Hard Disk Clean-up

and how to wipe you drive completely (see at the end)


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This page is not for the novice or the faint hearted.  Suggestions here can be very damaging to the health of your PC and the usual precautions should be taken to note what you have done, make backups and Restore points and don't blame the author!

 

Wot,  no space left ?

If you are getting short of hard disk space, and have broadband, you may wish to consider using free on line storage. There are a number of advantages, not least that it would still be there even if your computer crashed completely !  See HERE for a list of such facilities.

Bear in mind that the things that take most space are VIDEOS, MUSIC, SOPHISTICATED GAMES and GRAPHICS (photographs)  These days with cameras taking snaps that are 2 -4 megabytes a piece, even your Pictures folder can rapidly become over-inflated.  These days, very large USB 'Flash' drives can be bought so that one can copy the contents of large folders to them and delete the files from the hard disk. Alternatively one can copy material to DVDs, which each take at least 4Gb of files.  Even if your photographs are 4Mb each (quite likely these days), one of these DVD can contain 1000. So, if your hard disk crashes one day, you will still have your precious photos. 

Backing up a PC in case of disaster

As a very minimum one should have a Rescue disk for Windows.  If you did not receive one with your machine it is as well to make one. In Windows 7 go to the Control Panel, System Security,Backup and Restore.  Put a blank disk in the drive and click Create System Repair disk. Mark it and put it in a safe place.
In the same area you will see that Windows 7 and later have their own backup programs. or type the word Backup at the Start to find this.

But if you require a versatile free backup program, DriveImage XML is a free downloadable program. It is only 1.6Mb. It can be set to backup sections of your computer at regular intervals or it can create a mirror image of your Operating System, drivers, user settings, software applications and documents. It is usually set to back them up to a DVD, CD or an external hard drive. See HERE for a description. Yet another, favoured by guru Leo, is Macrium Free.  See Leo's excellent video on using this https://askleo.com/create-backup-image  This is more than just a regular file backup but a whole, restorable System, including Windows itself. He particularly suggests that you should do a complete image backup before upgrading to Windows 10 (in case you need to go back)

I am getting increasing numbers of enquiries about PC's going slower.  Generally it is NOT because of all the files and programs you have on the hard disk (unless it is nearly full)  For information about Speeding You PC see Here

These days hard disks can be enormous.   So, what if certain applications use a percentage of your disk space ?  In fact there are several Windows components that, by default, create needlessly huge temp file areas: e.g. System Restore, Recycle Bin, and Internet Explorer. (in fact ALL the browsers make large temporary files) A program such as Piriform's Ccleaner makes it easy to get rid of temporary files.

System Restore can be an incredible space hog. That might be OK if System Restore were a truly complete and foolproof form of backup, but it's not. At best, System Restore may get the core operating system running again after a bad crash, but it doesn't return all files to the pre-trouble state, and it can't remove all traces of a program that went bad. Because it's such a limited recovery tool, I don't feel it's worthwhile to devote vast amounts of disk space to it. Here's how it can be tamed: In XP right-click on My Computer, select Properties, and select the System Restore tab. Then select your main drive (usually C:), click Settings, and move the slider to reserve a reasonable amount of disk space. In Windows 7 the procedure is similar. Right click Computer (in the Start list), click Properties, then System Protection and then Configure.

Recycle Bin and Internet Explorer are also voracious: Each reserves 10% of your hard drive for its own use. That's a large chunk of your entire hard drive just for these two items!  On today's large drives, the amount of space wasted is absurd. Worse, over time those huge reserved areas can accumulate an incredible number of junk files, many of which Windows will try to track either at startup or as the OS runs. You can gain space and maybe also speed up your system by taming these disk-hungry programs: Right click on the Recycle Bin, select Properties, and on the Global tab, decide how much space you want the Recycle Bin to consume, either for all drives in your system, or on a per-drive basis. I adjust the slider way to the left. On a large drive, it still reserves a few hundred megabytes of space for recoverable trash, which should be plenty.

Similarly, open Internet Explorer, and select Tools, Internet Options. Under Temporary Internet Files, click the Settings button and select a reasonable size for this 'cache' area. Generally speaking, if you have a fast connection, 5 MB to 10 MB is adequate; 25 MB or so is usually enough with a slower connection. In fact I set my machine to clear Temporary Internet Files each time I exit the browser. (See Internet Explorer Tools, Advanced, Security)

Doing the above can remove as much as 3 GB of junk files from your system, a worthy result in itself,  but this may not result in any major speed gain

From the correspondence I receive I know that some people are anxious to keep their PC nice and clean.  They may want to create some space or are interested to see what rubbish has accumulated on it - usually as a result of program installations.  It isn't just  about being tidy, because unless a machine has quite a lot of spare space it cannot function properly.  This is because it often needs temporary hard disk space for one reason or another. So, if you are down to less than 100Mb space you should start to be concerned. One commercial program, System Mechanic from www.iolo.com, does quite a deep clean.  It starts with the usual frightening analysis of your hard drive. This gives you several 'warnings' about the number of irrelevant things in your register, broken links, security flaws, unnecessary programs in Startup, fragmentation and wasted space. These warnings are standard practice for all such programs.  Useful, but they must also help their sales no end ! But in this case I decided to buy it. It  really does have an infinite number of tools to check out your machine and I do recommend it, despite it looking like 'Scareware'. Alternatively one can download Ccleaner from www.piriform.com. It is free but there is a paid version.  It is regularly updated and is very straightforward to use and relatively safe.

 Cleaning up the hard disk

To start with you should check how much hard disk space you are using and how much is still free.This is done be clicking My Computer, right clicking your drive (C:) and clicking Properties in the Menu that appears.  If there appears to be just a small empty segment left you really need to do something about it. You will notice that there is a box which says Disk Cleanup.  Click on this. It shows a list of non essential files such as Temporary files and allows you to clear them. It will also empty your Recycle bin.Temporary Internet Files are designed to make browsing for repeated websites quicker.  They are unnecessary and, if you browse the net a lot, can accumulate very rapidly. You can also clear them by right clicking the Internet Explorer icon on the desktop, clicking Properties and clicking Delete Files on the screen that  is displayed.  You can also delete Cookies  but these are small files that keep a (confidential) record of things like passwords. However, Cookies are also where most Adware and Spyware files are kept, so you might like to clear these too.
Even after deleting Temporary Internet Files by the normal method it tends to leave some files.  A more thorough way is by using the free program Ccleaner.  It is even possible to clear Temporary Internet Files each time you close Internet Explorer. (See Internet Explorer, Tools, Advanced, Security)
Sometimes I search for files which were over 3000 kb (3 megabytes). There can be dozens, often videos made with a webcam or phone. A video of this kind can easily run to 50 megabytes or more. After consulting with the owner of one machine they agreed that they were mostly rubbish being created by their young children messing about and pulling faces ! Deleting them released a third of their hard disk! If you do wish to keep videos or music on a PC a small hard disk is just not suitable.  You could fit another hard disk inside a desktop PC (if there is space) or attach an external one via a USB cable. Then transfer all videos, music and large photos to that, recovering the space on the principal hard disk.
Modern digital cameras are sold on the basis of how many megapixels they can use.  Although you can reduce this most people don't and the resultant 2 to 5 Mb photos soon fill Gigabytes of space. There are simple ways to reduce these, especially if they are unimportant pictures. See my page on Picasa and look for Export in the facilities it provides. Picasa also has a powerful ( and trustworthy) duplicate finder. Another possibility is to look at Add and Remove programs and get rid of things which you are CERTAIN you don't need e.g. old games.  Also you may find that some updates are absolutely massive. For instance I just looked at my Java updates in Add/remove.  Essential of course as some are about security weaknesses.  But 300 Mb !!!! in two updates.  So I looked to the net for advice and this is what was said.   Your machine wont come to harm without Java but many fancy frills on websites are now written in Javascript and wouldn't function if you don't have Java installed  But, more recently, Java has become a honeypot for malware and many people have blocked it.  In my case, I still have the program but only allow it to operate when a graphic calls for it.
But, if you find multiple Java entries the best way is to uninstall them all then reinstall the most recent version.nbsp;Assuming that you are in the Administrator account, go to Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs and uninstall everything that says J2SE, Java and Java Runtime. Reboot (some computers require a reboot to complete the uninstall process). Then go to the site below and download the most recent version of Java.  http://www.java.com/en/download/chrome.jsp?locale=en Having considered all these ideas you may wish to search for other less important files.The following files are NOT essential to the running of Windows but might be important to you for other reasons. After all,  the Help files can be very useful and you will probably prefer to keep  them.   In the following list the star  (*) represents the file name.  The extension e.g. 'tmp' indicates the file type :      *.hlp (help)  *.zip  & *.cab  (compressed)*.swf  *.wmv    *.avi   *.mov  *. mpg (video) *.wma  *.wav    *.mid  *.mp3, *.mp4, *.rmi (sounds)  *.jpg   *.gif   *.bmp   *.pcx  (graphics)  *.txt (text files)   

 *.tmp  (temporary)  *.old   *.bak  (backups of other files)  *.fot  *.fon  *.grp (old files left over from earlier Windows)  *.chk  (old Scandisk backups) and files starting in "~"(often Word documents) . All of this last group can be deleted without doubt.

Do be careful when deleting files. Be sure to put them in the Recycle Bin for a while so you can restore them if necessary. If, next time you switch on your machine, it says it can't find something, make a note of it and restore it immediately.

Finding the files

If you go to Start, Find/Search, Files and Folders and type in - say - *.tmp  (that is Star, dot, TMP)- providing you have set 'Look in C:' you will be able to see a list of which *.tmp files are there and where they are.  If you right click on them and click Delete they will go to the Recycle Bin.  It is a good idea to clear the Bin before you start, so all the new deletions are obvious. 

Using an Uninstaller  There are a number of proprietary Undelete programs such as Revo or Ccleaner (which also has a Registry Cleaner).  
If there are programs which you are sure that you are not going to use you can either compress them using Winzip or delete them by going to Start, Settings, Control Panel, Add and Remove Programs.(or Programs and Features).  This will ensure that (most of) the extra bits that are scattered around various3072 x 2304 directories are deleted also, although Add and Remove is by no means perfect and it can leave whole folders and Shortcuts hanging around. Alternatively you may see an Uninstall program associated with the program. If you just delete the folder in which a program has its main files you are almost certain to leave a residue of DLL files in the Windows or Windows/System folder and you will not know which are important at a later date.  These are called 'Orphan Files' and may be located by an uninstaller. More recently I have found the the Iobit Uninstaller not only tries to find the associated uninstaller but then lists which associated files might be deleted.  You can normally agree to this without worries.

Did you< know that Windows loads every font you have in the Fonts folder when it starts up? The more you have, the longer it takes (and the more memory is tied up). So take a look in your Fonts folder and keep only those you really like and use. However, be careful not to remove fonts that have a red letter icon as these are System fonts.

Windows comes with a load of fonts and most of us use Times New Roman in Bold and Italic and maybe Arial, too. Some programs add even more fonts to this list.  If you are into desktop publishing you might need a few special ones.  Just how much space do these fonts take on your hard disk?  The Font folder on a Windows 7 PC amounts to 370Mb. Be careful if you decide to delete fonts as some are 'system fonts' which may affect the appearance of what you see on screen. So, if you are nervous about this, create a folder called Oldfonts and move them to that for a while. Leave some of the basic ones such as Courier.

My Documents. One of the most difficult areas to tackle is your accumulation of word processed documents.  This folder can also get full of downloaded pictures.  One technique I use is to go for the really BIG files, which are usually those containing graphics.  Using Windows Explorer I click on (My) Documents.  I then click on View, Details.  This shows the size of the files in kilobytes. You can click at the top of the Size column to put them in Size Order. Some of mine were over 4 megabytes in size !  I look at them (click on them) before deciding which have to go. It is even possible to open a range of word processed files, check them over, then close them, noting which are to be scrapped.  Most word processors allow you to right click a file and click delete. Incidentally the contents of the (My) Documents folder (and sub folders) are not lost when you do a Restore, so you need not worry that you would lost recent documents of photographs.

The Recycle Bin

You can set the percentage of the hard disk set aside for the Recycle Bin (right click it and click Properties).  Although this means that emptying the bin may not give you as much space as you expected the bin should be cleared periodically.  It can get to be very unwieldy.  If you wish to put the files in the bin in size order you can use View, Arrange icons, By size (smallest at the top). Or you can select a group by file type in this way or even Date of Deletion, if you only want to delete ones you have sent to the Bin some time ago.  You can Delete or Restore individual items (or a group) from the Bin by right clicking them. You can use the technique of clicking the first, holding down the Shift key and clicking the last, if you wish to delete a whole list.  Once deleted from the Bin the only way to get them back is by using special undeletion software, such as Piriform Recuva. And this must be done urgently, before the space they use is overwritten.

N. B :

Do not remove *.vxd, *.inf, *.sys, *.ini, *.dll , *.com, *.dat or *.exe files unless you know what you are doing

Other files to consider deleting: *.scr (screensavers), *.cur(cursors)..  Whilst some help files may be important to you. I found 242 of them, amounting to 30Mb! Most of them are never used. Some are in Korean and Chinese !

*.zip files. Once they are unzipped, they do not need to stay on the hard drive. Use "Find" to find them all. But don't delete the ones you have made to keep your compressed files

And of course, when everything is working alright don't forget to defrag as a final cleanup. Defrag may tell you that it is not necessary but do it anyway. Leave yourself plenty of time for this job. Close down your screensaver and all programs (except  Windows and Explorer) with Ctl+Alt+Del before you start or start the machine in Safe Mode to do this.  Defrag will work much faster. If you find that Defrag never gets past 10% it means that something is happening in the background. You can try a program such as Powerdefrag or Piriform Defraggler to get over this. 

Backing up the hard disk

See next page to Manually Install the Backup Utility See next page Best of luck with your hard disk cleanup.  If you are not happy about it.  If there is space  inside your computer get an additional hard disk instead ! Backup things which you think are important.  Keep things in the Recycle Bin until you are sure EVERY program is working satisfactorily. At least a month.  If you have problems you can e-mail me but everything you do is YOUR responsibility If you really want to start from scratch, reformat the drive.  But it is a big job. See HERE. But, if you really want to wipe your drive completely, perhaps before recycling it. See Wikipedia on DBAN. (DBAN is a Linux based boot disk which really wipes your drive.)


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