Spring cleaning

If your PC is running low on disk space and you don’t want to splurge on a new drive, read on as Windows helps you declutter...

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By  Cleona Godinho Published  April 1, 2006

|~|cleaningbig.jpg|~||~|Investing in a larger hard drive is a surefire way to make space for more of your tunes, photos and software, but there’s a good chance you don’t have to do this, as you can recover a space easily enough from your existing drive. This can be done manually or using third party software. For this workshop, we’ll focus on the first approach and use the features within Windows XP. Temps be gone One of the simplest ways to recover disk space is to get rid of temporary files. These are files placed on your hard drive, in most cases by software, when apps or games are being installed or uninstalled (or sometimes even when they are running). These files are supposed to be cleared once the software no longer needs them but this doesn’t always happen. As they’re not needed, these files are safe to delete and you’ll make off with a fair amount of free disk space in the process. To get rid of these files, first fire up Windows Explorer by clicking on Start/Programs/Accessories. Once open, click on My Computer in the left windowpane, followed by the hard drive or partition where Windows is installed. Next, click on Documents and Settings// Local settings/Temp. You can safely delete all the files in this folder, which will be shown in the right pane of Windows Explorer (see pic B). It’s worth getting rid of temporary internet files as well as these can occupy a fair amount of disk space. Note that once you’ve done this your web surfing may seem slower as your browser has to download all the graphics and data for each site from scratch. It’s still a good idea however, as you’ll get rid of older files from sites you may no longer visit. To do this, click on Start/Settings/Control Panel. Here, double-click Internet Options and this should automatically take you to the General tab. If this isn’t the case, simply choose the tab from the list. Next, click the ‘Delete Files’ buttons, check the ‘Delete all offline content’ and hit ‘Ok’. Know your limits We also suggest restricting how much disk space Internet Explorer can use to store temporary internet files, as in most cases it allocates much too large an amount. To fix this, click the ‘Settings’ button (located right next to the ‘Delete Files’ button in the general tab) and move the slider to adjust how much disk space can be used by Internet Explorer for temporary files. Alternatively, you can type the exact capacity you want to allocate (in megabytes) into the field just beside the slider. If you’re using a non-Microsoft browser such as Firefox or Opera, you can also get rid of temporary internet files from each program’s respective options or preferences menu. If you manually want to delete the files however, you will - in most cases - find the directory used by these applications to store temporary internet files in the application’s installation folder. Simply navigate here and delete them for good. Next up, it’s a good idea to perform a scan of your hard drive to find and clear lost clusters. A lost cluster is data that occupies space on the hard drive erroneously (by mistake) as a result of an unexpected reboot or crash. In most cases, this data cannot be seen, which makes it hard to spot. However, here’s how…Double-click on My Computer (found on the desktop or in the Start menu) and then right-click on the drive you’d like to scan. Next, click ‘Properties’ then click the Tools tab and hit the ‘Check Now’ button. This will launch the Check Disk application. Hit the ‘Start’ button to begin the scan. Once the scan is completed, the application will detail whether or not it found any errors such as Lost Clusters. Should it find and recover these, they will appear in the root directory of the drive and will most likely sport a name such as FILE0001.CHK. If you want to know what sort of data these files contain, you can open them with Notepad (click Start/Programs/Accessories/Notepad to launch the application) and read all about it. If you see ASCII text (which will look like gibberish to you) the file is most likely a document of some sort. Should you decide you don’t need the recovered files you can delete them and reclaim disk space. Repeat this process across all your drives and partitions to recover maximum space. If you’ve not experienced any problems with your machine for a couple of days after installing a new application or game, you can delete these files without worry. The easiest way to do this is by performing a search and then deleting them. To do this, click on Start/Search/For Files or Folders. Once here, select the ‘All files and folders’ option. In the ‘All or part of the file name:’ text box type in *.filename (example *.BAK) and hit ‘Search’. The app will then search and generate a list of matches that it has located and you can delete these. To finish up, look over all your files (downloads, photos, MP3s for example) and try to delete or transfer (to a removable media such as a CD or DVD) files you really don’t need anymore. ||**|||~||~||~|Copy this, you’re gone... It’s also worth checking for duplicate copies of files that you may have accidentally have created. To do this, navigate to the relevant folder, hit ‘C’ on your keyboard and this will take you to the first file that begins with the letter ‘C’. In most cases, if you’ve made duplicate copies of files that are stored in this same folder, then the file names will begin: ‘Copy of {filename}’. If you see any of these and you know you still have the original, get rid of the copy. Doing this periodically may save you from ever having to splash out on a new hard disk. ||**||

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