TMP files: A necessary evil?

Temporary files – or temp files – or TMP files, as they are commonly referred to – are everywhere on your computer.

When you add software to your computer, change a setting, browse a web page and create a document, there’s a temporary file to go with it. Some help, most are a nuisance, taking up precious hard drive space.

Some say that temporary files are the droppings of bad software. Here’s how they are created:

  • They can be the left behind when a software developer forgets to include the instructions to clean out the temporary files.
  • When a program is installed, or requires large amounts of data, it will often create a temporary file. These usually end with file extensions such as tmp, or a leading ~ tilde in the filename.
  • Windows Update creates temp files too. Update files used to fix or repair Windows are downloaded onto your computer and take up hard drive space.

Please keep in mind that what follows is limited to Windows XP, as other versions of the operating system hide temp files in other places, too.

Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office use capitalized alphanumeric folder names to store temporary data. If you are working on a Word document, temporary version opens, as well, and it stays there until you save and close the file.

Not all temporary files are bad though, you may often find log files that signify the process of an installation or an update to a piece of software. One example may be installing Microsoft Office, and then reinstalling it to add or remove a component. Office leaves temporary files that are used to aid users in modifications, upgrades, un-installations and so on.

Just as dust mites grow and multiply, so do temp files! The million dollar question is how do you get rid of them?

There are some programs that can help. Here are two applications that will help. To wipe Internet browser history files and clear those application log files, and you want something that is reasonably priced, too, consider downloading and installing CCleaner or SpeedUpMyPC 3.

If you are curious as to where to look for them, and what they look like, you need to enable “Show hidden files and folders” as follows:
1) Go to Folder Options in Control Panel
2) Click the View tab
3) Select “Show hidden files and folders” in the scroll box.

  • Your local user profile c:Documents and Settings(your username)Local SettingsTemp
  • Same as above, but temporary Internet files (easily cleaned by opening Internet Explorer, selecting Tools > Internet Options > Temporary Internet Files – delete

To find more type *.tmp in Windows search. You may also find more temp files in the following folders:

  • C:temp
  • C:windowstemp
  • C:windowssystem32temp