It’s reasonable to believe that every new version of Windows gets bigger. New stuff on top of old stuff should make Windows 11 use more space, right? Could be. Let’s see what you can do to install your Windows 11 in less space.
How much space does Windows 11 take up?
What Windows 11 needs and what Microsoft needs to install Windows 11 are two different things. The storage requirement for Office Windows 11 is 64 GB. However, Microsoft’s Windows 11 requirements page warns us, “Additional storage space may be required to download updates and enable specific features.”
How big is the Windows 11 installation download?
If you upgrade directly from Windows 10 to Windows 11, the download size is about 3.5 GB. However, if you want to install Windows 11 with an .ISO file, you must have at least 5.37 GB of space. Windows in different languages may have a larger .ISO file size. If you think 5.37 GB is a lot, keep in mind that this is a multi-edition Windows installer.
Which edition of Windows 11 uses the least space?
You know the Windows Home and Windows Pro editions. But did you also know about Windows in S mode, Windows Education, and Windows Enterprise? Each edition has different capabilities and features installed.
Windows 11 in S mode probably has the smallest, unmodified install size. That makes sense, since it’s a stripped-down version of Windows 11 Home, allowing only apps from the Microsoft Store and Microsoft Edge to be installed as a web browser. However, it’s unclear how small Windows 11 will be in S mode Windows 10 in S mode only uses about 5 GB of disk space.
Install Windows 11 in S mode requires a lot of work that the average person can’t do, so leave this to the device manufacturers. If you want the smallest Windows 11, get a device that says it runs Windows 11 in S mode. You can turn off S mode in Windows 11, but you can’t go back to S mode once you’ve done that.
Windows 11 Home has a footprint of 17.88GB installed, without syncing with your OneDrive. If you choose to sync your OneDrive during Windows 11 installation, you add the size of your OneDrive to that number.
Windows 11 Pro takes 18.09GB when installed. That is based on a non-domain associated installation. Being connected to a domain wouldn’t make much difference unless there were policies that added or removed elements of Windows 11 Pro or installed drivers, printers, and software.
Windows 11 Education takes up slightly less space than Pro, but more than Home, at 17.91GB† This edition took the longest to install during testing, but much of it has mandatory multi-factor authentication (MFA) in place. This is clearly visible in the Windows in the schools.
These editions have other variations such as Windows 11 Home Single Language and Windows Education Pro. Still, as you’ve seen, there isn’t much difference between the most common editions, so don’t expect big differences in the variations.
If Windows 11 only needs 18 GB, why does Microsoft say 64 GB?
There is a difference of 46 GB between the installed size of Windows 11 and Microsoft’s requirement of 64 GB. But why? Part of that is because installing an operating system requires some space to move around. While Windows 11 is being installed, data is written and deleted. The installation processes can take up more than 18 GB at any time.
If you have less than 64 GB, Windows 11 will also quickly malfunction. Installing just a few programs will eat up that 48GB of free space and nothing will work.
Performing a Windows 11 installation Use less space before installation
A process called Windows Streamlining can help Windows 11 take up less space when installed. Streamlining requires editing the Windows installation .ISO and it’s not something anyone other than an experienced IT professional should do, so we’re not going to go into details.
The general idea of streamlining the Windows 11 installation .ISO requires that you:
- Mount the .ISO as a disk
- Edit things like the boot.wim file and the Windows registry
- Remove hardware drivers that are not being used
- Unmount the .ISO
- Make sure the .ISO is bootable
- Install Windows from the newly edited .ISO
You can see that this may not be for you. If you don’t already know how to do all these steps on your own, then leave it alone.
Performing a Windows 11 installation Use less space during installation
How do you get the smallest Windows 11 installation? You might think that skipping installation options like adding a second keyboard layout or not enabling things like Cortana might take up less space. Unfortunately, those are still being installed; they just aren’t enabled.
The only point in the installation that can make a difference is when Windows 11 de Back up your files with OneDrive settings. To elect Don’t back up my files to prevent OneDrive from syncing. If you sync OneDrive during installation, it can use hundreds of GBs of your drive or more.
Make a Windows 11 installation Take up less space after installation
Perhaps surprisingly, Microsoft’s default apps installed with Windows 11 Home only take up 0.68 GB in our testing. Still, we have an article on how to remove default Windows apps from Windows.
If you upgraded from Windows 10 to Windows 11 via Windows Update, try Disk Cleanup with the option to uninstall System Restore and Shadow Copies† Keep in mind that deleting restore points and shadow copies can make restoring files or Windows impossible. However, using Disk Cleanup can free up hundreds of MBs or even several GBs of disk space.
Another method for those who have upgraded from Windows 10 to Windows 11 is to delete the Windows.old folder. See our article, How to Remove the Windows.old Folder in Windows 7/8/10. The same steps apply to Windows 11. This can free up 20, 30, or more GB of space, especially if your Windows 11 installation has failed a few times.
A less invasive step is not to sync Microsoft Edge with your Microsoft account when you start Edge for the first time. Of course, Favorites, Collections, and Extensions don’t take up that much space, but every little bit counts.
More ways to reduce the size of Windows 11?
You can do things to free up disk space in Windows 11 while you continue to use it. However, there are not many ways to reduce the size of a fresh installation of Windows 11. Have you seen others? Share them with us. We learn as much as you do.