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Ext Hard Drive Showing Full but actually only half full Vista

5972 Views 8 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  TheOutcaste
Hello, have been searching the net for an answer to this question with no satisfactory answers.

System details,
Windows Vista Home Premium 32 bit
Intel Core 2 Duo 6600 2,4GHz
2GB Ram
500GB Packard Bell External Hard Drive - USB connection

I have a 500GB external hard-drive and Windows Vista is currently telling me it is full. When I check the hard-drive properties in Explorer it also shows up as very close to full. However when I select all folders on the hard-drive and check properties the size is only approx half. i.e 216GB

The drive system is NTFS and I have made sure in "Folder Options/View" that hidden files and folders are shown.

Does anyone have an idea what this could be ?
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Welcome to TSG!

Did you disable System Restore for the External drive?

When you select a group of files and right click and choose properties, it only totals the sizes for files you have access to, which does not include Restore Points or Shadow Copies, When you right click the drive on the other hand, it shows the allocated size of all files by reading the $Bitmap file; it doesn't total up all the files.

With the drive connected, right click Computer, then click Properties.
Click Advanced System Settings
Click the System Protection tab
Wait for the system to stop searching (could take a few minutes)
Is the USB drive checked? If you uncheck it, that should delete the Restore points and Shadow copies. Before unchecking it, I would check the current usage and settings.

You'll also want to check the Max Size settings for SystemRestore/Shadow copies. Some systems have no limit set, so they can get filled with restore points.

To check the current allocation and usage:
Open an Elevated Command Prompt:
Click Start, type cmd in the Search box, press CTRL+SHIFT+Enter
Type vssadmin List ShadowStorage
This will list the limits on each drive, and the current usage.
You also use vssadmin to set the maximum size. (no more friendly slider like in XP)
vssadmin Resize ShadowStorage /For=C: /On=C: /MaxSize=30GB


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Hi Jerry,
thanks for the detailed explanation. I think we may be almost there. I checked the System protection/system restore and the external hard-drive was not checked. So no shadow copies etc for system restore.

However I do make backups to the external drive. There are 3 folders visible which appear to be for the backups, and I thought that was all however perhaps there are hidden folders for backup too ? Any ideas ?
Usually, the difference in size is from files in folders you don't have access to, like the System Volume Information folder. A right click will show a size of zero, and a left click will give an Access Denied message. If you have the system set to show hidden folders as you've said, they should be visible though.

Just in case you missed a setting, can't hurt to double check:
To change View Settings to show hidden/system files:
In Windows Explorer, click on Tools | Folder Options -> View tab
Check the following:
Display the contents of system folders (not present in Win2K/Vista)
Show hidden files and folders
Uncheck the following:
Hide extensions for known file types (WinXP/Vista)
Hide file extensions for known file types (Win2K)
Hide protected operating system files (Recommended)

Windows does have ways of hiding folders though. This could also just be an error in the $Bitmap file.

If you have access to a Windows XP system, you could use the Disk Defragmenter to analyze the drive (Vista's defrag doesn't have this feature; if you have a 3rd party defrag tool, it may give you some info). It can often find files that are hidden (and fragmented), so you at least know where they are. Having the exact path to a file can let you get into even the supperhidden folders that windows normally hides.

You could also run chkdsk on the drive. This has to be done from an elevated Command Prompt:
Click Start
Type cmd into the search box, then press CTRL+SHIFT+Enter
If UAC is enabled, you'll be prompted.
When the command window opens, the title bar should state Administrator
type chkdsk X: /F where X: is the Drive letter of the external drive.

You can use one of these to see if it can spot something. TreeSize Free will flag folders it doesn't have access to, so I'd try that one first. All three are useful though.

Hard Drive space usage
TreeSize Free
Disk Detective

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The MFT takes 12% of the drive and the mirror more. Each file takes more space than it's size, sometimes up to twice the space of the file size. The total number of files and folders will never add up to the same amount as the used space.

Admittedly, however, you have a whole lot of missing space.

If you originally created that external drive's partitions on the Vista machine, connecting it to an XP machine may erase the partition. But is is a good idea to check the drive from another machine since a rootkit on yours could hide files on the external.
The MFT takes 12% of the drive and the mirror more.
It's my understanding that the $MFT Mirror contains only the first 16 records of the $MFT. $MFT records are 1-4 KiB in size, so the mirror is at most 64 KiB; or has that changed in Vista's version of NTFS?
And shouldn't the space reserved for the $MFT that is not being used should still show as free space?
Each file takes more space than it's size, sometimes up to twice the space of the file size.
Are you referring to slack? The right click | Properties will show the actual size of the files, and the size on disk, which should include the slack space. Or am I missing something?
If you originally created that external drive's partitions on the Vista machine, connecting it to an XP machine may erase the partition.
I've heard of XP deleting Vista System Restore points/Shadow copies (it's not enabled on this drive so shouldn't be an issue).
I wasn't aware that XP can also delete all but the most recent of Vista's Complete PC Backup files according to this article, so if that's what you are using Hoody, might not be a good idea to connect it to an XP system.

Is this the same issue Elvandil, or something else you are referring to? It doesn't seem to matter which OS created the partition.

If something else, do you have any links to info/reports? I didn't find anything, but maybe my "google foo" is sleeping.

Hate to suggest something that could cause that.:eek:

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The XP logical disk manager service will sometimes delete Vista partitions. That is a different issue. They are easily restored with Testdisk. But XP does not recognize their structure (apparently not alwats, though. This seems to happen the most with externals that are moved between OS's).

Partially-filled clusters are marked as filled when measuring disk space.

The MFT size stays the same unless enlarged for more file space or manually. Small files may be contained totally within the MFT and have no representation on the drive elsewhere.

In any case, the point is that the total space used by all the files and folders is greater than their total size (but not almost double).
OK, I've had a bit of time to look further and this is what I have found.

Using windows explorer and right clicking on M:/ in the root directory it tells me (with pie chart) the following,
Used Space : 464 GB
Free Space ; 1.41 GB

When I highlight all folders in M:/ I get the following info
Location : All in M:/
Size : 215GB
Size on disk : 215GB

When I use Tree Size free it tells me at the top of the window that M:/ has 221GB used. However it also says that System Volume Info (access is denied).

So there are 2 questions.

1). How to get access to the system volume info
2). could this be as simple as a virus which falsifies/doubles the size of the files on the drive ??

If 2 is likely, any ideas on an effective virus remover.

Thanks, Hoody
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