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Tech Q&A: Why a hard drive looks full but isn't

By: steve alexander Tribune News Service
July 16, 2017 Updated: July 16, 2017 at 12:55 pm
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Question: My Windows 10 PC keeps telling me that I'm nearly out of storage space on my Seagate 1-terabyte Expansion Portable Hard Drive. But when I look at the external drive's content menu, I see that it's nowhere near full. What's wrong?

- Jeffrey Miller, Reading, Pa.

Answer: External hard drives frequently come with electronic partitions that subdivide the disk into smaller segments. Windows 10 apparently is seeing only one of those segments, which is why it erroneously believes the disk is nearly full.

In a small business, external hard drive partitions would allow backups from different computers to be kept separate. But for a home user, the partition isn't useful. For example, when the disk segment you are using is full, you would need to switch to another segment to store more data.

The solution is to reformat the drive and, in the process, erase the partitions. That will allow Windows 10 to see all of the disk's storage space at once.

But reformatting will wipe the external hard drive clean, so you will first need to store its data in a different place - on your PC, some CDs, some flash drives or another external drive.

Once that's done, see tinyurl.com/bwpyel7 for directions on how to erase the external drive's partitions. You can then reformat the disk in the NTFS (New Technology File System) format that Windows 10 uses (see tinyurl.com/oyepq2o).

Question: I keep getting messages that my Microsoft Excel spreadsheet files are corrupt when I use Microsoft Office 2016 on a Windows 10 laptop. Excel then tries to repair the files, but often can't. At the same time, Windows reports error 0x803D0010.

I can run the same version of Office on two other computers without problems. What's wrong?

- Nick Dragisich, Stillwater, Minn.

Answer: There may be corruption in the Windows 10 registry (a database of settings), which requires a bit of tinkering. Or the warning could be erroneous and easily fixed by changing settings in Excel.

First, see whether a settings change will do. Excel treats with caution any files that originate from the internet, from "potentially unsafe locations" or from an Outlook email attachment. Excel automatically opens such a file in what's called "protected view." But that can trigger a false warning about file corruption.

To fix that, go to Excel's "options" setting to prevent the program from opening those files in protected view (see tinyurl.com/yd57s56v).

If that doesn't fix the problem, the Microsoft Office error message you received may indicate that a recent software installation (perhaps the addition of Office 2016) could have corrupted the Windows registry. Uninstall Office and any other software you have recently added, then read the registry repair directions at tinyurl.com/ybrv9bgm (see the "all by yourself" repair option.)

If that doesn't work, you will need to check other possible causes of the error code, such as a lack of sufficient hard drive space or a need to update your device driver software (which talks to PC components) for Windows 10 compatibility. See a list of possible causes on the same website.

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Steve Alexander covers technology for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Readers may write to him at Tech Q&A, 425 Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minn. 55488-0002; email: steve.j.alexander@gmail.com. Please include a full name, city and phone number.

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