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Windows XP > Windows XP How To's

Clean up your Hard Drive

By: Arie Slob

Over time, your Hard Disk fills up with all kinds of stuff, and before you know it, that drive you bought just a year or so ago, and whose capacity looked great back then, is already alarmingly full. You need a certain amount of "headroom" or empty space on your harddrive for Windows to function properly. Things like the Windows swap file require empty space on the harddrive for standby utilization and your system can slow down enormously if it's not available.

Check out these steps to slim down on your Hard Disk's use:

Uninstalling unused Components

Many people never bother to check which components of Windows are installed, and which ones can be removed. Are you using Microsoft Fax Services? If not, you can save around 3.7MB. Use Internet Explorer, but not MSN Explorer? Uninstalling MSN Explorer gets you 13.5MB back! Don't play the "standard" Microsoft games? They use 12.1MB of space!

To uninstall Windows components:

  1. Open your Control Panel (select Start > Control Panel)
  2. Open Add or Remove Programs
  3. Click the Add/Remove Windows Components button
  4. Select the components you want to remove and press OK

Uninstalling unused components

For more information read these tips:

Deleting Temp Files

When Windows crashes, or locks up and you have to use Ctrl+Alt+Del to restart, some temporary files will be left on your disk. Some installation routines will also leave temporary files behind.

These files will be left in your \Documents and Settings\your username\Local Settings\Temp folder.

You can use Windows Explorer to find and delete these files. To be on the safe site, don't delete files with today's date, these files could still be in use (most probably you'll get an error telling you that a file can't be deleted because it's in use).

Deleting Temp Files

You can also check your entire hard disk, to see if there are any temp files in other places:

  1. Open Windows Explorer, and select your drive (e.g. C:\)
  2. Press F3, this will open Search
  3. In the Search for files or folders named: (in box enter) *.tmp
  4. Select the drive you want to search in the Look in: box
  5. Press Search Now

Finding Temp Files

Deleting other files

Other files you could delete are files with these extensions:

  • .dmp - Dump file. When Windows (or an application) experiences a crash, a memory dump is performed. If you don't use these files (for trouble shooting), delete them, you can save quite a bit of space!
  • .bak - Backup file; when a new (data) file is created, some programs will rename the old version with a .bak extension. Be careful when removing these files.
  • .cnt - Help-related file; ever notice those tables of contents when you launch certain Help files? If you don't need a table to help you navigate through a Help file, delete these. They will not come back.
  • .fts - Help-related file; when you perform a search with a Help file, this is created to make all future searches be performed quicker. E.G., not worth having around unless you use Help files on a daily basis. They are re-created if you do a search in a Help file, so these should be regularly scanned for and deleted.
  • .gid - Help-related file; when you run a Help file, it creates a GID to make future accesses to that particular help file a tad quicker. They're a complete waste of space. You'll have to delete these on a regular basis, as they are recreated with every Help file execution.
  • .old - Old file; see .bak.
  • .~mp - Temporary file; see .tmp.
  • .$$$ - Old file; see .bak (usually, not always)
  • .000 - Old file; see .bak

To be on the safe side, delete your files to the Recycle Bin, and leave them there for a week or two. If you don't run into any problems, you can empty the Recycle Bin. If Windows or any program complains about a missing file, just select your Recycle Bin, find the file and right-click on it. From the context menu choose Restore. This will restore the file to its original location.

Temporary Internet Files

Another source of "disappearing" hard disk space are the Temporary Internet Files. To speed up your Internet browsing, pages, graphics and other page elements are stored in your browser's cache. It's worth it to clean this cache from time to time:

  1. From the Internet Explorer menu, select Tools > Internet Options
  2. On the General tab, press the Delete Files button under the Temporary Internet files header
  3. A Window will pop-up asking you if you want to delete your Offline content. If you don't download Web sites with Internet Explorer and view them when you are not connected (off-line) to the Internet later, you can check the box Delete all offline content

Deleting Temporary Internet Files

Compact Outlook Express Email

When you "delete" email in Outlook Express, they aren't really deleted! If you ever upgraded one version of Outlook Express to a newer version you probably experienced that: after upgrading you notice a lot of old email you thought you had deleted "returned".

Outlook Express just removes the "pointers" to the actual email from the index, but to actually remove the email itself, you need to run the Compact Folder function.

You can access this function from the Outlook Express menu: File > Folder. You can choose either Compact or Compact all Folders, the difference is that the first one only compacts the folder currently selected.

Deleting Temporary Internet Files

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