Clean up the hard drive
and other tips and goodies

This is a little off topic for my usual articles but I re-discovered some information recently that bears repeating on how to get rid of all the excess garbage on your hard drive.

Back when everything was done in DOS commands, this kind of thing was a lot more common, as there were no built in tools to do it for you.

Did you know that your windows temp folder can hold literally thousands of files? Literally mega bytes to giga bytes worth of them ? Just to give you an idea, it had been soon long since I did this, before being reminded of how to do it, I was ready to get an secondary hard drive, as I was running out of space, only to find that the temp folder alone, was over 5 giga bytes in size !

A lot of programs are very sloppy.. like during installs and the like. They are supposed to clean up all the temporary files they needed during the install, or uninstall, but the fact of the matter is, a lot of them don't. And every time your computer crashes, without fail there are files left hanging. Your computer tries very hard to be helpful and keeps all these things for you, but most of them are just plain space using garbage that needs to be cleaned out once in a while.

Ok then.. so how ?

Depending on your operating system, there are several tools intended to help you do this, one is called Clean up manager, which is part of your operating system.

How to access it ?

On most systems it's a matter of go to start, open that, look for accessories, then system tools under which you will find, a thing called a maintenance wizard or Disk clean up Wizard. Which will automatically scan the hard drive and tell you just how much junk can be easily eliminated. However, this automated tool link often does not work for some systems. So how to get to it to work if that link doesn't open it ?

Go to your my computer link, open it and find your hard drive, right click on that and hit properties. you should get a window that will show you the disk usage and a button that says, disk clean up, hit that and you should be able to access the tool. Check all the categories you want cleaned and hit the button, and they are history.

Now if you really want to get aggressive about it ( Warning use this information at your own risk )

There are all sorts of programs out there that tell you they will "clean" up the system and they just might do that, but, you really don't need them, you have the tools already on the drive, what you need is the directions on how to do it .. so here you go.

With some add ons from me and other Geek types. :)

"Anyone is welcome to distribute this information freely and in any manner. Copy it, put your logo on it, pass it out to your friends, coworkers, etc. We think everyone should know how to maintain their PC without installing special software that can often cause even more more problems." From it's creators, with some additions by me.

In addition to the instructions below, it is imperative that you run virus-checking software and update the data files the moment new ones become available.

Running spy checkers, is also a good move.

Please read all of these steps carefully before implementing them.

If the PC in question is your work PC, please check with members of your IT department, network desk, or help desk BEFORE performing these steps. Some companies have special setups and following these directions could cause problems.

Before starting, shut down your PC and restart it. ( The Reboot is to help be sure the files in the temp folder are not in use )

It is not necessary to log into your network to perform these steps. When your PC has completely restarted, close any programs that run automatically.

Hit Ctrl-Alt-Del and choose your Task List. End Task on everything that appears EXCEPT Explorer and Systray.

Temporarily disable your screen saver if you use one.

Step 1: Delete trashy hard drive files (commonly referred to as temp files).

Hit Start-Find-Files or Folders. (Use Start-Search-Files or Folders on Windows ME, 2000, and XP.)

In the box, type:


*.tmp,*.chk,~*.* (alternate form)

(The "tilde" ~ is the little squiggle above the Tab key on the left end of your keyboard.....Hit shift , then the key to type it. Otherwise you get this ` DO NOT FORGET THE TILDE as ~*.* will find all files which begin with ~, but *.* without the tilde, it would find all files on the drive ! Needless to say this would not be a good thing as you would be targeting all the files on your drive for being deleted )

The chk command is to find lost file fragments, that windows finds during a scan, bits and bytes lost on the hard drive that windows attempts to "save" for you by turning them into files, which, unless you happen to be able to find out what program they came from, is just more wasted space they are taking up. so the combined codes above, will look for all that at once. Anyone whose ever played with a computer back when it was all dos commands ( re pre windows and other opt systems) will recognize the search string.

You must type it exactly as it appears above--double-check it to make sure it is exactly right. There are NO spaces between any of the characters.

(If it didn't find any files, it likely means they are hidden from view, which is default on most computors, open My Computer and click on the Tools menu and choose Folder Options, then click on the View tab and scroll through that list to be sure "Show hidden files and folders" IS checked and "Hide protected operating system files" is NOT checked. Then try the search again.)

NOTE: There may be programs that actually use these file extensions. ( If for some reason they do, windows will not LET you delete them )

The Look-In box should have (C:) in it (or other hard drive[s]).

The Include Subfolders check box must be checked (not available with Windows ME, 2000, or XP).

Hit Find Now (or Search Now).

When it has completed searching, hit Ctrl+A to select all of the files that appear, ( if your feeling paranoid, double check the list that will appear on the left hand side when you select them all, and make sure they are all tmp, .bak, .old , files. ) and then hit your delete key (see Note below). Delete all files you possibly can, even if you get a warning. Certain programs will not allow you to delete certain files. Do not be concerned if you can't delete files, just delete all that you can, even if you have to delete them one by one. Send all the files to the recycle bin. Close the Find/Search window when you're all done.

NOTE: For some reason, Windows 2000 stores certain folders in the TEMP folder. You should not delete these folders. When you choose to delete the files, you are told that it "is a system folder". You should not delete system files or folders.

Step 2: Delete Windows temp files.

Hit Start-Run and type %temp% in the little window, and hit enter.

NOTE: The TEMP folder is a system folder. Do not use these folders to store your own files. Do not allow files to be stored here permanently.
Do not attempt to delete the folder itself, only its contents

The contents of the Temp folder that your system uses by default should appear in the window. Hit Ctrl-a on the keyboard to select everything in that folder and hit your delete key. Send the files to the recycle bin. Leave them there for at least a week to ensure that none of the files were needed. It's unlikely, however. ( This is why the "recycle" bin is there, not to be politically correct :) it's there for just this sort of thing, to give you one last chance to restore a file, just in case you deleted it and a program complains that it needs it )

A good rule of thumb, if the file is less than 3 days old, it just might need those, but anything older than that, is fair game. So once the folder is open, right click and tell it arrange icons by date, leave the newest ones alone and select / delete everything else.

Mind, do not be at all surprised the first time you do this to find tons of files in there and since most people don't clean this out, ( as they don't realize they can or should ) This becomes a security risk, as trojans and virus often use this folder as a base of operations, knowing there is normally so much stuff in there, that you have no idea what it is, that a few more files wont be noticed, and they hi jack your system using this vulnerability. Regular clean out of this folder will prevent this problem.

Close Windows Explorer.

Step 3: Delete temporary Internet files.

These steps valid only with Internet Explorer.

Open My Computer and note the Free space on your local drive by hitting View Details. Now calculate a quantity of perhaps 10% of the amount of space available on your hard drive. Close My Computer.

Open Internet Explorer and hit Tools / Internet Options. If you are having difficulty running Internet Explorer, right-click the shortcut and hit Properties to bring up the Internet Options box.

On the General tab, click on the Settings button. Set the amount of disk space for Internet Explorer to use to the amount that is equal to 10% of your hard drive space. This is just a rule of thumb and is not necessarily appropriate for everyone. (Note: too large of a section and you end up with half the internet on your hard drive, this is not needed or desirable as you just waste space and slow down your browser, rather than speed it up )

If you've got DSL or Cable, check the box “every visit to a page”. If you've got phone-line internet (DUN), check the box “every visit to a page” and groan while you do it. There's no point in going to web sites and NOT viewing the most updated page. If you want to see the old page, then add it to your favorites and tell it you want it to be available offline.

Hit Ok.

Click on the Delete files button. Do NOT click the check box for “delete all off-line content”. Hit Ok.

The reason for not clicking the "all offline content" is that will delete any pages you have told to be available offline.. which if you want it available to you.. checking this button means you just got rid of them all.. if you don't use this feature its not going to hurt anything.. but if you do have pages set to be useable offline.. leave the delete all offline button unchecked.

While your there, its a good idea to clean out the cookies

Click on Delete Cookies and click OK to delete the cookies. article on cookie management )

The history section has 20 days by default. Another rule of thumb--3 days ought to be enough. ( More is not only wasting space it's a security risk, as there are tailor made Trojans that seek out this file and phone home with this information.. at default you are giving up almost a mt worth of your surfing history.. which is valuable information to a hacker who wants to profile surfers... unless you use that history file extensively.. its not needed to list all this.. in fact unless you use it.. its not needed to keep a record at all.. but two days is enough insurance to be able to find a site you were just at, that you forgot to save to faves. )

Click on the Advanced tab. Scroll down to the Security area and check the box that says “empty temporary internet files when browser is closed”. This keeps them from building up and taking all the space on your hard drive in the first place, which is the other reason you don't need a huge cache folder.

Hit Ok.

Close any and all open Windows.

Now these you need to do on a regular basis for the simple reason that the hard drive is a disk, and like any disk it can pick up errors, scan disk will correct that and defrag is a must. It's a lot easier to find files on the drive if all of them are in the same area, VS what tends to happen as you move things about, part is here, part is way over there. Picture it this way, that every file on your drive is a piece of paper.

Now put all those bits of paper on your desk, on one side, put them in neat orderly piles and on the other side just toss em in a heap. Now on both sides of desk are all the files ( the papers) but on which side could you easily find a given peice of paper ? The neat and tidy side of course. So defrag is the computers version of clean up the desk and put all the papers back in order for easy retrieval.

Step 4: Cleanup by running Scandisk and Defrag.

Ideally, at this point, you'll empty your recycle bin. The first few times you perform these steps, however, you may not want to empty your recycle bin. Give it a week or so. When it's obvious that you did not delete anything important, empty your recycle bin.

Once the bin is empty then run scan disk and defrag.

NOTE: Some operating systems don't have Scandisk. If yours does not, you don't have to run scandisk or defrag, you just need to reboot your PC and you're done. Check for Scandisk by double-clicking My Computer, then right-click your hard drive and choose Properties. Then click on the Tools tab. You may find Error Checking (Scandisk) there. Choose Error Checking. You may be advised that you'll have to run it after restarting your PC. Do so. Be warned it may take a half hour or more to run it when you've booted your PC.

Hit Start-Programs-Accessories-System tools-Scandisk. Run it on the C: drive, choose Standard test, and choose to Automatically fix errors. Hit Start.

When Scandisk has completed, it will tell you whether it "found problems and fixed them all" or "did not find any problems."

NOTE: If you don't get a report from Scandisk after it is complete, hit the Advanced button, then choose to “always” display summary, then hit Ok.

Hit Close. Hit Close again. Run a thorough scandisk once in a while if it makes you feel good or if you cannot complete a disk defrag (below). Generally, Scandisk will recommend that you run a thorough Scandisk if you need to. Scandisk can also be run by restarting the computer in MS-DOS mode and typing “scandisk” at the DOS prompt and hitting enter. This is particularly useful if you get the message “Scandisk has restarted 10 times."

If you're using these steps to troubleshoot a specific problem, you can skip the next step, but you should definitely do it as soon as you can.

Hit Start-Programs-Accessories-System tools-Disk Defragmenter. Run it on the C: drive or whatever drive you wish to defrag If you have more than one.. If you have never run Defrag before, or if you have not run it in a long time, this could take several hours! Hit the details button to watch your hard drive get defragged. When it's done, hit the Yes button to exit the disk defragmenter, and restart your PC.

NOTE: Some operating systems don't have Disk Defragmenter. Check for Defrag by double-clicking My Computer, then right-click your hard drive and choose Properties. Then click on the Tools tab. You may find Disk Defragmenter there.

Note: You must do the task manager, shut down of all programs and the like, as in the beginning of these directions, inducing the screen saver ( except for Explorer and systray ) as if you don't, these programs will run, and the drive contents changes, which will make defrag start over and over and over and it will only do this for so long before it pops up a window and complains about it. So be sure that all other programs are off before attempting deframentaion.

Simple things to try to stream line the system:

When installing programs, deselect options to start the new software automatically when windows starts, and or, permanently disable autostart features in applications that are not necessary to run at start up. As simple as this sounds, most programs want to be helpful, and be "on tap" meaning running and ready when you are, which is fine, if you use the program constantly, like your anit virus software and the like, but fact is, most things don't need to be ON all the time and sitting there in you system tray, eating up resources.

I have seen system trays that were as long or longer than the quick lanuch menu, and the party wondering why they don't have any memory left.

There is no need to have all your messagers, sound and volume controls and all that running all the time in the systray, unless you access these on a regular basis.The only things that should be in there really, are your clock, your anit virus, mail checker maybe, or pop stopper, things that have to run in the back ground.

A lot of people think they have to have say, the quick time in there for movies to play on the internet for example, no as a matter of fact, it doesnt need to be there, if the system needs quick time to play a movie, it will go and fetch it. Having it on and running for the one time this week you needed it, its not a good use of resoures.

If you already have a mess of stuff there, open them and hunt about and see if there is an option to make it stop loading automatically.

Stop Unwanted Startup Programs Manually as a last ditch effort

If you have programs running that don't need to be running at start up.. and you cant find any other way to shut them off.. try this.. warning.. messing about in here can really do some serious things to the system.. as this action is normally taken for trouble shooting take great care in what you do here..

Go to Start | Hit Run and type msconfig in the text box. This brings up the System Configuration Utility.

Select the Startup tab. There, You will see a list of all the programs that automatically start with Windows. Remove the check in the box next to a program name, and that program won't start with Windows. If your not sure what the program is or what it does, leave it alone until you have done the research needed to find out what it is and what it does. I cannot stress this enough.

This does not delete the program. It only tells it do not start up when windows does. This is to be used ONLY if there is no other way to stop a program from running at start up that does not belong there and is running at start in error. Or in the case of a trojan, deliberately hidden from you and this might be the only way to find and put a stop to it.

Start Menu:

If your like most of us.. this can get to be a massive affair in very short order.. now fact is..Most of the start menu a mess of short cuts to the program files. Take a good look and you will find things like, the readme files, or uninstall , help etc., almost everything the program can do or be accessed is listed. This is not needed in most cases, and just takes up space and processor power, as your system has to load all the short cuts with every start up.

I am sure some are thinking, they are just short cuts, who cares ? The reason to care is just for the programming alone you can have them on the start menu, on the desk top, on the quick launch menu, you can have literally 100's, a lot of them repeats of themselves. So my personal recommendation, get rid of any short cuts on the start menu that you really don't need on there, like readme files etc.. If you need to access those, all you need do is go the folder the program is in, deleteing the short cut does not delete the program parts, it just gets it off your start menu. This cleans up the view and speeds up access considerably.

Excess programming:

Some common programs, have frequent updates. Now this is all well and good, however, what can easily happen is you have 4-5- or even 8 versions of the same software loaded up. Java updates come to mind right off hand.. By and large most programs will over write their own programming during an update, there are some notable common exceptions however.. see above. Easy way to tell, check your add remove programs

Go to start, to control panel, to add remove programs and scan down the list. I can just about bet you will find several commonly used software programs, with several versions, on there, all at once, if you have gotten the most recent updates as you go. Now, this is a problem in many cases, for several reasons. One your system needs to access those files to execute the program, and your liable to confuse it by giving it several options. In fact, it can go beyond confusion and degrade your system performance for those programs, even to the point of crashing the system. My suggestion, remove all the old versions, before you install the new one when possible.

Mind you.. some programs NEED all the updates running at the same time.., like most Adobe reader updates for example, so its a trial and error affair.. but there are a few were its not only not needed, its a potential problem.

Two tools that will help you get a good look into your systems operation

Which targets possible browser hi jacks, as well as a variety of other built in handy tools.. there are forums all over to help you interpret the results you get.
Warning, Hi jack this, even though it's free, is a high power program and takes no prisoners, if you delete something with it, it's gone and it's not going to ask you .. are you sure ? it's just gone, so be certain of what a thing is before you "fix" what might not be a problem, but deleting it could create a problem ! Study the matter and check first before taking action.

And a thing called Process explorer

Which gives you a real time look at just what your system is doing at any given moment, things you otherwise don't see on the task manager. It's quite handy for tracking down trojans and other such malware, that might be running in the background, hidden from your task manager view.

Now these tips short cut what used to have to happen in dos commands, the search strings seek out temp file and check disk files. Most of your operating system is for a fact, an over glorified menu program and that's all its ever been, just this way ,you don't have to go all the way back out into dos mode to do it. As noted in the beginning, use this information at you own risk, but do check into the matter from other sources and you will hear the same advice.. May you have a clean fast system to serve you.

more soon

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