Storage Sense 1.JPG

How to Use Group Policy to Optimize Windows Storage Sense

Organizations can refine Windows Storage Sense to more effectively free up disk space on end user devices.

Storage Sense is a mechanism that helps to automatically free up space on Windows 10 devices by getting rid of temporary files and other unnecessary items that are taking up space. Storage Sense is enabled by default, but Windows 10 gives you some options for fine tuning its behavior.

If you want to see how Storage Sense is configured on your own device, open Settings and then click on System, followed by Storage. As you can see in Figure 1, Storage Sense shows you how your device’s storage space is being used and how much free space is remaining. There is also an option to enable or disable Storage Sense, as well as a link that you can click on to configure or manually run Storage Sense.

Storage Sense 1.JPG

Figure 1

This is the main Windows Storage Sense screen.

You can see some of the configuration options in Figure 2. Storage Sense is set to automatically engage if the device starts running low on disk space. At that time, Storage Sense will remove old items from the Windows Recycle Bin and clean out the Downloads folder. There are also some options for cleaning up cloud content.

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Figure 2

Windows gives you a few options for fine tuning Storage Sense.

In most cases, the default settings used by Storage Sense will work fine. However, some organizations may find that they need to configure Storage Sense to act more aggressively to prevent end user devices from running low on disk space. While it is possible to configure Storage Sense on a device-by-device basis, you can potentially save yourself a lot of work by configuring Windows Storage Spaces settings at the Group Policy level.

To do this, open the Group Policy editor by entering the GPedit.msc command at the Run prompt. Upon doing so, load the Group Policy that you want to edit, and then navigate through the console tree to Computer Configuration | Administrative Templates | System | Storage Sense. As you can see in Figure 3, there are several Storage Sense-related policy settings available.

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Figure 3

You can find the Storage Sense related group policy settings at Computer Configuration | Administrative Templates | System | Storage Sense.

The first of these policy settings is Allow Storage Sense. When enabled, this policy setting forces Storage Sense to be enabled on any computers for which the policy applies. If you disable this policy setting, you effectively disable Storage Sense, as well. The policy setting’s default value is Not Configured, which allows for optional Storage Sense use.

The second policy setting is Allow Storage Sense Temporary File Cleanup. If you enable this policy setting, Storage Sense will automatically clean up users’ temporary files. Storage Sense does this anyway, by default, unless you explicitly disable it.

The third setting is Configure Storage Sense Cloud Content Dehydration Threshold. The idea behind this particular setting is that Windows has the ability to store cloud-backed content locally. However, if cloud-backed content hasn’t been open for a while, Storage Sense can dehydrate the local copy, thereby freeing up space on the device. Windows does not dehydrate cloud content by default, but you can allow dehydration to happen by enabling this policy setting and specifying how long a file should go unopened before it is dehydrated.

The fourth Group Policy setting that is available for your use is Configure Storage Storage Downloads Cleanup Threshold. This is the setting that controls whether Windows cleans up your Downloads folder. Thankfully, this capability is not enabled by default, which means that you don’t have to worry about Windows taking it upon itself to delete items that you have downloaded. Even so, downloaded items are sometimes forgotten, and you can purge these items by enabling this Group Policy setting and entering the number of days that an item can sit in the Downloads folder before being deleted.

The fifth Group Policy setting related to Storage Sense is the Configure Storage Sense Cadence setting. By default, Storage Sense will run when it detects that a system is low on disk space. By using this policy setting, however, you can force Storage Sense to run daily, weekly or monthly.

The last of the Group Policy settings is the Configure Storage Sense Recycle Bin Cleanup setting. By default, Windows deletes recycle bin items after 30 days. By enabling this setting, you can make Windows delete Recycle Bin items immediately or after as much as a year. All you have to do is enter a value ranging from 0 to 365 days.


Storage Sense makes a lot of sense on its own, but organizations should explore the ways in which the feature can be optimized through settings. 


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