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Cleaning up your Hard Drive

A HelpWithWindows TechFile

By: Arie Slob

Using Windows XP? Check this How-To article instead!

Over time, your Hard Disk fills up with all kind of stuff, and before you know it, that drive you bought just a year or so ago, and which capacity looked great back then, is already alarmingly full. You need a certain amount of "headroom" or empty space on your harddrive for Windows 95/98 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.

First you should do is run ScanDisk if you have not done so recently... I once ran scan disk on someone's computer and found 86MB of lost clusters!!! Staggering. This is a standard maintenance procedure you should run regularly along with the disk defragmenter. If you are running Windows 95 OSR2 or Windows 98, you probably get prompted to run it every time you start up after an illegal or improper shut down (you should always use the Start > Shut Down routine). But for those using the earlier version of Windows 95, it's easy to forget about, and you may have a lot of lost clusters of total garbage hiding there. Unless you suspect there may be something there you need that you have lost, I would recommend simply deleting any lost clusters to free up space. After all that's the premise of this TechFile.

To run ScanDisk, simply go to Start > Programs > Accessories > Systems Tools, select ScanDisk and follow the prompts.
When you're finished cleaning-up your drive, always run ScanDisk again!

Check out these steps to slim down on your Hard Disks 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 the Microsoft Network? If not - and you have it installed - you can safe approx. 2.5MB. Microsoft Fax? Going rate approx. 2.6MB. Microsoft Exchange? A whooping 4.6MB to be saved here!

To uninstall Windows components:

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

Uninstalling unused components

Deleting Temp Files

When Windows crashes, or lockes-up and you have to use Ctrl+Alt+Del to restart, some temporary files will be left on your disk.

This sometimes also happens when Installation routines of programs don't clean up (properly).

These files will be left in your \Windows\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 Find
  3. In the Named: box on the Name & Location tab, enter *.tmp
  4. Make sure that the check-box for Include subfolders is checked
  5. Press Find Now

Deleting Temp Files

Deleting other files

Other files you could delete are files with these extensions:

  • .avi - Movie file; if you know how to use Windows 95, don't keep these things around (there could be - depending on the installation options choosen - around 7MB of them in \Windows\Help). Make sure you "watch" them before deleting them, because you might delete a movie you wanted to keep.
  • .bak - Old file; when a new version of a program comes along, sometimes it will rename the old version with an .bak extension. Be careful when removing these files.
  • .chk - ScanDisk backup file; if there's lost clusters found when you run ScanDisk, these files will be created. They will not come back, but new ones can be created with future ScanDisk uses.
  • .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.
  • .grp - Program Manager Group file; if you never use Program Manager (Win 3.*) anymore, why keep these around? They will not come back, but an install program could create new ones.
  • .old - Old file; see .bak.
  • .tmp - Temporary file; when you exit out of Windows without shutting down everything, these files could be littering your hard drive (typically, they can be found in the \Windows\Temp\ folder). Many programs have temp files to help speed up processes; they're a necessary evil. You might find hundreds of these just waiting to be deleted.
  • .~mp - Temporary file; see .tmp.
  • .$$$ - Old file; see .bak (usually, not always)
  • .000 - Old file; see .bak

To delete these:

  1. Open Windows Explorer, and select your drive (e.g. C:\)
  2. Press F3, this will open Find
  3. In the Named: box on the Name & Location tab, enter *.bak; *.old; *.chk; *.000 (and any others you want)
  4. Make sure that the check-box for Include subfolders is checked
  5. Press Find Now

Deleting other files

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 it's 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 browsers cache. It's worth it to clean this cache from time to time:

Internet Explorer 4.x / 5.x

  1. From IE's menu, select View > Internet Options
  2. On the General tab, press Delete Files button under the Temporary Internet files header

Deleting Temporary Internet Files


The Internet Explorer 4 cache is seriously flawed. One of these flaws will result in the growth of the Index.dat files, even if you delete your cache using the method described above. Another flaw will sometimes have the effect that although you wanted to delete all files, many files will be left in the IE4 cache. This bug typically manifests itself when you click on a link, before the page you are on at that moment has fully loaded, or if you press the Stop button. This prevents the entries for the files already downloaded to be written to the Index.dat files, so these files will become "stray files"; Internet Explorer's cache management doesn't know that they are there!

To work around this:

  1. (re)Start Windows is MS-DOS mode
  2. Start SmartDrive (Disk Cache) by typing Smartdrv. This will speed up the operation considerably
  3. Type Deltree <your tif dir> where <your tif dir> should be the path to your Temporary Internet Files. The default is C:\Windows\Temporary Internet Files. You would have to put quotation marks (" ") around this command, or use: C:\Windows\Tempor~1
  4. When done, restart Windows. Your Temporary Internet Files directory will be re-created.

Netscape Communicator 4.x

  1. From Netscape's menu select Edit > Preferences
  2. Click on the + sign next to Advanced in the Category window
  3. Select the Cache entry
  4. Press the Clear Disk Cache button