Thu. Jun 13th, 2024


Key Takeaways

  • Make sure your Microsoft 365 subscription hasn’t expired. To check that, log in to your Microsoft account and navigate to the “Services and Subscriptions” tab.
  • Clear space by permanently deleting files from OneDrive’s Recycle Bin. To do so, go to the “Recycle Bin” tab on the left, select the files to delete, and click “Delete.”
  • If these steps don’t help, permanently delete unused data from OneDrive or transfer it to local storage (or another cloud storage service) and delete it from OneDrive.


If your OneDrive account is running out of space, you can either buy more storage or clear space by deleting unused files, removing large email attachments, emptying the recycle bin, or relocating data. If you don’t want to pay for more storage, here’s how you can tidy up OneDrive and create room for new data.


1. Ensure Your Subscription Hasn’t Expired

When your OneDrive (or Microsoft 365) subscription expires, your account reverts to the free version, offering just 5GB of storage. If you normally use more space than this limit, you’ll instantly see a notification about low storage space. So, check whether your subscription has expired or failed to renew automatically.


To do that, log into your Microsoft 365 account and go to the “Services and Subscriptions” tab on the left sidebar. Here, you can see if your subscription is still active. If your subscription has expired, you have to reactivate it. To do that, click on the “Resubscribe” button next to the canceled subscription and then follow the on-screen instructions.

Resubscribing to Microsoft 365 Personal account.

Reactivating your subscription will restore your OneDrive storage to its previous capacity, eliminating the low storage space warning.

2. Ensure Outlook Mailbox Isn’t Eating Up Storage Space

The storage space used for Outlook attachments also counts toward your overall quota in Microsoft 365, whether you have a free or paid subscription. If your OneDrive storage unexpectedly gets full and you don’t have hefty data stored there, Outlook might be using a significant portion of your space.


To check this, log in to your Microsoft Outlook account and click on the gear icon in the top-right corner to open Settings. Then, go to the “General” tab on the left sidebar, select “Storage,” and to see how much space the Outlook attachments are using. If Outlook attachments are consuming a lot of space, click on the “Outlook (Attachments)” link.

Checking and cleaning storage space occupied by Outlook attachments.

Outlook will then show emails with large attachments. You can download these attachments to your local storage and delete the emails to free up space.

3. Remove Files From OneDrive Recycle Bin

When you delete files from your OneDrive storage, they are moved to the OneDrive Recycle Bin and remain there for 30 days. If needed, you can restore these files from the Recycle Bin. During this time, they still count towards your storage space. So, clearing the Recycle Bin can free up space on OneDrive.


Go to the “Recycle Bin” tab on the left sidebar, select the files you want to remove and click “Delete.” Confirm the action, and the selected files will be permanently deleted.

Permanently delete files from OneDrive Recycle Bin.

4. Delete Previous Versions of a File

Every time you make changes to a document stored in OneDrive and save it, OneDrive saves that version in its history. As you continue to edit the same document, more versions are added, taking up significant storage space. Deleting these old versions can help free up space, especially if the original file is large.

However, OneDrive no longer allows you to delete old versions from its web client. Instead, you’ll need to delete them using File Explorer on Windows. Open File Explorer, navigate to the OneDrive folder, right-click the file, and select “Show More Options” to open the classic context menu. From there, click “Version History” to manage the file’s versions.


Opening the Version History of a file from File Explorer.

Click the three vertical dots next to the version you want to delete and select “Delete.” This action will remove the selected version from OneDrive, freeing up space.

Deleting a Version of a file from OneDrive's Version History.

5. Stop Backing Up Less Important Data

If you’ve configured OneDrive to back up standard folders on your computer like Documents, Pictures, Desktop, Music, and Videos, they can consume storage space in OneDrive. If these folders contain large files and you frequently add new data to them, they can contribute to the low storage space issue you’re facing.


So, identify which folders contain the most data and consider relocating their contents to another location on your computer. This reduces the amount of data backed up by OneDrive and frees up storage space. If relocating this data isn’t possible, you can stop backing up those folders to OneDrive.

To do this, click the OneDrive icon in the system tray, then click the gear icon and select “Settings.” Navigate to the “Sync and Backup” tab and click “Manage Backup.”

Managing backup settings from the Sync and Backup tab of OneDrive settings.

Then, turn off the toggle next to the folder you no longer wish to back up. Finally, click “Stop Backup” to confirm, and OneDrive will stop backing it up.


Stopping OneDrive from backing up certain folder on PC.

6. Delete Unused Data From OneDrive

If your OneDrive storage has reached its maximum capacity, you likely have some old files stored there that you no longer need. Deleting these files can free up decent space. To locate those bulky files and folders, navigate to the “My Files” tab and click on the “File Size” column header to sort files from largest to smallest.

When you have folders arranged according to size, identify large files you no longer need. Then, click the three horizontal dots next to them and select “Delete.”

Deleting a file after arranging the data by size in OneDrive.

Confirm the deletion when prompted. Likewise, open the folders occupying the most space and arrange files within them by size to identify and delete large, unnecessary files.


After that, go to the “Photos” tab to delete any photos you no longer need. Once you’ve deleted unwanted data, remember to empty the Recycle Bin to free up space.

7. Relocate Files to Your Local Drive or Another Cloud Storage Service

If you need to keep large files for future use but want to free up space on OneDrive, you have two options: move them to your local storage or transfer them to another cloud storage service of your choice. Which one you should choose depends on whether you want to share the files with others or not.

If the files are for personal use only, download them to your local storage. Click the three dots next to the file or folder, then select “Download.” After downloading, delete the files from OneDrive and its Recycle Bin to reclaim space. If you need to share the files, download them to your local storage and then upload them to another cloud storage service.



That’s how you can free up storage space in OneDrive. If these suggestions don’t help make room, consider using separate accounts for personal and work data. If you’re already doing this and still facing low storage space, you should think about upgrading your Microsoft 365 plan to one with more storage.



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By John P.

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