Get rid of trash on your hard drive

Use these methods to finddelete hidden and unwanted files to maximize your hard drive space.

Question:I don’t have enough space on my hard drive. I have uninstalled some of the games that our kids have outgrown, I delete “temp” files on a weekly basis, yet it insists I do not have enough space on my hard drive for these two components. I also hope you can come up with a solution. I certainly appreciate any assistance you can give.


Answer: It turns out the reader had 146 MB of free space on her hard drive. It just goes to show you how much space software that comes with new components eats up these days.

To find out how much space you have on a Windows computer, here’s the procedure: Double click on the “My Computer” icon on the Windows Desktop and right click on the C: drive icon and choose “Properties”. A pie chart will appear showing you how much space is used and how much is available. (See picture) Neat trick, don’t you think?

Here are some strategies on how to eliminate unwanted data and grab back some hard drive space when you need it in a pinch.

Tip 1) Try using a piece of software. I quite like using an application called Disk Space Recovery Wizard.

Tip 2) Click “START”, then go to Programs > Accessories > System Tools and run Disk Cleanup, a little utility included with Windows.
When you do, choose your C: drive. Then, under the Disk Cleanup tab, select the files the utility finds and click OK. It finds files in four categories: Temporary Files, Downloaded Programs, files in the Recycle Bin and files related to Web surfing such as cached images and Web pages.

Tip 3) Also in Disk Cleanup, you can choose the “More Options” tab and you’ll find two “Cleanup” buttons. One will list programs installed on your computer that you can remove. The other will list Windows components you can delete. (See picture)

These include Windows accessories you may not want, communications items and “Desktop Themes” as well as a variety of other Windows digital split ends and toenail clippings.

If the box next to each item listed is white with a check mark, that means keep all items in that category. If it’s grey with a check mark, it means only some of the items are installed. To remove what you don’t need, click each item, then click the “Details”. This will list what components are in each category. (See picture). Uncheck each box next to the items you don’t want. Once you are done, click OK. The system will ask you to confirm that it’s OK to remove items you have unchecked. Once ready, click either “Apply” or “OK” and those items you had unchecked will be removed from your hard drive. If you ever need them back, you go back into this area and check off the boxes. You will be prompted for your Windows installation CD to restore them.

Tip 4) The other way to get rid of old data files is to use the Find or Search feature built into Windows (it’s “Find” in Windows 9x and Search in Windows XP). On the Start menu click Find (or Search) and then “(For) Files or Folders”. A box will pop up.

In Windows 95/98/Me:

In the “Named:” box enter file types you’d like to remove. For example, if you wanted to remove all MP3 music files you would enter *.MP3 means get rid of all files that have the MP3 file extension. As you may recall, files in Windows computers are named filename.ext where “filename” is the name of the file and “.ext” can be .jpg, .mp3, .txt or some other three letter extension which indicates the kind of file it is. Once you have entered this, (See picture) click “Find Now” and the system will search and then list all the files with those extensions. (See picture)

In Windows XP:

Click START > Search > For Files and Folders. On the left of the box that pops up, choose one of three options. “Pictures, music and video” or “Documents (word processing, spreadsheet, etc.)” or “All files and folders”. (See picture)

These options help you narrow the kind of file you are looking for. Let’s pick “All files and folders”.

Under “All or part of the file name:” type *.tmp to find all temporary files. Then click search and the system will find all those files specified and list them. (See picture)
No matter which version of Windows you use, the files to look for include .DOC files which are Microsoft Word files, .XLS files which are Microsoft Excel files, .GIF files which are images, .MPG which are movies. .AVI and .MOV are also movie files. .WMA and .WAV files are Windows audio files. .BMP files are Windows bitmap files (images) or *.ZIP files which are bunches of files all glommed together and compressed smaller in one single archive file (often used to transport a groups of files related to a program).

You can then inspect them and delete the ones you want by clicking on each entry and hitting your delete key.

In Windows 95/98/Me:

If you wanted to further filter the files the system finds you could also click on the “Date” tab and specify the age of the files for it to find.

In Windows XP:

Explore the other options on the left side of the search box. You can search by limiting the date, file size or other options.(See picture)

Again, for all versions of Windows … be very careful when you follow these instructions because if you delete critical files needed to run your programs or your system, you could find that some programs no longer work. (Here’s a tip for Windows XP users: XP will let you delete critical system files, but will then replace them, saving your butt for you.) This search or find tip is a tad advanced, so if you’re new to computers step carefully. However, once you’re confident, it’s a great way to route out old file clutter.

Another neat trick is to find all the large files on your computer. In Windows 9x, use the “Find” box as before, but ignore the “Name & Location” tab and go straight to the “Advanced” tab.

On the “Advanced” tab, leave the of “Type:” box as “All Files and Folders”, but set the “Size is:” box to “At least” and then “1000” KB. (See picture)

1000 KB is about 1 MB. Of course, you could go higher … “start at say larger than 3 MB or 3000 KB”. Then, click “Find now” and the system will find all files that are bigger than 1000 KB. (Of course you could set this to a bigger or small value … It’s up to you).

(See above for this file search size tip in Windows XP)

This allows you to locate hidden files that are pretty darn big. I sometimes use this to find large music or movie files that are squirreled away on the hard drive. Once you are presented with a list, delete the ones you don’t need. Again, be careful you do not remove a file that you need.

A final word on this: After you’ve done this exercise, be sure to empty your Recycle Bin.