When I first got my laptop, I was amazed by just how spacious my new hard drive was. I thought to myself, “How could I ever fill up 500GB?” Two and a half years later, and my hard drive is about 80% full. Knowing that I would have to delete some stuff to reclaim free hard drive space, I next wondered what could possibly be taking up all that room. Fortunately for myself and all you HackCollege readers out there with the same quandary, I discovered WinDirStat, this week’s App of the Week.

Platform Availability: Windows 95 and Up.

Cost: $0. Download the latest version here.

What it is: WinDirStat stands for Windows Directory Statistics and is a freeware utility to view disk usage statistics as well as help you cleanup files you no longer want.

What it Does: After analyzing any disk you choose, WinDirStat will spit out a cool chart with many different colored squares detailing the entire contents of that drive. Each rectangle corresponds to a different file, and each file type assigned a separate color. A larger rectangle equates to a larger file. This is a cool way for understanding just what it is that’s taking up so much of your hard drive space.

Features: File Commands– After selecting a block (representing a file), you can do many different things with it. You can open the file, show it within Windows Explorer, send it to the Recycle Bin, or even permanently delete it.

File Properties – Simply right click to open up the context menu, and then select properties to view the file’s properties just as if you were viewing it in Windows Explorer.

Send Mail to Owner – Want to save a report of your disk analysis? WinDirStat will generate an email with all the info filled out in your default email application.

The Competition: Surprisingly, there are a lot of disk analyzers out there. Here are two of the better ones.

TreeSize Free – Free (Obviously…) – Windows Only

DaisyDisk – $9.95 – Mac OS X 10.6 and Up

Why the Featured App is Best: DaisyDisk has a better visual interface (as expected with Mac OS X) with its pie chart method of representing files and folders. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much it. WinDirStat is free as opposed to DaisyDisk’s $9.95 asking price, and both programs essentially function in the same way. Meanwhile, Treesize Free is also a very competent disk analyzer, but unfortunately, it doesn’t feature any sort of visual interface. If you want to visually understand your hard drive’s contents, go with WinDirStat.

Summary: If you run Windows and find yourself struggling to clear up free hard drive space, download WinDirStat. It’s a great way to visually understand everything on your drive, as well as to manipulate whichever files you’d like. If you run Mac OS X, use Disk Inventory X, which is free and based off of WinDirStat.

There are so many disk analyzers available. Which ones are your favorites and why? Let us know in the comments!