Here's How to Clean Up Your Hard Drive

Category: Hard-Drives

Are you running low on hard drive space? Does it take forever to find your files or do backups? Do you have lots of duplicate files? 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

Digital clutter can clog up your hard drive, slowing down normal operations and making it difficult to find the information you need. Unnecessary and duplicate 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 restore points are missing, System Restore would not be able to undo changes made to your system for a specific timeframe in the past.

Low Disk Space

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 vendors to install their trialware on new PCs, hoping that new buyers will try and purchase. 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 website. Click the BLUE "Download Now" button, or you could end up with the wrong program.

Have you recently gotten a new computer? If so, see Five Things You MUST Do On Your New PC.

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 is a similar program for Mac users.

More Hard Drive Cleaner Uppers

Web browsers generate a ton of digital detritus. 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
and Privazer 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. EaseUS CleanGenius is a duplicate file finder for Mac OS X users.

Windows itself comes with a Disk Cleanup utility that many people find useful. 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 "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, videos and audio files you no longer need. These files can be HUGE sometimes.
  • 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 K*llDisk 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 or every month, while others can go longer without suffering any noticeable performance degradation.

Do you have something to say about hard drive cleanup? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Here's How to Clean Up Your Hard Drive"

Posted by:

10 Dec 2019

"NOTE: Don't be fooled by sneaky "Download" ads that sometimes appear on the website. Click the BLUE "Download Now" button, or you could end up with the wrong program."

So PCDecrapifier tries to sneak in crap when you download their product? Or would those be from the Web host?

Posted by:

10 Dec 2019

Another storage space analysis and visualization tool is TreeSize by JAM software. There is a Free version.
TreeSize presents a drop down 'tree' of the files and folders in the directory or folder you choose to analyze. By default the largest items appear first. Rolling the mouse onto an item in the tree pops up a detailed set of metadata about the item.
Running TreeSize on a Pictures folder can be a rude awakening as to the space images can take up.

Posted by:

11 Dec 2019

Tried again to download , that worked but it wont open.

Posted by:

11 Dec 2019

Another solution is to put all your pictures, videos, documents, program data etc etc on an external drive. 1 Terrabyte HDDs can be had for around $50.00. Large capacity thumb drives are going for around $20 - 128 Gig seems to be about the upper limit for thumb drives right now. It's amazing how much room you can free up on your C drive by just getting all this stuff off of there. When you buy your new external drive, buy 2 of them and use the second one as a backup drive for the first one.

Also, delete everything in your recycle folder- recycled files still occupy hard drive space until they are deleted.

Posted by:

11 Dec 2019

And thanks, Bob, for warning about sneaky downloads. Before clicking that "download now" button on that free download site, sit back and double and triple check to make sure that: 1) you are clicking on the correct button for the app that you really want, and 2) there are no pre-checked boxes elsewhere on the page.

A notorious offender is the Flash Player download site. Be careful before you download that Flash update (which you really need to frequently do) because there are two boxes that are pre-checked "yes" by default that will download and install a couple of anti-virus programs on your computer. Make sure you uncheck these boxes before hitting that "download now" button (unless, of course, you really want these 2 programs).

Posted by:

11 Dec 2019

Bob, is it possible to destroy all data on an old hard drive by simply putting it into a hot oven for a couple hours?

Posted by:

David Baker
11 Dec 2019

I use and love CCleaner(free). I use it on my Android Phone, Chromebooks and tablets. I've used it for years with no issues.
I also use the Windows Disk Cleanup and Windows Defrag to keep my Windows 10 desktop optimized.
Happy Holidays Bob!

Posted by:

11 Dec 2019

If one uses DBAN, etc., where every piece of data is overwritten with 'zeros' - can I then use the HD for backup or do the zeros amount to storeage/space used please?

Posted by:

11 Dec 2019

We had three old computers to get rid of. Just took a hammer to the HDs. Simplest solution.

Posted by:

13 Dec 2019

BaliRob: A single pass of zeros with DBAN renders all data on a hard disk unrecoverable. It's completely blank afterwards - no files, no folders, no disks, no partitions, no boot information.

To use the wiped HD for backup, one has to create a partition and format that partition. If using Windows, the disk manager can do that in one step.

After that, any backup program will recognize the drive and can use it store a backup.

Posted by:

16 Dec 2019

I use the clean or clean all options while using diskpart, that wipes a disk really good :)

Posted by:

Hal Brookins
10 Jan 2020

Bob, I do market and business research and here are top 4 free online databases offered through most public libraries:

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RMA eStatement Studies
Look at benchmark financial statements and ratios for businesses. These studies provide detailed financial data to help entrepreneurs and startups create strategic plans and compare them to real-world measures.

Posted by:

19 Feb 2020

@bb 13th December 2019

I am so very sorry not to have noticed your VERY HELPFUL reply of the above date. Because I am too frightened now to allow MS Updates near my pc I am wanting to clean all the 500GB+ HD's that I have and use Macrium Reflect to clone for me to them.

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