By Bryce / Last Updated October 13, 2023

Help! Deleted files, but hard drive still full

“Hello, guys! I have a 256 GB WD external hard drive that holds many files connected to my working computer running Windows 10. I need to store some files on it but I found that the hard drive is full. In order to free up some storage space, I deleted files on it. But deleting files from external hard drive does not free up storage space and my external hard drive is still full. Does anyone know how to solve such an issue? Any advice will be appreciated.”

How to solve “deleted files from hard drive but is still full” problem?

It’s really frustrating when you deleted files from your external hard drive but it still says no free space. To tackle such an issue, follow one or more effective solutions presented in the next text.

✎ Solution 1. Display $RECYCLE.BIN folder and delete it
✎ Solution 2: Run CHKDSK utility to check disk errors
✎ Solution 3. Transfer data and format external hard drive
✎ Solution 4. wipe hard drive and create partition

Solution 1. Display $RECYCLE.BIN folder and delete it

The files you deleted on the external hard drive could be moved to $RECYCLE.BIN folder on the external disk. Therefore, even though you deleted the files but the free space is still the same. At this point, you can show access the hidden $RECYCLE.BIN folder and delete it. The detailed steps are given below:

1. Double click “This PC” to open File Explorer.

2. On the top left corner, click “File” and choose “Change Folder and search options”.

Show Hidden Folder

3. In the small pop-up window, click “View”, choose “Show hidden files, folders and driver” and uncheck “Hide protected operating system files (Recommended)”. Then, click “Apply”.

Folder Options

4. Open the partition on the external hard drive, you are able to see $RECYCLE.BIN and can delete it. Now, you can see whether you get the space freed up by deleting files on external hard drive.

5. After that, go to File > View > Change Folder and search options > choose “Don’t show hidden files, folder or drives” and check “Hide protected operating system files (Recommended)”.

PS.: When you delete some more files on the same external hard drive, Windows will recreate $RECYCLE.BIN folder.

Solution 2: Run CHKDSK utility to check disk errors

If there are errors on your disk, the usable storage space might not present properly. Here you can turn to CHKDSK utility to fix errors. Follow the steps listed below:

1. Open Windows File Explorer, find out the external hard drive, right-click it and navigate to “Prosperities” > “Tools” >“Check”.

Check Disk

2. Choose “Automatically fix file system errors and click “Start”.

Now, if lucky, you are able to get free space after having deleted files from hard drive.

Or you can run CHKDSK using Command Prompt: Run Command Prompt as administrator>type “chkdsk m:/f”and hit Enter (where m refers to the drive letter of the disk partition).

Solution 3. Transfer data and format external hard drive

If the two ways above are invalid, you can try to format your external hard drive. Before formatting, you need to transfer all data on the disk if you don’t want to lose data. Two ways to format drive are offered in the following text.

✔ Format external hard drive using Disk Management

Disk Management is a Windows built-in tool that can help you to manage disk partition in Windows. It can create, extend, shrink, format and delete partition. To format the external hard drive partition, do as follows:

1. Press Windows +R simultaneously, input “diskmgmt.msc” and hit Enter to access Disk Management.

2. In this window, the external hard drive will be listed. Right-click the partition on it and choose “Format...”.

3. Choose file system for the partition and click “OK” to start formatting.

✔ Format external hard drive using free third party partition manager

Or you can choose to apply third-party partition manager. Here AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard is recommended due to its small capacity, great performance and powerful functions. It allows you to format drive to various file systems including NTFS, FAT32, exFAT, Ext2, Ext3 and Ext4. It also supports you to format drive beyond 32GB to FAT32. Free download it and see how it works.

Download Freeware Win 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP
Secure Download

Step 1. Install and run it. In the main interface, find out the disk that needs formatting, right-click the partition on it and choose “Format Partition”.

Format Partitoin

Step 2. In the small pop-up window, choose the file system for the partition. You can add Partition Label and change Cluster Size if you want. Then, click “OK”.

Fat32 128gb Usb

Step 3. You’ll return to the main interface, review the operation and click “Apply”> “Proceed” to perform it.


Solution 4. Wipe hard drive and create partition

If unfortunately, formatting still unable to fix your external hard drive, try to wipe it using AOMEI Partition Assistant. Here are the detailed steps:

Note: If your external hard drive is SSD, you need to perform SSD Secure Erase.

Step 1. Run AOMEI Partition Assistant. In the user interface, right-click the hard drive that needs wiping and choose “Wipe Hard Drive”.

Wipe Hard Drive 3tb

Step 2. In this window, choose "Fill sectors with Zero" and click "Next".

Fill Sectors With Zero 3tb

Note: If you want to employ other wiping methods or recover lost data, you can upgrade to Professional.

Step 3. Preview the operation and click “Apply”>“Proceed” to execute it.

Step 4. Create partition using unallocated space on the external hard drive, so that you can store data.

All in all, if you encounter such issue that having deleted files from hard drive but it is still full, keep calm and try to find a proper way to fix it based on your specific situation.