Why does it say i'm out of hard drive space when i should have plenty?!

Ok, this problem has been going on for quite a while… According to the properties of c: in my computer, i have 1.4 GB free. However, just then it told me that i’m out of disk space. This is a problem that has only gotten worse with time, but i’m not so sure it’s the drive (well, physically anyways). Have any of you heard of a virus that would slowly eat up my hard drive space? A friend of mine told me that he had such a virus a long time ago (but he doesn’t know the name, go figure). However, i’ve used mcafee’s virus scan (from their web page) and i’ve used f-prot. Neither found anything wrong at all. I did try to defrag my drive, and after a long time, it told me the drive had errors. I am scared of scandisk frankly. I’ve had scandisk delete important files in the past (not on this computer, but anyway…) without asking. Any advice on this would be quite helpful. Thank you in advance…


I’m afraid Scandisk is what you need. Or if you have it, Norton Disk Doctor. It’s almost certainly corruption.

Make a backup of your data before committing though, and don’t blame me if fixing the problem screws up your HD! :slight_smile:

Do you use FAT and have a lot of very small files? Windows actually stores files in clusters which vary in size depending on the size of your harddrive and space is lost if a file is smaller than the cluster size. For example, if you have 100 seperate files of all 1k in size and the cluster size is 8k, you waste 100 times 7k in size, which is almost one MB. The larger the disk, the larger the clusters, so a 30GB harddrive can waste a lot of space. (I believe the cluster size for a 30GB harddrive is 32k).

Windows just adds all the file sizes to determine the space used on your harddrive, but this can be not the actual space that is used. To resolve the issue, either zip all smaller files into one file, or create smaller partitions.

I could be that Aghris but it’s unlikely that 1.4 Gig would be used up in such a manner (you’d need loads of these small files!) and remember that he said defrag indicated errors on the drive. I’m really pretty sure it’s corruption on disk (perhaps corrupted FAT).

I’m gonna go extreme here: backup EVERYTHING you need to save (onto floppies, CDs, Zip disks… whatever), re-format all of your HDs and reinstall Windows…

I have done this a couple of time to solve stupid little issues that windows seems to come up with…

Good luck!

True. I did not read the OP very carefully before answering I must say.
Dani, you can safely use scandisk though. Before running though, you can go to the properties and specify how to react in certain cases. You can switch off automatic deletion when it finds unused files or you can simply uncheck the ‘automatically repair errors’ check box and manually solve the issues.

And, not to rain on your parade, but…

It’s possible that the F.A.T. sectors of your hard drive are physically damaged. They are the areas closest to the edge, and are read most frequently. Back up the world, as mentioned above- then maybe check for sales at CompUsa. I got the wifestress a Western Digital 30 Gig HD for $ 99.00 ( yes it was new ).

The platters in a hard drive DO wear out, as does any magnetic media. In addition to re-installing Windows once a year, I get a new Hard Drive every few years. It’s the easiest thing to do anyway, whose computer is still even marginally acceptable after 4 or 5 years?

I’d recommend NOT saving the world to floppies. Get the new HD installed, it will come with directions on how to spool the data from the OLD HD to the NEW one. Then, you’re working with fresh media. Might just do the trick, IMHO.


Are you by any conceivable chance running a truly huge virtual memory swap file? (Damn, that would be a lot of fake RAM!) Or even if you are not, perhaps that is the source of the corruption. Try setting the swap file for something specific and low and reboot, then switch it back to your preferred settings and reboot again.

Really? That’s rather silly. Why would Windows do that?

(NOT a Windows user)

I’m not entirely sure why, but I can make an estimated guess: it is probably much faster to just look up the total space in files from the TOC than actually scanning the harddrive how much is used.
Not ideal, I admit, but there are lots of things in Windows that aren’t ideal, so this one fits in quite nicely.

That shoudl have been ‘educated’ not ‘estimated’

Alhunter3: Windows includes the swap file when giving the amount of space used, so it wouldn’t show anything free if that was filling it up…

Perish forfend that a Microsoft app be poorly written and inefficient. These are the same people who put “Shutdown” under “Start”, remember.

Imagine you have to store a gazillion things. If the things are shoes, and the things you have to store them in are shoeboxes, you can store your shoes very efficiently.

However, if your storage space is a mondo huge warehouse and they give you refrigerator-sized packing crates because that’s what the automated forklifts can handle, then you’re not going to store those shoes as efficiently.

This situation probably got its start in the days when a floppy disk held 92K and a program was 3 files (say, WordStar, for example). It didn’t make sense for those three files to take up 20-30 chunks of disk space, so instead when larger size drives became available, it made sense to allow the programs to reside in larger storage areas. I don’t think they properly anticipated the modern program, which is, granted, a couple freakin’ huge files, and about 8 billion tiny files.

They “fixed” this going to FAT32, which treats the hard drive as one huge storage unit (gross oversimplification).

Windows haiku…

It worked yesterday,
but it doesn’t work today.
Windows is like that.

I read the OP, there is nothing in there that said it is a Windows operating system, not even if its a PC or a Mac, so I refuse to even try to guess on a solution.

I think the fact that the poster didn’t mention what type of OS it is is proof that this is about Windows. An intelligent poster would know that there are differences and that he should mention that it is anything else than Windows, and this person is clearly intelligent since he asked the SDMB for help.

Also, the fact that he mentions applications like Scandisk and Defrag tells me that this is either Windows 95 or 98 (i’m not sure if this is part of 2000) and not anything else.

You most likely do not have a virus.

It appears possible that your disk has been compressed via a disk compression utility to give you more efficient use of space on the drive. This compression, however, makes it difficult for the OS to accurately determine the actual amount of physical drive space left because it has to estimate the efficiency of the compression and this estimate is often wrong, especially when you have a lot of non-compressible image files etc on your disk, and will result in exactly the type of behavior you describe (ie says 1.4 gigs but no actual space left.

Drives are sooo cheap now. Just get a bigger one. 30 gigs for $ 100 or so will solve many headaches. I suspect you have a slightly older system and may have to use the drive partitioning BIOS overlay option for formatting the new disk if you decide to upgrade.

There’s another OS that uses things like C: to represent a partition? That also runs McAfee and F-Prot? And uses scandisk too?


Thanx for all your help. :slight_smile: Well, so i ran scandisk, it went along for a while. Then, it found 2 executables that were crosslinked. I had it give each a copy of the shared cluster. Then, it worked along on it’s own for a while. Finally, it told me i had over 40MB in lost clusters in 40+ chains. I didn’t fix that, because i was afraid of losing data. So, i hit cancel, scandisk told me everything went well, and closed. Now i check my hard drive space, and it tells me i have 150MB free (instead of 1.4 GB), and the ammount used has increased to reflect this change as well. Everything seems to be ok…

<radioactive man>
But for how long…?
</radioactive man>
Seriously, this is only an 8 GB drive, and so i may go get me a 30 GB drive today. I sure could use the space…


The previously cross-linked executables are still a problem. It’s unlikely that a chunk of one program is exactly the same as a chunk of another program. One or both of these programs is unusable and should be re-installed if possible.

Lost clusters are already lost data. They are clusters which are not marked as free and yet don’t belong to any existing file. Not fixing them is of no use. They can’t be automatically repaired and are practically impossible to manually repair. You can select one of two options: simply delete them, or save them as files. In the latter case, you might be able to use them if they are recognizable fragments of a text file you need. Otherwise, there’s no hope in hell of finding out what they are, and they should be deleted.

If you want an idea of how much space on your drive is wasted due to partially filled clusters (aka slack bytes), do this:
[li]Bring up Windows Explorer.[/li][li]click on the drive you’re interested in.[/li][li]click on any file in the right pane.[/li][li]from the menu bar, click on “Edit”, then click on “Select all”. This highlights all the files and folders in the right pane.[/li]click on the “Properties” button on the toolbar. This will give you two numbers: the larger one is based on the number of clusters each file occupies, and the smaller is based the number of bytes each file actually uses. The difference is the total slack bytes.

All operating systems have slack space issues. All of them, Windows, DOS, Mac, Linux, UNIX, OS2, AmigaDOS, any other OS you can think of, period.

Data is stored on disks in units called sectors. Typically, a sector is 512 bytes, although it may rarely be larger. The basic rule for all operating systems is one file (or part of one file) per sector, period. No operating system I’ve ever heard of stores more than one file per sector. If you have a file with a length of only one byte, it uses a whole sector, leaving 511 bytes of slack space. If you have a file that is 513 bytes in length, it uses two sectors, again leaving 511 bytes of slack space.

The issue with MS DOS and Windows is that they group sectors together in units called clusters. Cluster size is variable, generally with the capacity of the device (higher capacity = larger cluster size). Floppy diskettes have a cluster size of 512 bytes (one sector). FAT16 (FAT stands for File Allocation Table, btw) devices between 1 and 2 GB use a 32768 byte cluster size (64 sectors). Clusters have the same rule as sectors, only one file each. Since the highest potential amount of slack space is about 64 times higher than a sector-based storage system, slack space is higher, usually 64 times as great (16384, the average slack/file with 32768Byte clusters, divided by 256, the average slack/file with 512 byte clusters. [nitpicker warning] I rounded to integers, so piss off [/nitpicker warning])

Why did Bill G. saddle us with this ineffecient storage system? It simplifies things. A 2GB drive formatted with a sector-based storage system (like AmigaDOS’ trackdisk.device) has 4194304 storage units. The same drive formatted with Microsoft’s FAT16 (2GB is the largest size FAT16 can handle, BTW) has 65536 storage units, a much more manageable level. If you hadn’t noticed, 65536 is 2^16. See any similarity with the name for Microsoft’s old disk formatting scheme? This manageability dramatically reduces overhead in processing read/write requests to the disk subsystem, improving speed in many tasks. Gigabytes are cheaper than GigaHertz (more disk space is cheaper than a faster CPU, for the non-geeks).

“There’s another OS that uses things like C: to represent a partition? That also runs McAfee and
F-Prot? And uses scandisk too?”

Sure, Dos 5, 6, 7, Win3.1/95/98/me/se…

IF it was w98, it would be a simple solution.