The Download Directory (Part 1) - WinDirStat 1.1.2

5/24/2012 8:47:55 AM

James Hunt scours the internet for the best freeware, shareware and paid-for application releases.

Welcome again to the latest instalment of The Download Directory. Each month, you’ll find us scouring the internet in the hope of bringing to light the latest application releases, software updates and browser plug-ins that you don’t know you can’t live without. We cover everything from freeware to shareware to budget-price commercial software, and review everything from giant, multi-application office suites to the tiniest system tray applets. As long as you can download it, we’ll take a look at it.

This month, our investigations have uncovered WinDirStat, a hard drive analysis tool that helps you locate space-hogging files and filetypes; PhotoScape, and image-editing program that throws off the shackles of PhotoShop; A-PDF split, a PDF editor designed as an affordable alternative to Adobe Acrobat; and IsMyLcdOK, a charmingly names test program to help you troubleshoot and diagnose potentially ailing monitors. As well as that, we’ve also got a quick look at the latest beta versions to be released this month to help you keep track of the new releases coming your way soon.

WinDirStat 1.1.2


Release Type: Freeware (Open Source)

Official Site:

There was a time when clearing up a hard drive meant copying your save games onto a floppy disk. Then it was burning them to a CD or DVD. And now, who knows what’s big enough to store backups of modern hard drives. Other hard drives?

Still, as big as the current generation of hard drives are, they’re still not infinite, even in practical terms. Indeed, their size actually means that when they start to fill up, it can be quite hard to pin down where your space has gone and how you can recover it. WinDirStat is an application that can automate and visualise the process, giving you a quick and easy way to see exactly which portions of your drive are wasting space, and how you can free it up.

In fact, it doesn’t just tell you which directories are full, it also tells you what types of files are taking up space, and allows you to filter them by various criteria. In a few clicks, you can weed out the files that you don’t want, while making sure you hang onto the important stuff. The information is displayed both visually and as a list of stats, percentages and figures, so that you can get an intuitive and precise idea about the make-up of your system at the same time.

The interface is immediately clear to read and use, allowing you to ‘zoom’ into blocks of files to delete them, and to create regular clean-up jobs, which can be executed in a tiny number of steps. The open-source nature of the software makes it slightly difficult to figure out on occasion (the documentation is often out-dated, if not entirely absent), but it’s not impossible to decipher the more complex areas of the program, and once you do, it’ll make perfect sense.

Beginners may wish to take extra care, however. WinDirStat is perhaps a little too cavalier about deleting vast swathes of files. It would be nice to see them temporarily placed into a holding area or ‘quarantine’ section by default, instead of simply wiped outright but, on the other hand, you can’t plan for every eventuality, especially where human interaction is the problem.

Description: WinDirStat 1.1.2

The only other sticking point is the sheer amount of time it takes to perform a full analysis: ten minutes to scan a large hard drive, give or take five. Still, that’s a limitation of the hardware. Set it going, lose yourself down a Wikipedia hole for a few minutes, then come back once your drive stops churning and you’ll have no complaints to speak of in that area.

Although those with hundreds of gigabytes free on their hard drives might scoff, it’s worth noting that the software would be particularly useful for SSD drives, which have brought the size of desktop and notebook storage media right back down to 2001 levels. In that sense, WinDirStat is an excellent tool for analysis, which can also offer immediately tangible and practical benefits. Portable, free, and expertly designed, you’d be a fool not to at least try it.

Pros: Looks great, excellent features, simple to use.

Cons: Poor documentation of advanced features, potentially damaging in the wrong hands.


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