique Roll-Back protection technology, which is able to roll back the server to the status before reszing automatically and rapidly if power failure or any other hardware issue occur, so you don’t need to worry about Operating System and all data safety. Furthermore, it is 30% – 300% faster than ANY other tools, because of its unique file-moving algorithm. Learn More

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