Solution: What Files Can I Safely  Delete?

Important:  Before working on serious problems on your PC, backup as many files as you can, even if only to diskette.  
Running out of space on the hard drive is something almost everyone runs into.  One of the best tools to use to find and delete specific files is Search on the Start Menu.  (For older versions of Windows, use Windows Explorer, located on your Start Menu, under Programs.  You can use the TOOLS option to Find (search) your hard drive for specific files).  I'll show an example of using Search in the tips.  

Here's a common list of files to delete:

Clean out the Windows\Temp directory.  Delete all files and folders in the c:\windows\temp directory. It's best to reboot after cleaning out all the files you are able to delete.  (Some files can't be deleted because they are locked while your system is running).

Remove old registry hive backups.
  Get rid of backup copies of your
system.dat and user.dat  file in your c:\windows folder made by other programs (for example system.nu3 and user.nu3).  Look for large files about the same size as your system.dat/user.dat file.  (Don't delete the original .dat versions, or the system.ini file!)

Search your system for big files.
  Use the "Start Menu Search > For Files or Folders...  ( or Windows Explorer
TOOLS option on older versions of windows):

  • Set the selection (Look in) to search on "My Computer" or all hard drives. 
  • Click on the options >> to expand. 
  • Specify to search for all files larger than 2000 KB. 
  • Execute the search.

This may take a while to run.  The results will be a list of all files on your system over 2 megabytes.  Scroll through the list and look through the results.  Many times you can find temporary files or old large files (old downloads, save games, video or music files, zip files, documents, etc.)  You will recognize many of these files (i.e. you know you put them on the system) as safe to delete. 

You may also use this search feature ("for files or folders named") to easily search your entire system for the various safe file types to delete!  (For more information, see below: you'll be searching for files like
*.bak, *.001, *.log, *.~??, *.old, etc).

Delete program temporary files.
  Take off any file on your drive with a
.tmp extension or a tilde (~) as the first character of the extension (for example myfile.~xx).  Execute a search for a filename of *.~?? to find these files.

Clean out backup and log files
.  Look for backup and log files with extensions such as
*.old, *.bak, *.log, *.000, *.001, *.002, etc.  Any file with these extensions can be safely deleted.

Don't believe everything you read.
 Be wary of "technical" pages and tips that tell you it's safe to delete any
.wav, .hlp, .jpg, .clp, .gif (and a few other extensions).  I recommend you do not delete these file extensions.  Going through your PC and erasing these files has the potential to cause lot problems.  These well-meaning "tips" mean the files are "safe" to delete only in a technical sense (these file types typically aren't tied to the registry as applications and they aren't executables)   For the safest cleanup when trying to gain space on your system, stick with the file types recommended here.

Delete scandisk leftovers.
  Look for lost cluster dump files, usually in your root directory with the extension
*.chk ( file????.chk).  These can (sometimes) be very large, and can safely be removed.

Empty browser cache.
  Empty your Netscape or Explorer cache (look in the options in the each program for a "delete cache files" button.  In Internet Explorer, you'll find this under
TOOLS on the top menu bar in  INTERNET OPTIONS)

Dump movies from the Windows folders.
  On older versions of Windows, delete files in your
c:\windows folder with a .avi extension.  This will get rid of several relatively useless "help movies" which show you how to click on things...

Move programs to gain space.  If you have multiple hard drives, try uninstalling games or programs and reinstalling them onto other drives.

After deleting, check your system.  After going on a massive hunt and delete "mission", always reboot your system and run scandisk (under the Start Menu, Programs, Accessories, System Tools).

Cleanup and compact the drive.  Empty the trashcan, and defragment the drive (look in the Start Menu under Programs,  Accessories, System Tools, Disk Defragmenter).

Hard set cache and swap values.  If you're really desperate for space, you can also hard set the value of your swap and temporary file space.  Two values for advanced users to explore are the Browser temporary space (in IE it is under TOOLS, INTERNET OPTIONS, SETTINGS), and the system swap space in the Control Panel under SYSTEM, PERFORMANCE, VIRTUAL MEMORY.  This only for advanced users, and should be considered a temporary stop gap as it typically degrades system performance in order to gain disk space.

Do it the easy way.
   I say it on about all my Tech Tip pages:  Get a copy of Norton Utilities (Norton SystemWorks).  It's a great utility with lots of great tools that keep your system running smoothly.  It has a great "clean sweep" program to take care of most of the junk files on your system.



Copyright 1995-2005, Keith Turbyfill.  All rights reserved.