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1. Make hidden files visible. In "Windows Explorer," in View / Folder Options / View, make sure these items are selected:
- Display the contents of system folders (XP)
- Show hidden files and folders (XP)
- Show all files (W98)
Make sure these items are not selected:
- Hide extensions for known file types
- Hide protected operating system files (XP)
2. Use File Search advanced functions to list files changed in the last day or two (going back to before the problem was first seen).
3. Run the Disk Cleanup wizard (from Programs / Accessories / System Tools).
4. Scan for disk corruption. From Windows Explorer, right-click on the disk drive, select properties, select tools and check for errors. (Do not normally select recover damaged sectors.)
5. Empty the Norton Recycle bin, if you have one.
Disk space can seemingly mysteriously disappear when the Norton Recycle bin is in use. Do not panic; just right-click on it and select to empty it.
If you want to adjust the Norton Protected Recycle Bin, right-click the Norton Protected Recycle Bin in the tray and choose Properties. Click the Norton Protection tab.
If you have or had a Norton product (NSW, NAV Pro, NIS Pro, etc.) that installs the Norton Protected Recycle Bin, and you still have a problem, refer to these links.
How to remove the Norton Protected Recycle Bin and/or the Windows Recycle Bin:
Symantec (Norton) support search:
Debugging problems with the Norton Recycle Bin:
Removing Norton System Works:
Removing Norton Anti-virus:
Removing Norton Internet Security:
Computer showing 8 GB less free space than there is
6. Chart disk space use using one of these utilities:
DiskSpace Explorer Home Edition:
Showman (under disk utilities):
Jam Software's TreeSize:
7. Check for "alternate data streams":
Frank Heyne's Lads.exe
8. For NTFS drives, check the Master File Table. You are identifying where the space is going. You must not delete files and folders in these locations.
How NTFS Reserves Space for its Master File Table (MFT):
How to Gain Access to the System Volume Information Folder:
9. Try these commands from a command prompt to view hidden and system files:
dir /ah/as/s | more
This will make the root directory the current directory. Then it will display all the files that have the attributes hidden or system, giving a "more" prompt at the end of each screen. (Press ctl-c to stop the display.)
10. Check for hackers creating and using hidden disk space:
11. Checklist for problems deleting files and folders:
From the Microsoft Knowledge Base on problems deleting files and folders (KB320081 - You Cannot Delete a File or a Folder):
From Diamond Computer Systems: Advanced Process Termination:
12. Additional information:
a) How to Locate and Correct Disk Space Problems on NTFS Volumes in Windows XP:
b) Chkdsk in Read-Only Mode Does Not Detect Corruption on NTFS Volume, This behavior can occur if the $logfile data region in the Master File Table is damaged:
c) How to: Create a Boot Disk for an NTFS or FAT Partition in Windows XP:
d) How to calculate space lost to clustering in Windows 95, 98 and Me:
e) PC Guide debug guide on missing disk space: