Tips for Cleaning up Your Home PC’s Hard Drive


Tips for Cleaning up Your Home PC’s Hard Drive


So you’re not one of the world’s most gifted IT Technicians and you’re getting warnings that your hard drive is running low on space and your wallet isn’t so thick that you could just go buy a new PC or new hardware to alleviate your problem.  Our only solution, is to clean up what you got.  Now where do we starting looking and how do we find out where all the junk is hiding on our PC?  Here are a few steps that should help you junk all that unnecessary data.

Step 1 – Get familiar with your desktop and My Documents folder.  You should know that files that tend to take up the most space are Music, Picture, and Video files.  Also when cleaning up your computer for space, its always a good idea to know that by right clicking any file or folder and selecting Properties, you can discover the size of that entire folder or file.  This tends to help during the entire cleanup process so you know how much good you are doing.  So searching all data files and folders on your desktop and inside your My Documents folder that contain these types of files and deleting what you deem unnecessary could help your situation dramatically.

Step 2 – Add or Remove Programs (or Programs and Features for Windows Vista or 7).  By navigating to the Control Panel and then selecting your Add or Remove Programs utility we can investigate what possible programs are installed on our PC that we may not necessarily need.  Be careful here.  Because you don’t know what a program is or what it does, does not mean its useless and you can uninstall it.  Only uninstall programs that you are aware of their function so you can determine whether it is junk or not.  If you have never bothered with uninstalling programs from your computer, you may very well find several trial programs here that came with the computer when you purchased it but no longer provide you any use because they only functioned for 60-90 days to start with.  These kinds of programs are installed as advertisements and help lower the cost of the PCs for the vendor.

Step 3 –  Are you the only User of your PC or are their other user accounts?  If there are multiple Users on your PC then you will want to repeat step 1 after logging into the PC as the other Users and clean up their My Documents folder and Desktop with assistance from the User or just do it on your own.  If your login User account is an administrator of the PC then you can actually browse other User accounts on the PC without logging out and back in as them.  All stored data for individual user accounts can be found underneath “C:Documents and Settings” for Windows XP and prior versions, and “C:Users” for Windows Vista and 7.  Once you have navigated to this location, you will see folders indicating the User account names for each User of the computer.  By going into each of these folders you will see subfolders for My Documents, Desktop, Music, Video, etc.  All of these folders are the personal folders used for these user accounts and you can navigate through them and delete junk data at your discretion.

You may even find a user account or 2 here that is no longer using the computer.  In this case you can delete the whole user account (profile) folder. 

Step 4 –  Delete temporary files from Temp folders.  Possible locations for Windows XP, Vista, and 7 are as follows:

    –  C:Temp

    –  C:WindowsTemp

    –  C:Documents and SettingsprofileNameLocal SettingsTemp

    –  C:UsersprofileNameAppDataLocalTemp

Know that some of these folders are hidden so you won’t necessarily see them if you’re just clicking through folders to get to them.  So you’ll need to type in the exact address location in the address bar of explorer to get to them, remembering that where the locations say “profileName” is actually the name of whatever user account you are browsing.  

Step 5 – Use Windows Disk Clean Up Tool.  This tool can be found at Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk CleanUp

This tool can take a while to tabulate data totals and to actually clean up your disk, but it is still a good tool to use because it can clean up gigabytes of unnecessary data.

Step 6 – Defragment your hard drive.  Locate this utility at Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter.  This tool simply gathers data on your hard drive that has been spread out over your disk and consolidates it to a centralized location which improves system performance.  It will at times clean up available space but from experience this tends to enhance performance more than cleans up space on your hard drive.

Step 7 –  WARNING:  ONLY PERFORM THIS STEP IF YOU HAVE SOME PC MAINTENANCE EXPERIENCE.  Use utilities that analyze your hard drive and show you where most of the large data stores taking up space are located.  Running a web search with “Disk Usage” will put you on the right track here as there are several different applications to assist with this.  I don’t recommend or was never a fan of applications that try and do the work for you (other than Windows Disk Clean Tool that is).  But simply using a utility to assist with viewing those folders and files with the largest size can be very beneficial.  At this stage of exploration (and the whole process for that matter) you should be cautious and do not get trigger happy with deleting files.  You may wind up delete important program files if you’re not careful.  Using online browsers to search for file names and folders with their locations always helps in discovering whether data is important or not.

The steps above do not indicate every possible measure of cleaning of your PC but does address some key points to look at.  I hope this helps in your endeavors.


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