| By Fred Langa |
You can get rid of more than just a few junk files by using some of Windows’ little-known deep-cleaning settings.
Most users report recovering dozens to hundreds of megabytes of space, and some users report gaining as much as 13GB of formerly-wasted space!
More space and speed with just a few clicks
Every Windows user knows that junk files tend to accumulate in the less-trafficked portions of a hard drive. It’s insidious: sometimes, “temporary” files don’t get erased, files may be left over from sloppy software install or uninstall routines, software glitches can leave orphaned files scattered around a system, and so on. Over time, it adds up.
On a large drive, even just a few extra percent of junk files can eat gigabytes worth of disk space. Those junk files serve no purpose, but nonetheless have to be kept track of by the operating system. The useless files may bog down searches or disk-indexing operations. They may needlessly bloat your backups and slow your defragging. And if they can make file- and disk-recovery operations much more difficult and risky, should you suffer a major disk problem.
Windows usually isn’t very aggressive about removing such files; it tries to err on the side of extreme caution when deleting stuff. But Windows can be told to a much better job. In fact, that’s been a popular topic here in the past, as described by a subscriber named Eric who calls himself a “six-year reader” of mine:
- “With a lot of people getting new Vista systems, it would be great for Fred to update some of his classic series of articles. For example, there was a wonderful series done for XP, with updates over the years, with articles like ’10 ways to make XP run better.’ Any chance of seeing some articles like that for Vista in the near future?”
Finding and using the ‘enhanced’ settings
Let’s begin by tweaking Windows’ standard Disk Cleanup tool, turning it into a more powerful version of itself. All versions of Windows have some form of this tool, and all versions of the tool have useful options and settings that are hidden by default.
The instructions that follow are specific for Vista, but the general ideas work on any version of Windows with only minor differences. If you need more info on how this applies to other versions of Windows, or if you’d like more background on the concepts and principles involved, please read the multi-part article called CleanAll Updated in the Windows Secrets/LangaList archives. Then scroll down to the section labeled “All articles posted on April 4, 2002” to read the other parts of the same article. While some parts of that years-old article are showing their age, the essential concepts remain unchanged.