Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

More than you wanted to know about the Disk Cleanup Tool

In a recent post I referenced the Disk Cleanup Tool. This simple and handy tool has been a part of Windows since Windows 95. In the process of writing about one topic, I guess I just sort of assumed that everyone is familiar with the other. I apologize for that… and to make it up to you, I am going to demonstrate how to use it, and explain why you should.

Tip of the day: Use the Disk Cleanup tool to — in a single step — free up disk space, empty your Recycle bin, “compress” old files, and remove the “temporary” Internet files that your machine picks up while browsing and downloading (improving your privacy/security); and, optionally, remove unused Windows “components” and installed programs.

If that sounds like lot a lot, it is. And it surprises me that Microsoft buries this useful tool under a series of menus — it would make sense to me to have a “one-button clean up” icon in Quick Launch, or on the desktop,.. or in the Start Menu.
As with most Windows items, there’s five or six different methods for getting to the same place, but the route I take is to open My Computer (just “Computer” in Vista) which is usually found by clicking the Start button.
Locate, and right-click on your hard drive icon, which typically is labeled “Local Disk (C:)”, and then click on the “Properties” menu selection as shown above.

Now the hard drive’s Properties window will open to the “General” tab, which regular readers of this series will recognize, as shown below.
Click the “Disk Cleanup” button, and a window will open that shows the progress as the tool scans your drive for files that it can safely remove for you…

When the scan is finished, Disk Cleanup will present you with a list of the results –by category — which will show you the amount of space you can recover. This list of categories is selectable via checkboxes, and some are selected for you by default. 
Accepting the defaults and clicking “OK” is fine, but you can modify it for greater space savings. This list includes all the files Windows says it’s safe to remove, and so, conceivably, you could place a check in all the checkboxes without hurting your machine or deleting important “system” files. But, I recommend that you do not select “Hibernation files” (if it appears on the list) nor “Catalog files for the Content Indexer”.
In the screenshot above, I have clicked on “Offline Webpages” and placed a check in its checkbox, because I don’t use offline Webpages. (Note the “View” button: this allows you to see what is going to be removed.. if you’re the curious sort.)
When you’re finished making your selections (or, going with the defaults), click “OK”.
Don’t let this scare you. Click “Yes”. .

Disk Cleanup will briefly show you that it’s working, and then return you to the hard drive Properties window. In my case, I will have cleaned 117,472 thousand bytes of useless files from my machine. The general rule of thumb is that you run this tool once a week (and defrag once a month) for good hard drive health.

You are now done removing and compressing. But the Disk Cleanup tool allows you to get rid of more stuff you don’t use. There is a second tab, called “More Options”.
Here you can click links (buttons) that will allow you to remove Windows “components” (such as IE, and the fax service), installed programs, and System Restore Points.
My advice on the last — System Restore — is to not save disk space here. Let System Restore itself handle removing the oldest Restore Points, which it does automatically.
The middle button takes you to Add/Remove Programs. Unless you are a downloader/try-it-out-er type, you probably do not have installed programs that you never use.. but if you do, this is one way to uninstall them.
The Components button takes you to a sub-menu of Add/Remove Programs. Again, you probably don’t need to fool around here… so my General Advice is to ignore the More Options tab; but, it won’t hurt you to look around, and I’ve fulfilled the promise of the title of this article.

Today’s free link:if you are a downloader/try-it-out-er, or just like getting useful computing tools for free, the first place to look around is Open Source software, and the place to start seeing what’s available is SourceForge.Net. This collection of over 150,000 programs is searchable by category, and every type/level of computer user can find some helpful item here.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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November 7, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, PC, tech, Windows | , , , , , | 9 Comments