How to upgrade Devices with less free disk space to Windows 10

While many Windows machine are now running the latest operating system, Windows 10, users having devices with less free disk space may still be  struggling with the upgrade process. If you are one of the Surface or Tablet users having less free disk space, this write-up may help you. In this post we will see how to upgrade, Surface, Tablets and other devices, having less free disk space or small hard drives of size 32 GB or less.

Upgrade Devices with less free disk space to Windows 10

Windows needs more space

Seeing the upgrade issues and high demand, Microsoft recently started rolling out the downloads in an organized way for the users having devices with little hard drive space.

Windows needs more space

Microsoft has since Aug 4th, sent notifications to such devices, and offered them the Windows 10 free upgrade. If you are seeing such a notification, go ahead and use this method to upgrade.

If not, then such users can now also upgrade their Tablets and Surface using the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool. Once you are done with the download, the tool will start a compatibility check to see if your device have enough space or not. If you see a message saying, “Windows needs more space”, you need to run a Disk Clean-up and free up the required space for installation set up. Uninstall programs, language, packs, etc, you do not need.

If your device allows it, you can use an external USB drive for the upgrade process. Windows setup will backup the previous version of Windows to a USB external drive. The external drive must be at least 8GB – but having 16GB is recommended.

Before you start with the installation procedure, make sure that your device is plugged into a power source. Devices having only one USB port, can use the SD card as external drive for installation – but an USB is always recommended and preferred over a SD card.  It is important to have your external drive formatted in NTFS to run the installation error-free, says Microsoft.

Read: System Compression in Windows 10.

If you do not use a USB for upgrading, after the Windows 10 upgrade process on such devices, you will find left with very little space on your device. This is because folders like Windows.old, $Windows.~BT & $Windows.~WS, etc, will end up occupying a lot of space. These files will be deleted automatically after 1 month.

But if you wish to delete Windows.old and the previous installation of Windows, you can use the built-in Disk Cleanup Tool. You can also manually delete the $Windows.~BT & $Windows.~WS folders – but note that if you do delete these folders, you will not be able to rollback Windows 10 to your earlier Windows version. There are also other ways to free up disk space!

If you have used a USB, then you will be able to use the data on it during the rollback process.

Windows 10 will support systems with compressed installations, and can upgrade such systems with as little as 8.5 GBs of free space.

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Posted by on , in Category Windows with Tags
Anand Khanse is the Admin of, a 10-year Microsoft MVP Awardee in Windows (2006-16) & a Windows Insider MVP. Please read the entire post & the comments first, create a System Restore Point before making any changes to your system & be careful about any 3rd-party offers while installing freeware.


  1. Alberto Gorin

    done that yes

  2. Nexus Sajid

    Hello sir!!i just have one issue that i need your suggestion on!!my laptop tends to shut down every now and then..basically it gets pretty hot and shuts down immediately!!might be a battery issue!!if during the upgrade my laptop shuts down will it effect my upgrade process??i mean ill chose the option to keep all files!!is there a possibility that my files might get wiped off due to the shut down??will the upgrade process still continue to run??or i have to restart it from scratch again!!

  3. Suleiman Hamdun

    Hello i have a question. So once i upgrade using the external disk. Can i eject once the upgrade is complete ?

  4. vasudevG

    Yes, you can remove the external disk once the upgrade to new version is complete. But if you want to rollback to earlier version, you’ll need it again. If you are sure and don’t want to rollback, you can delete whatever files, folders it has created on external disk. Even a partition with enough space on the same hard disk will also do, if you don’t have an external hard disk.

  5. Graham Stow

    I’ve recently bought
    an Asus E403 which has a 30GB hard disk (you store data on the cloud).
    Windows takes up 18GB and basic programs 5GB, so there’s a 12GB
    shortfall to run Windows Update for the first time (to update to the
    latest version of Windows 10). I’ve attached an external drive which
    Windows 10 recognises as having 109G free space, but when I click on the
    ‘Refresh’ didly squat happens. Any ideas anyone?

  6. Higgo

    I’ve just bought a second-hand Asus ‘Transformer’ T100. This comes with Win8.1 and I would like to upgrade to 10. When I run the app it tells me I need more space. The tablet has 32GB in the screen (C:) and 500GB in the detachable keyboard (D:).

    Obviously not all the 32GB is available but there’s nothing I can remove as it’s had a factory reset.

    The online help – including here – I find tells me that the upgrade process *should* ask me to add external storage to enable the install but this is just not happening. It just keep telling me I don’t have enough space. I have a USB stick I could use or (ideally) the 500GB HD in the keyboard.

    Can anyone offer any help? (Bear in mind I am not very technical)

  7. StandAndDe1iver

    This might be a CPU overheating problem

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