Troubleshooting Server Disk Space Issues

As a Managed Services Provider, we have hundreds of servers under our management and we are responsible for keeping them healthy. While we all wish that servers were replaced regularly and sized with hard drives that are large enough not to run out of space, that isn’t always feasible given budget or technology constraints. There are still a number of Windows 2008 R2, 2008, or even 2003 servers running in Production with 60GB or 40GB C: drives. With years of Windows Updates that are released monthly and applied (hopefully!), disk space slowly depletes over time.

Depending if the server is physical or virtual, what virtualization technology is used, what Operating System is running on the server, and what resources are available will determine if you can expand the C: drive to alleviate this issue. If you are not able to expand the C: drive, where do you go next? Here is a list of items that I review when I’m hunting for things to delete/purge from a Windows system:

  • Shadow copies – review how much space this is using on each drive and determine if necessary
  • Windows Error Reporting – you can turn this off to prevent storage of future error reports
  • Hibernation file – on a server? Yes! I’ve had to delete this file with powercfg.exe to regain 2+ GB of disk space on some server C: drives
  • Pagefile – can it be moved off the C: drive and onto another drive? Remember to review the impacts to memory.dmp (debug files) if you change these settings
  • Backup software – temp files – some backup software stores temp files by default on the C: drive. I recently had a client server that was down to 0KB of space on C: and after some digging, I found 8GB of temp files from the backup software on C:. I changed the temporary directory to a new folder I created on the D: drive to resolve this.
  • Disk cleanup – if not installed, install the feature “Desktop Experience”. After a reboot, run Disk Cleanup and it will give you the option to clean up:
    • Windows Update files
    • Windows Error Reporting files
    • Debug files

There are also 3rd party tools available to adjust partition/volume sizes if there is another partition/volume with contiguous free space. There is a risk of data loss or server failure with these tools, so be cautious. In general, if you follow the instructions, you should be okay, but you should ALWAYS have a good backup available in case of issue. Your last resort to resolve this issue is to rebuild/replace the server. If you go this route, it would be an opportune time to update to the latest Operating System, and of course make sure to use a larger C: (System) drive when building!

Have any questions about troubleshooting disk space issues or Managed Services? Contact us today!

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