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Visualizing Disk Usage With Treemaps

By April 27, 2009 October 20th, 2012 Recommendations, Tips & Tricks

Have you ever been in a situation where you’re not sure why your hard drive is as full as it is, and you wonder what exactly what is taking up the most space? I’m pretty sure most computer users have encountered this before. What I used to do when I hit this problem was look around for big folders on my drive. This ultimately works, but it takes some searching to find the problematic folders – and you’re likely to miss some stuff.

Determined to find a better approach, I looked around for an application that could help me, and eventually found one called WinDirStat that utilized a method called treemapping to help users visualize their disk usage. I tried it out, and was immediately pleased with how it worked.

Here’s how it looks:

The WinDirStat interface allows you to visualize disk usage.

The WinDirStat interface. Click to enlarge.

Each of those colored rectangles actually represents a file on the hard drive. You can hover your mouse over any one of them, and WinDirStat will reveal the name of the file as well as where it is located. It is also possible to quickly determine which types of files are using up the most space, using the “Extension” frame.

Overall, I’ve found that these features are a godsend when trying to free up disk space. I’m hoping future operating systems comes with this type of application built-in, as everyone I know seems to find this an invaluable tool when it comes to cleaning up a hard drive. It could also be useful in online applications that allow you to store data online, like Dropbox, or other similar services.