My little brother was running out of hard disk space on his computer. When it got to the point he had 9 MB (that’s not a typo) of free space left, he called me in. That computer is several years old, so there were a lot of old files neither he nor my parents needed. I cleaned out old files, uninstalled programs, defragmented, fixed startup, and so on and so forth. End result? Fourteen and a half gigabytes of free space. Even if your computer hasn’t yet gotten to the critical disk space yet, I still highly recommend you do at least some of these steps:
Note that they are in no particular order, and you can do any of them at any time – except defragmentation, which should be done last.
1. Uninstall Old Programs
You’d be amazed at what is lurking on your computer. Don’t use the Add or Remove Programs option; it leaves incredible amounts of stuff behind. Instead, use Revo Uninstaller – which even has a portable version if you’re adverse to installing more programs. Be sure to download the free version.
2. Empty Recycle Bin Norton Protected Files
If you happen to have Norton, right-clicking on the Recycle Bin has an option, “Empty Norton Protected Files.” The files in that folder don’t get cleaned up by emptying the Recycle Bin; I found at least two gigabytes of files in that folder. Just click the option in the Recycle Bin context menu.
CCleaner empties the Recycle Bin, clears out stuff like old temporary files, old browser history, and so on. Like Revo, you can get a portable version of this one too.
4. Clear Out Old Files
This one’s the most tedious – but possible the most helpful – of the steps. Go into My Documents (or the equivalent). Open every single file, one at a time. Decide which ones you no longer need. Delete them. Be sure to empty the Recycle Bin after doing this – otherwise the deleted files are just sitting on your disk. Also, if you didn’t create the file, check with whoever created it. Mom and Dad still had some stuff on that computer that they really wanted to keep.
5. Clear Out Program Files
If a program was uninstalled through Add or Remove Programs, there’s a good chance its folder is still in Program Files (C:\Program Files). Any folder that belongs to a program you know you no longer have, delete. If you don’t know what is, don’t delete it – it could be important. Just use good judgment. Keep in mind that deleting a program’s folder in Program Files does not remove the program from your computer – uninstall programs you don’t want anymore.
If you have too many programs set to startup, they all try to launch at once at drastically slow down your computer for a while – much like what would happen if four cars all tried to merge into the same spot in the same lane at the same time. Startup Delayer can help. It automatically finds which programs are set to startup, and lets you delay them – you probably don’t need, for instance, your printer manager right at startup – so delay for 30 seconds or five minutes or however long you need. You can also disable programs from starting, if you don’t need them at startup anymore.
My favorite defragmentation tool is Defraggler – made by the same people who created CCleaner – which also has a portable version. Once the program has launched, click “Analyze.” Once it’s done click “File List” and check the checkbox just to the left of the “Filename” column. This should select all. Then press “Defrag Checked” and let it run. Repeat until no files come up after analyzing.
Enjoy your cleaner, hopefully faster computer!