Friendly Expert Computer Help - In Plain English
As Seen On TechTV
PC911 > How-To > Miscellaneous > Clean up your hard drive

- Alex -

Download this article as a self-extracting text file
View this article in printer-friendly plain-text format
E-mail this article to a friend

Over time, your hard drive will get cluttered up with a lot of files and folders that just take up space and serve no purpose. We put together a list of things you can do to do a little spring cleaning and recover a significant amount of hard drive space within a few well-spent minutes, as well as some basic maintenance to whip that drive back into shape.

Empty your Windows Temp directory

Close all open programs. Then open Windows Explorer and navigate to C:\Windows\Temp.
Note: If Windows is installed on another drive, substitute the appropriate drive letter for C:. While C:\Windows\Temp is the default location and common on most Windows systems, your temp directory could also be located in another place, e.g. C:\Temp.
In this location, Windows, other software, and setup programs store files temporarily. Unfortunately, some programs are not very good about cleaning up after themselves and leave files and folders behind. To see how much space is wasted right now, right-click on the Temp folder on the left and select Properties. You might be surprised at how many MB of space are wasted. Press Ctrl-A on your keyboard to high-light the entire contents of the Temp folder and push the Delete key to get rid of all this junk.

Empty your Temporary Internet folder

Your browser stores a certain amount of web pages you have visited in its cache. The cache is actually just a folder on your hard drive where it saves those files. The most efficient way to clean this out for Internet Explorer is booting to a command prompt and deleting the folder. Windows will recreate it the next time you restart. Go to Start/Shutdown and select Restart. When the computer reboots, either hold down the Ctrl key on your keyboard until you see a menu, or watch the screen for the words Starting Windows 9x. As soon as you see that sentence, push the F8 function key to get to the boot menu. From the menu, select the option Command Prompt Only, which will take you to a C: prompt. Type Deltree /y C:Windows\tempor~1 and hit Enter (if Windows is installed on another drive, substitute the appropriate drive letter for C:). This might take a few minutes if this folder is pretty full. Once it's done, reboot. To prevent this folder from taking up too much space in the future, open Internet Explorer, go to Tools/Internet Options/General/Temporary Internet Files/Settings and reduce the amount of disk space to use by moving the slider to the left. This is recommended for users who have a fast Internet connection and/or rarely ever visit the same page twice.

Take out the trash

When you delete files from your drive, they don't actually get deleted right away. Instead, Windows puts them into the Recycle Bin to give you the option to recover them again in case you deleted something by accident. This is a great security feature but the disadvantage is that the files remain on your drive and still take up the same disk space. Double-click on the Recycle Bin icon to see what is in here. Make sure that everything in here is just junk, then close this window, right-click on the Recycle Bin icon and select Empty Recycle Bin.

Remove old unused programs

If you're a download junkie, then you'll know what I'm talking about when I say that you probably have a lot of unused programs wasting disk space. It has happened to all of us that we install programs that we only use for a while, or dislike and not use, or that doesn't work. Take a moment and go through the list of currently installed programs on your PC and remove everything that you don't use anymore. Go to Start/Settings/Control Panel/Add/Remove Programs, browse the list, and high-light and remove what is no longer wanted. Some programs only take up a few MBs, but other can take up tens and hundreds of MB.

Remove unused Windows components

While this might not result in big savings, it will also help unclutter the Start menu a bit. Go to Start/Settings/Control Panel/Add/Remove Programs/Windows Setup. High-light each component listed here and click Detail. Uncheck anything that you are positive you don't need. A few examples: Get rid of the desktop themes. They just clutter up your screen, take up resources, slow down your system, and waste 22 MB of disk space. If your vision and hearing is fine, you can probably get rid of the Accessibility options. If you don't plan to watch TV on your monitor, get rid of WebTV for Windows. Browse through the different menus and remove what you don't need. If you discover later on that you want a certain component after all, just go back to this screen and check the box again to reinstall any component.

Back To Top Of Page