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How to Find and Recover Missing Space on Hard Drive in Windows

Updated by Tracy King on Nov 08, 2021
Written by Brithny

Most people are using the hard drive and it is one of the main storage media. But some people find some hard drive space is missing without knowing the exact reason. Here's a case from CNET.

"I have a PC running Windows 7 Professional with a 250GB SSD for the system and some programs, and an additional 3TB SATA hard disk drive. Explorer shows that this drive has a usable capacity of 2.72TB and 470GB of free space whilst indicating that folders and files are using 2.2TB of space. The drive has no partitions or hidden files but when I add up the space taken by all of the folders and files Explorer shows just under 300GB of space used. What might be the explanation for only 470GB of free space being shown when in fact there should be something like 2.4GB of free space??"

Are you troubled by the same case? If the answer is yes, you are lucky. You can find 6 possible causes and corresponding solutions. Now, find out what's taking up space and why space is missing.

Workable Solutions Step-by-step Troubleshooting
Fix 1. Contact the Manufacturers If your missing space is far more than 7% disk space, you should contact the manufacturers...Full steps
Fix 2. Unhide Partitions with Software Choose a partition > Right-click it and click "Explore"...Full steps
Fix 3. Disable System Protection Right-click on This PC/Computer and choose "Properties" and then click "System Protection"...Full steps
Fix 4. Restore Missing Space Right-click the unallocated space and select "New Simple Volume" to create...Full steps
Fix 5. Delete Hibernate File Go to Start menu, type cmd and right-click on the results "Command Prompt" and...Full steps
Fix 6. Reformat the Partition Run EaseUS Partition Master again and select the partition and click"Format"...Full steps

What Takes Up the Missing Space - 6 Causes

What if the windows lose too much space on a hard drive, PS3 hard drive, XBOX 360 and portable hard drive? To find out the missing storage on the hard disk drive or SSD, we need to first figure out what occupies the missing space. In general, there about 6 situations that cause windows missing space on the hard drive.

1. Hard Disk Manufacturers Does not Give Capacity They Promise

There are different capacities of the hard disk, including 500GB, 1TB, 2TB, and so on. However, when checking the capacity of the newly bought hard disk in Windows Disk Management or by adding space of each drive, we may find the real disk size is always smaller than those manufacturers advertise. What's the reason? Where is the missing space?

In fact, for hard disk manufacturers 1 GB = 1000 MB, 1 MB = 1000 KB, and 1KB = 1000 B (byte), but actually 1 GB = 1024 MB, 1 MB = 1024 KB, and 1 KB = 1024 B. Therefore a 500 GB hard disk for manufacturers is just 465GB for user. Therefore, around 7% of disk space missing on a hard drive is reasonable.

missing space on a hard drive

2. Hidden Partitions Take Up Space

Most computers and laptops come with the hidden partition, such as OEM partition, recovery partition, and Microsoft reserved partition. You can see hidden partitions in Disk Management, or delete OEM partition if you have backed up the system.

3. System Protection Takes Up Much Space

System protection is a feature that regularly creates and saves information about your computer's system files and settings. It creates restore points just before significant system events, for example, install a program or device driver. If the restore points set to half the drive capacity, much space will be taken. Check the "System Volume Information" folder to view the data.

4. There Is Unpartitioned Hard Disk Space

A newly bought hard disk cannot be used to save data unless we partition it. To be specific, we need to create partitions on the disk. Only partitioned space can be visible in Windows Explorer, but we can see unpartitioned space or unallocated space in Disk Management.

Although you have found what occupies the missing space, you may want to know the way to recover the missing space and get the real capacity of your hard drive.

5. Hibernate File or Page File Eats up a Lot of Space

Both hibernate file (hiberfil.sys) and page file (pagefile.sys) are hidden system files. Hiberfil.sys is a file created by the operating system when the computer goes into Hibernation Mode. The size of this file is half of the RAM space. For example, if your computer RAM is 8GB, the hibernation file (hiberfil.sys) is about 4GB in size. Both hibernate file (hiberfil.sys) and page file are invisible by default. You can see them when you enter "Folder Options" and then uncheck "Hide protected operating system files".

6. Employed Unreasonable Cluster Size

A cluster is the smallest logical amount of disk space. One cluster can only hold the content of one file. If a file is 3 times larger than the cluster size of the partition, it will occupy 3 clusters. When we are viewing how much space our files are taking up, we may find a strange situation where real file size is 8.37 KB but these files occupy 12 KB space on the disk. The occupied disk space is always larger than real file size if this partition saves small files. Fortunately, we can make them take up less space by decreasing cluster size.

employed wrong cluster

6 Fixes to Recover Missing Space and Restore the Hard Drive to Full Capacity

Now that you have figured out what's taking up your HDD space and why space is missing, you can follow the 6 solutions below to make the hard disk shows its full capacity and regain the missing space.

Fix 1. Contact the Manufacturers

As I have mentioned above, around 7% of disk space missing on a hard drive is reasonable. If your missing space is far more than 7% disk space, you should contact the manufacturers. But, if your missing space is around 7%, for example, a 1TB hard disk shows 931GB, under this situation, we have nothing to do for the missing disk space.

Fix 2. Unhide Partitions with Software

When you install Windows OS on a never used hard disk, hidden partitions will also be created by default. All these hidden partitions will not be shown in Windows Explorer. They can be shown in Disk Management. But Disk Management does not give an option to browse the contents of these partitions. If you want to view and the contents of the hidden partitions, you need useful software. EaseUS Partition Master can not only show us all hidden partitions but offers a feature to view the contents of these hidden partitions. That is Explore. This feature is used to browse a partition of FAT/NTFS/ReFS/EXT2/EXT3 file system. With this feature, you can check the following information:

  • Total and free space of the entire partition.
  • The File directory of all folders and files. There is Created/Modified/Accessed time information for each folder/file. 
  • The size information of a specific file is also available with this feature.

Follow the steps to view the whole information of your partition.

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Step 1. Choose a partition.

Step 2. Right-click it and click "Explore".

explore the partition

Then, you can see which partition has no drive letter or which is partition. Under this situation, we can figure out where the missing space is and assign a drive letter or unhide partitions.

Fix 3. Disable System Protection

System protection creates and saves information about your computer's system files and settings, which could take up a lot of space. Then, disabling system protection is a nice choice to free up space.

Step 1. Right-click on This PC/Computer and choose "Properties" and then click "System Protection".

Step 2. Click on the Configure button under the "System Protection" tab. 

In the Restore Settings, you will see an option asking you to Turn off system protection. Select this option and Apply the changes you made.

disable system restore

If you have a large space on your HDD, you can keep this option on, for it protects your system.

Fix 4. Partition the Space and Restore Missing Space

Unpartitioned space is known as "Unallocated space". When you see unallocated space, you cannot use this disk until you have created a partition on it. To partition it and restore the hard drive to full capacity, you can do the following things:

Method 1. Recover the unallocated space manually

1. Right-click the unallocated space and select "New Simple Volume" to create a new partition with that space. You can create multiple partitions using this space, just choose the size properly. 

restore missing space manually-1

2. Alternatively, right-click the partition before the unallocated space and select "Extend Volume" to extend the partition to this space.

restore missing hdd space-2

Method 2.Restore missing space by using a partition tool

If you have a problem with partitioning the unallocated space manually, you can use professional partition software to finish the work easily.

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Step 1. Launch EaseUS Partition Master. On the main window, right-click on the unallocated space on your hard drive or external storage device and select "Create".

Step 2. Adjust the partition size, file system (Choose the file system based on your need), label, etc. for the new partition and click "OK" to continue. 

Step 3. Click on the "Execute Operation" button and create a new partition by clicking "Apply".

Watch the following video tutotial and learn how to create a partition in NTFS, FAT, or EXT file system.

Fix 5. Delete Hibernate File

Hibernate file can also take up lots of space, you can delete them to restore missing space on HDD. Here are the steps to delete hiberfil.sys file.

Step 1. Go to Start menu, type cmd and right-click on the results "Command Prompt" and select "Run as administrator".

Step 2. Then type powercfg -h off and press "Enter".

delete hiberfil.sys file

Fix 6. Reformat the Partition to Decrease Cluster Size

Cluster size is set when we are formatting a partition. When you employed an unreasonable cluster size, you can format this partition to reset cluster size. Follow the steps below to format partition with the best HDD format tool. You can change the cluster size during the process. Here, we recommend 512 bytes. 

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Step 1. Run EaseUS Partition Master, right-click the hard drive partition you intend to format and choose "Format".

Format Hard Drive Partition - Step 1

Step 2. In the new window, set the Partition label, File system (NTFS/FAT32/EXT2/EXT3/EXT4/exFAT), and Cluster size for the partition to be formatted, then click "OK".

Format Hard Drive Partition - Step 2

Step 3. Then you will see a warning window, click "OK" in it to continue.

Format Hard Drive Partition - Step 3

Step 4. Click the "Execute Operation" button in the top-left corner to review the changes, then click "Apply" to start formatting the partition on your hard drive.

Format Hard Drive Partition - Step 4

Any one of the solutions could have solved your problem. If you still have questions you can contact the live chat or send an email to us.

People Also Ask

1. Why does my hard drive not show full capacity?

There about 6 situations that cause windows missing space on the hard drive:

  • Hard disk manufacturers do not give the capacity they promise
  • Hidden partitions take up much space
  • There is unpartitioned hard disk space
  • Too many hibernate files
  • Employed unreasonable cluster size

2. How do I recover lost space on my hard drive?

You can either follow the 6 fixes above or use partition recovery software to recover lost partition.

3. Why is my C drive so full?

Your C drive gets full due to various reasons. If my C drive is full without reason issue appears in Windows 7/8/10, you can clean up junk files and other unimportant data to free up hard disk space. Refer to SSD full for no reason.

4. How do I find a hidden partition on my hard drive?

The easiest way to find hidden partitions is to try EaseUS Partition Master.

1. Launch EaseUS Partition Master and right-click the New Volume which is hidden.

2. Select Unhide partition and click OK.

3. Then click Apply and restart the computer to keep all changes in your PC. 

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Updated by Tracy King

Tracy joined in EaseUS in 2013 and has been working with EaseUS content team for over 7 years. Being enthusiastic in computing and technology, she writes tech how-to articles and share technical solutions about Windows & Mac data recovery, file/system backup and recovery, partition management and iOS/Android data recovery.

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Written by Brithny

Brithny is a technology enthusiast, aiming to make readers' tech life easy and enjoyable. She loves exploring new technologies and writing technical how-to tips. On her spare time, she loves sharing things about her favorite singer - Taylor Swift on her Facebook or Twitter.

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  • I love that the changes you make with EaseUS Partition Master Free aren't immediately applied to the disks. It makes it way easier to play out what will happen after you've made all the changes. I also think the overall look and feel of EaseUS Partition Master Free makes whatever you're doing with your computer's partitions easy.

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  • It won't hot image your drives or align them, but since it's coupled with a partition manager, it allows you do perform many tasks at once, instead of just cloning drives. You can move partitions around, resize them, defragment, and more, along with the other tools you'd expect from a cloning tool.

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