Low disk space on Windows Server 2012

Low disk space is the most common issue in Windows Server 2012, comparing with data drives, the system C drive is very likely running out of space. When there is not enough free space left in C drive, to avoid server offline to reinstall, you should do something ASAP. In this article, I’ll give a clue about low disk space in Windows Server 2012 (R2) and how to solve this problem.

Why disk space running low

In daily usage, many types of files can eat up free space in C drive, such as:

  1. Windows updates, system restore point, hibernation, paging file. These files are in large size, so they use up free space very quickly.
  2. Logs, temp, cache, browser .etc These files are in small size but more and more produce continuously.
  3. 3rd-party application files. All applications install to C drive by default, even if you install to other drive, some files go to C drive forcedly.
  4. All files deleted without pressing Shift go to Recycle Bin, which is in C drive.

Even if the C drive is created large to 100GB when building the server, it runs out of space sooner or later.

Risk of low disk space

When the free disk space running low, you cannot install Windows updates or applications. Some Windows services such as backup and recovery stop working. It also cause operating system running much slower, stuck, reboot unexpectedly or even crash. So you’d better fix this issue as soon as possible, it is too late when the server down, causing data loss and disconnect with your users.

Create low disk space alert on Server 2012

You can setup a notification to alert when the disk drive runs low on disk space, example script as below:

$freespacethreshold = 17

# Setting path to servers.txt file for input later on…
$inputfilepath = $env:USERPROFILE + “\Desktop”
$inputfilename = “servers.txt”
$workingfile = $inputfilepath + “\” + $inputfilename

#does the file exist?
$fileexist = test-path $workingfile

if ($? -eq $false)
  Write-Host “$inputfilename does not exist on $infputfilepath” -ForegroundColor Red -BackgroundColor Black
  Write-Host “Please Create the file with one server per line that you want checked” -ForegroundColor Red -BackgroundColor Black
  exit 1

#read the file into a variable for later processing
$servers = Get-Content $workingfile

# Step 1 this is to check the disk space and alert if their is 10% or less free
foreach ($s in $servers)
 $logicaldisks = Get-WmiObject -ComputerName $s Win32_Logicaldisk
 Foreach ($l in $logicaldisks)
  $totalsize = $l.size
  $freespace = $l.freespace
  if ($freespace -gt 0)
   $percentagefree = ($freespace / $totalsize ) * 100
   Write-Host $l.deviceid ” has ” $percentagefree “% free”
   if ($percentagefree -lt $freespacethreshold)
    Write-Host “Health Alert!” -ForegroundColor Red -BackgroundColor Black
    Write-Host “Drive ” $l.deviceid ” has less the $freespacethreshold % free”

Add/Install Disk Cleanup for Server 2012

When disk space runs low on Windows Server 2012, the first option is freeing up space to reclaim free space. To do this, you may either use 3rd-party software or Windows built-in Disk Cleanup utility. I always suggest using Windows Disk Cleanup, because I’ve used it from Server 2003 many many times. It is easy to use, able to clean many types of files.

Steps to install/enable Disk Cleanup in Server 2012:

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

Low disk space 2012

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, Open Windows Explorer, right click C drive and select Properties, you’ll see Disk Cleanup.

disk cleanup

In the pop-up window, select the files you want to delete and click OK, redo this step to clean up system files.

select files

Disk Cleanup is useful to help solve low disk space issue on Windows Server 2012 (R2). However, in some cases, you cannot free up plenty of disk space. Some people create C drive too small when building the server. In these situation, try to take some free space out of other drives and add the space to C drive, otherwise, you’ll encounter this problem in near future.

Increase C drive free space

Step 1: Download partition assistant, right click any data drive and select “Allocate Free Space“.

Reallocate space

Step 2: In the pop-up window, type the amount and select C drive in drop-down box.

Set value

Step 3: Press Apply button to proceed, done.

C drive expand

Video guide to extend C drive in Windows Server 2012 (R2)

(Recommend full screen by clicking the square at bottom right of this video)


When C drive is running out of space, to resolve low disk space on Windows Server 2012, free up disk space with built-in Disk Cleanup and then expand C drive with server partition software.

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