Cleaning up your HARD DRIVE
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Princilpes still hold for Windows 10

Always Back up your data before doing any maintenance


  1. Delete all temporary files. They are all over. Use "Find" to look for files with ~ (tilde), $ and tmp. Any file with a .tmp extension can be deleted. Most files with a ~ or $ are not needed. If not sure, just copy to disk rather than delete. Also look in Windows folder and delete all files in "History", "Temp" and "Temporary Internet Files" folders.
    NOTE: Netscape stores files more efficiently. The history (.hst), favorites and bookmarks are single files. Microsoft Internet Explorer uses one file for every entry, wasting a lot of space. If you are already using Netscape and want to free up space, go to the cache folder (under Netscape) and delete all. (With Netscape not running). It will fill up with every session. Also delete the HST file. Netscape will create a new one with each session. While you are at it, make a copy of the Bookmark.htm and Address.htm files on floppy or other drive. Never know when you might need a backup. These are files I invariably forget to make a backup of before reformatting a drive. Now obsolete.
    Also while you are making backups of special files, it's a good idea to copy some files and/or folders in Windows, like the fonts, .dll, .drv, .bmp, .scr, .cur, .ini files, etc. You may find it easier reinstalling Windows and devices. Include the Cookies folder as well. It contains registrations to many Internet sites. If you have added extra cursors back up the folder. If you've customized the Start menu, back up the Start folder too.
  2. Set your Internet browser to delete cache at the end of each session. Or do it manually during cleanup. Win 98 can be set to do all this at startup if you use IE. If you use Netscape, you have to do it within the program. For AOL, find Internet preferences. It's different in version 3.0 and 4.0.
  3. Keep the recycle bin emptied. If you are afraid to empty it, sort it by date and delete all files over 30 days old.
  4. Delete or store on disk files that are unnecessary or needed rarely.
    A) .hlp files waste space if not used. Many programs have them including Windows itself. As of 2016 many programs store their help files on line & not in your computer. You can always put them back if you save them on disk (one for each program) or reload the program. Other files related to help are .gid, .cnt, .fts.
    B) .avi and .mov files are large and are used by tutorials and other movie things. Double click each one to see what it is and if you want to keep it.
    C) Look for .jpg .gif .bmp .pcx .tif and other picture files that you donít use and put on disk. There are probably 30 to 40 picture formats. Use your graphics program for a list of them all. Paint Shop Pro lists about 20. Most Wordprocessors, Office and graphic programs have large clipart folders.
    NOTE: If you have a second hard drive or other storage device, you could create a folder on that drive and move all active picture files there. When you need one, just redirect the program to find it on that drive. You might want to do this with all documents as well just to separate them from the main drive.
    ****In the notes below, if you donít need the noted files, move to your other disk or delete. *****
    NOTE: To move files to a disk, select the folder and use Cut and Paste. BE SURE TO NOTE WHERE THIS FOLDER CAME FROM, SO IT CAN BE PUT BACK IN THE SAME PLACE WHEN NEEDED.
    D) .wav files are sounds and some are large. ****
    E) .mpg files are movie files that can be large. ****
    F) .cab files are not used except when reinstalling software. ****
    G) .txt files are rarely needed. Look at each one and decide if it is needed. ****
  5. Look for .bak files and analyze if they are really needed. ****
  6. When you are in Windows Explorer change view to details and sort the files in any folder by size to see what the biggest files are. Do you know how to sort? Use Quick View to view files and delete unneeded ones. ****
  7. Other files to consider deleting: .scr (screensavers) .ttf (fonts) be careful here. Some fonts are needed by Windows and others by various programs. Move any you think you donít want into another folder and hold for a while. .ani and Cur are cursors and you can delete any you donít use. Look for .fot and .fon these are left over fonts from Windows 3.1 and not used in 95/98. ****
  8. One set of files we frequently forget to archive (copy elsewhere) are .zip files. Once they are unzipped, they do not need to reside on the hard drive. Use "Find" to find them all. ****
  9. And of course, donít forget Scandisk and Defrag as a final cleanup. Look for .chk files created by Scandisk and delete them also.
  10. Some .grp files are left over from Win 3.1, some appear to be in use for the start menu in Win 95/98. Try deleting them and test the menu to see if everything works. (If not, restore from recycle bin)
  11. Some other files/folders that may be deleteable:
    Look for Internet setup folders, like AOL, CompuServe, Prodigy, etc. They get installed by Windows. Delete the folders and shortcuts to any you don't plan to use.
  12. Use "Find" and the advanced tab to look for all files over 1000 KB. Examine and delete things you recognize and don't use. I found 2 AOL files totaling 8.5 MB in the Windows\Options\Cabs folder. The names are Setup25i and setup32. You know they are AOL files by the icon in front. I found another file called wowkit.exe that is probably for the now defunct WOW Internet access and it is almost 20MB!!!!!! Guess where I put it? I found a clipart file that is 25MB. Unfortunately, I use it. It may also surprise you how large some .exe program files are. You may also find programs you don't use.
  13. In order of appearance above the file extensions are: .tmp HST DLL .drv .bmp .scr Cur .ini .gid .cnt .fts .avi .mov .jpg .gif .bmp .pcx .tif .wav Mpg Cab .txt .bak .scr .ttf .ani Cur .fot .fon Zip .chk .grp
  14. Added 3/29/99: AOL has some special cleanup. Open the download folder and see the stuff stored there. If not needed, move to disk or delete.
  15. Check for more than one copy of AOL on the computer. Using My Computer or Windows Explorer, look on the drive for AOL. If you see more than one main folder labeled AOL, follow the procedure to remove all but one. (Labels may be AOL, AOLa, AOLb, AOL 4.0, AOL 4.0a, AOL 4.0b, etc.)
  16. Removal Procedure: Open Add/Remove Programs in Control Panel. Select America On Line. Click Add/Remove. It will ask if you want "Quick Delete" which will remove all versions. Uncheck the box and the program will survey the computer for all versions. If it finds more than one, select the old ones and delete all but the current one. If there is only one, just cancel.
  17. Last but not least, Use Add/Remove to delete unwanted programs. You may have programs on the drive not listed here. You may need a program like Uninstaller or Cleansweep to do this job. These are potentially dangerous programs and require some computer literacy to use.

For a comprehensive list of file extensions, click here

Here is another site to check for another perspective on the cleanup operation:

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