Is Windows sending regular nag notifications that you’re running out of hard-drive space? Or perhaps you’re trying to squeeze onto that new SSD?
Spring cleaning for your PC mostly means looking through the contents of your hard drive and getting rid of the accumulated garbage.
Don’t replace hard drives; clean them
Some time ago, the 320GB hard drive in my laptop was running out of room. So I replaced it with a 500GB drive. Then, a couple of weeks later, I realized that a large part of what had been choking the drive was garbage — digital stuff I could easily do without.
As a penance for wasting U.S. $80 on a new and bigger drive, I’ll tell you how to do the chore I should have done myself — starting with cleaning the crud out of Windows and installed applications. After that, we’ll look at the accumulated data in the Windows libraries and other locations.
If you’ve separated the OS and data into separate partitions, as I described in the Jan. 26, 2012, (article), “Hard-drive partitioning gives better protection,” the first section — “Clean the code” — will clean up the primary (typically C:) partition. The section after that — “Clean out unneeded data” will apply to your data partition (typically D:). If you haven’t taken my previous advice (it’s okay; I’m not offended), both sections will help you clean up C:.
How often you should clean up your hard drive depends on how intensely you use the PC. I recommend once a year as a minimum. If you’re pounding the keyboard every day, twice a year should keep the accumulation of unneeded files to a minimum.
Before we start the process of sweeping out our PCs, one last important warning. Whenever you make changes to system files, something might fail. Don’t start this task until you’ve made a full image backup of your system files. (I’ll assume your data files are already backed up on an external drive or the cloud.)