You clearly remember your computer’s hard drive having a lot of free space when you first bought it or installed Windows from scratch. Now you want to download or install a new program and you’re alerted that you don’t have enough free space on your hard drive (Learn how to get rid of low disk space). What do you do?
Old Computer Files: The Junk in your Hard Drive
Say you are not the “power user” type since you only use your computer to check your email, watch a few video clips, listen to music, play a few computer games, and work on your documents. You don’t have much software installed on your computer yet you wonder why all of a sudden, you don’t have enough free space.
In most cases, the mystery of ‘disappearing free space’ in your computer is caused by junk called “old computer files” on your computer. These files may seem negligible at first since they don’t eat much space, but over time, they accumulate to hundreds of megabytes up to several gigabytes, until you notice that you lack that storage space you urgently need.
What are Old Computer Files?
Simply put, old computer files are those files that simply occupy space in your hard drive, but don’t have any function at all. These files may be the following:
- Your old personal files. These files could be your documents and assignments from back in college, or your files from your previous employer. It can also be some old photos or other multimedia files that have already been backed up or are no longer needed.
- Temporary files. Temporary files are used by many software programs to store additional information and are normally deleted automatically. However, there are some applications that “forget” to delete these files either intentionally or unintentionally, like when the program crashes.
- Browser Cache. The browser cache is a temporary storage of the websites that you visit. The pages that you view through your browser are stored there, since every element is downloaded onto your computer.
- Old Software. Old software can also eat a lot of disk space. You may not use it anymore. It can be a boring computer game, or some trial software you downloaded from the Internet.
Getting Rid of Old Computer Files
It is pretty simple to get rid of old computer files since all you have to do is delete it, right? The problem is, which files do you have to delete? You are quite aware that if you delete the wrong files, you can effectively crash or disable your operating system or some software. So what do you do?
To be safe, start by getting rid of your old personal files. This may take some time especially if you have tons of these files, and worse, you have them scattered all over your hard drive. Things can be easier if you have them organized already. Here is what to do:
- Open the folders where you store your files. Browse through them and see which files you no longer need. You may encounter some files that you still may need some files that you still need but are not quite important. These are the files that you should backup somewhere.
- Before you delete the files that you think you really don’t need, check them again. Open those files to confirm if they can be considered junk already. If you are one of those many people who are sentimental and you can’t decide if it is safe to delete those files, then simply back them up, though you will be needing more storage space.
- Your options in backing up those files are by using an external storage device (a high-capacity USB flash drive or external hard drive), or by burning them into a CD or DVD.
- If you will be transferring your files to a flash drive or external hard drive, all you have to do is copy those files then delete all the original ones. If you will be burning it to an optical media, open your CD / DVD burning software and select the files you’ll burn.
- It’s best to use DVD, dual-layer ones, since they hold up to 8 gigabytes of data. CDs will do, but it will take you some time and several discs to burn all that data. When burning, make sure you turn on “data verification” and that you set the burning speed to half of what your drive is capable of (eg, A 20x DVD burner should be set to 10x burning speed).
After doing all this and you already have enough free space, you can stop. If you still need more, or you just want to rid your drive of all that junk, here are other things you can do:
- Uninstall Unused Software. Go to the Control Panel and click “Add / Remove Programs”. On the list, select the software that you don’t need anymore and click remove. If you will be removing licensed software, make sure you have the registration information as well as the installation files needed and backed up. (For additional information, read how to get rid of unwanted programs)
- Clear Browser Cache. You can free several megabytes by doing this. If you use Internet Explorer, click on Tools, then Internet Options. On the General tab, click “Delete Files” under “Temporary Internet Files”. For Mozilla Firefox, simply press “CTRL + Shift + Delete” and check the boxes of the files that you want to clear. Click OK.
- Use Disk Cleanup. Disk Cleanup is a built-in clean up utility in Windows that deletes some unnecessary files in your hard disk. Simply open My Computer, right-click on your hard drive and select Properties, then click “Disk Cleanup”. Select all the check boxes that you want to be cleared of old files and click OK.
After doing all this, you will surely have significantly increased your available disk space. If you still need more space then you should consider using software like GenDiskCleaner, Advanced Disk Cleaner 5, and CCleaner. These are all free programs that automatically scan your computer and remove other junk files that you may have not found manually.
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