Cleaning up your Hard Drive

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 hard drive for Windows 95/98 to function properly. Things like the Windows swap file require empty space on the hard drive 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. You should run this standard maintenance procedure regularly along with the disk defragmenter. If you are running Windows 95, Windows 98, Millennium or Windows 2000 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). You may have many 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.

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


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 Temporary 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.

This sometimes also happens when Installation routines of programs do not 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 side, do not delete files with today's date, these files could still be in use (most probably you will get an error telling you that a file cannot be deleted because it is in use).

Deleting Temp Files

You can also check your entire hard disk, to see if there are any temporary 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, do not keep these things around (there could be - depending on the installation options chosen - 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 are 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 do not 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 are a complete waste of space. You will 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 temporary files to help speed up processes; they are 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 its original location.


Temporary Internet Files

Another source of "disappearing" hard disk space is the Temporary Internet Files. To speed up your Internet browsing, pages, graphics and other page elements are stored in your browsers cache. It is 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 Smart Drive (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



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

Click on

1.      Start

2.      Run

3.      type in COOKIES

4.      hit OK

This will open the cookie folder. You will not be able to delete the index.dat file but the others can be deleted. If you see the index.dat file highlight it by clicking once, then click on edit then invert selection. This will highlight all except the index.dat and you then hit the delete key and delete them all.

The cookie folder will store passwords for internet site such as yahoo mail ebay and ect so you may want to make sure you have your user names and passwords in the event that they are no longer there the next time you return to a favorite web site.

Disk Cleanup

1.      Click Start

2.      Programs

3.      Accessories

4.      System Tools

5.      Disk Clean up

6.      Click OK on the drive you would like to clean up

7.      When the window pops up with a list of un-necessary files that can be cleaned from the system. I suggest checking them all.

8.      hit Ok