Every Windows 10 update requires adequate storage space on your hard drive to allow your device to apply the update. Updates help make sure that your device has the latest features and security improvements, which together keep you both more current and more secure.
Before downloading a feature update, Windows checks to make sure there’s enough space on your device for installation. If there isn’t, you’ll see a message asking you to free up some space. Here’s an example of one of these messages:
The following instructions focus on freeing up space to install a Windows feature update. You can also learn about other ways to free up storage space and prevent future storage space issues at Free up drive space in Windows 10.
Internal or external storage?
If your device doesn’t have enough space to install the latest update, you can take two actions to create more storage space:
- Part A: free up space on your device by deleting nonessential files.
- Part B: use an external device such as a USB drive, SD card, or external hard drive to temporarily extend your hard drive while the updates are being installed.
When prompted, you must complete Part A. This may free up all the space the update requires. Or, you may need to proceed to Part B, depending on the size of the update and the amount of storage space available on your device.
If your device is running low on available storage space, updating is easiest using an external storage device like a USB drive, SD card, or external hard drive.
For an illustrated description of a USB drive and how to use it in the update process, watch the video that follows in Part A.
Part A: Free up space
If you see a More space needed for update message, here’s how to free up space on your device. Depending on how much space your device needs, you may also need to proceed to Part B and update using an external storage device.
Under More space needed for update, select Free up space.
- This opens Storage in Settings, which shows how much space is available on your device. Select drive C: to see what’s using the most space and to clear it by deleting nonessential files. (For tips, see Free up drive space in Windows 10.)
- Return to More space needed for update and select the Refresh icon next to the Free up space button. If you have enough free space to install the update now, a green check mark will appear next to the hard drive icon , and More space needed for update will now read No more space needed.
After you remove a program in the process of freeing up space, you may be prompted to restart your device. (A restart may be required to completely remove the program.) After the restart, you may not be automatically returned to the Windows feature update process. If you want to continue with the update, go to Start > Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update, and then select Check for updates.
Part B: Connect an external storage device
If your device is running low on available storage space, updating is easiest using an external storage device like a USB drive, SD card, or external hard drive. Once you’ve freed up space following the instructions above, you can insert your external storage device to install the update.
Make sure you’ve backed up any important files from the external storage device before you use it for updating.
- Connect your external storage device and wait until you see it appear in the drop-down list under Part B (you might need to select the refresh icon). If the external storage device has enough free space, a green check mark will appear next to the storage drive icon .
- Select Continue to finish installing the update.
As explained in the video in Part A, when you use external storage to run the update, you still must have about 4 GB of free space available on your device. If you don't meet this condition, the Continue button won't be an option, and you'll need to use Storage Sense to free up space. The Storage Sense overview starts at about 0:45 on the video timeline.
Also note the following:
- If you're trying to update a device that, by design, has a very small hard disk, you may be unable to free up 4 GB of storage space. In this situation, contact the device manufacturer for assistance.
- Remember to empty your Downloads folder and Recycle Bin. Their contents may consume a surprising amount of disk space.
- If your external drive isn't recognized after you plug it in to your device, try the troubleshooting methods in Error: “USB Device not recognized” when you try to access a USB external hard drive.
Updating with your hard drive
If you don’t have external storage available and you selected I don’t want to use external storage, you’ll need to free up additional space on your hard drive. Follow the instructions in Part A above.