HOWTO: Clean Up Your Hard Drive
Are you running out of space on your hard drive? Does it take forever to do backups? Maybe you're getting that annoying LOW DISK SPACE message. Don't ignore it, or your computer could soon begin to malfunction. Here are some free tools to clean up your hard drive and make sure your computer is running smoothly...
Clean Computer Clutter for Better Performance
Digital clutter can clog your hard drive, slowing down normal operations and making it difficult to find the information you need. Unnecessary files accumulate every time you use a computer. It's good practice to clean out computer clutter every once in a while.
Of course it's a problem if you have no room to store your music, photos, or videos on your hard drive, but low disk space can also adversely affect the performance of your computer. When your operating system runs out of RAM memory, it will try to create virtual memory by grabbing a chunk of hard drive space. If there is not enough space available, your applications may fail, or you may not be able to open large files.
Even worse, when you run low on disk space, Windows will begin to delete System Restore points, or even switch off the System Restore feature entirely. If you're not sure why that might be a problem, see my article Time Travel With System Restore.
Computer housecleaning should really start the day you turn on a new PC. Most computers come loaded with unnecessary and often unwanted programs. The software developers pay computer OEMs to install their trialware on new PCs, hoping that new buyers will try and purchase some. Among experienced users, such programs are known as "crapware".
PC-Decrapifier is a free specialized uninstaller utility that scans any PC (new or used) for known crapware. One click is all it takes to uninstall all the crapware that PC-Decrapifier finds. The program also displays a list of all other applications on your system; you can check off any that you wish remove and PC-Crapifier will launch the standard Windows uninstaller. Just make sure and double check that it doesn't remove any apps you DO want to keep.
NOTE: Don't be fooled by sneaky "Download" ads that sometimes appear on the PCDecrapifier.com website. Click the BLUE "Download Now" button, or you could end up with the wrong program.
Some programs cannot be uninstalled by Windows, for various reasons. Others uninstall only partially, leaving behind folders and files that clutter your computer. Revo Uninstaller is an advanced uninstaller that removes even the most stubborn program. AppZapper (http://appzapper.com) is a similar program for Mac users.
More Hard Drive Cleaner Uppers
Web browsers generate a ton of digital clutter. Browsers store images, cookies, download histories, and other temporary files that they might need again. These files are handy but not strictly necessary. They don't get cleaned up automatically, either. Utilities such as CCleaner sweep up browser clutter as well as other traces left on your computer by Windows.
Duplicate files are another form of digital clutter. Duplicates are especially common among music and image files. Utilities such as Auslogics Duplicate File Finder (FREE) use metadata to identify duplicates, or do a byte-by-byte comparison of files that have common names and sizes. CleanGenius ($30) is a duplicate file finder for Mac OS X users.
Windows itself comes with a Disk Cleanup utility that many people find quite satisfactory. It lets you select the disk(s) and user(s) whose files are to be tidied up. You can specify the types of files to be deleted, i. e., temporary files, downloaded ActiveX and Java program files, Service Pack backup files, etc. It won't find duplicate files, however. From the My Computer window, right-click a hard drive, select Properties, then click the Disk Cleanup button.
Here are some other tips that should work on any system to reduce the load on your hard drive:
- Delete photos and movies you no longer need. These files can be HUGE sometimes.
- Use Media Player and/or iTunes to delete any music, video or podcasts you no longer need.
- Look through your Documents folder for old or unwanted word processor and spreadsheet files.
- Clean up your email folders - Inbox, Sent, Trash, Junk, etc.
Here's my secret weapon when it comes to really cleaning up a hard drive. JdiskReport is a disc usage analyzer for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X systems that visually represents the space taken up by various files and folders on your hard drive. You can use it to find large files, overstuffed folders, and other hard-to-find junk. WinDirStat (for Windows only) is similar, but displays the information about large files and folders in a "treemap" format that some people find very helpful. KDirStat is a Linux version of WinDirStat. Mac users may want to check out GrandPerspective, which does a similar job.
The Ultimate Hard Drive Solution
If you plan on selling, giving away or disposing of your old computer system, you'll want to ensure that your hard drive is truly clean, so that none of your sensitive files can be recovered. You can use free software like DBAN or KillDisk to overwrite every piece of data on your hard drive with zeros. Now that's a clean hard drive. If you're really paranoid, destroy the hard drive with a drill press, a sledge hammer, or run it through an industrial shredder, as demonstrated in this video.
The amount of digital clutter that builds up on a computer varies greatly from one user to another. It depends on your uses of the machine and the Internet. Some people need to clean house every week, while others can go months without suffering any noticeable performance degradation.
Do you have something to say about hard drive cleanup? Post your comment or question below...
Posted by Bob Rankin on 10 May 2013
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- HOWTO: Clean Up Your Hard Drive (Posted: 10 May 2013)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved