Clutter can be a big downer on productivity, whether it’s your workstation, your home, or your computer. Entropy is the reason why clutter builds up over time, and entropy takes many forms in the context of computers. Files get lost, programs go unused, and little by little various nooks and crannies in your computer are taken up by stray bits of data. Suddenly, your once spacious hard drive is packed with useless things and you have to clean it up. But how?
It’s not enough to delete things left and right. You need to find the big space hogs, identify which ones are worth deleting, and make sure you aren’t causing harm to your system in the process. Fortunately, there are a few methods you can use to maximize space cleaning on your Windows computer. Open up your technical toolbox and add these to your repertoire because they’ll come in handy every few months during your routine clean.
1. Analyze Disk Space
The first thing you want to do is analyze your disks to see which items are taking up the most space and where they’re located. The reasoning for this is simple: if you want to clean up space as much space as you can in the shortest amount of time, the quickest way is to get rid of big sized items.
But the disk analyzer is also useful for finding hidden or forgotten files. Remember those files you downloaded months ago yet couldn’t find where they’d gone? Or maybe you stockpiled a bunch of files that were useful to you a year ago but now mean nothing? Well, they’ve been taking up space all this time. A disk analyzer will tell you that they exist and you can then go ahead and delete them.
For this, I use the program called WinDirStat, which stands for Windows Directory Statistics. It scans your entire system and organizes everything into an easy-to-navigate tree that shows you which folders take up the most space and what items are taking up that space. Hard drive visualization tools like WinDirStat or WizTree make it even easier to see where the big problems lie. I highly recommend it.
2. Clear Temporary Files
Temporary files are exactly what their name implies: files that temporarily useful. This means you can go ahead and delete them without much fear of breaking any critical procedures on your system. Most temporary files are used during program installations (having to unpack all of that data before moving it onto your system) and by browsers (for cache reasons), so it’s pretty safe.
On the topic of browsers, you may want to check out Browser Cleaner. On the one hand, every browser has a built-in option for deleting temporary data like history, downloads, cache, cookies, etc. But with Browser Cleaner, you can clean out more than one browser at a time and all it takes is one button. On top of that, Browser Cleaner can clean application-related temporary data, such as IM logs, program caches, etc. Very easy, very fast, and very convenient.
3. Remove Duplicate Files
I don’t know about you, but there have been many times when I’ve downloaded a file and moved it off to some place for safe keeping only to forget where I’ve put it. Fastforward a few days later and I don’t see the file anywhere, so I download a new copy of it. If this happens a few times – especially if the file is a big size thing, such as the installation file for a large program – then it can really eat up valuable space.
Fortunately, there are a number of tools designed to remove duplicate files in a flash. Check them out, find one that looks like it interests you, download it and give it a go. Deleting duplicate files is a great way to free up lost space, and the best part is that you don’t actually lose any content in the process since they were duplicates. I’m personally favorable towards dupeGuru.
4. Wipe Unused Feature Space
Did you know that some of the features in Windows, like System Restore and Hibernation, require hard drive space to operate? That’s right. A lot of your hard drive might be eaten up by space that’s been reserved for these features – even if those features haven’t been used in ages.
There are two ways to tweak System Restore: reduce the amount of reserved space OR delete past System Restore points. We’ve answered how to delete system restore points before, so look there for specific directions on how to do that. Just know that you can save on gigabytes of data with this depending on how much of your computer settings are dedicated to System Restore.
Hibernation, on the other hand, is a system feature that lets you save the state of your computer before you “shut it down,” then restores that state when you “turn it back on.” All of this information is saved to the hibernation system file, which takes up a lot of space. If you disable hibernation and delete that file, you can reclaim that space. For specific instructions, How-To Geek has a post on deleting hiberfil.sys.
Note: Do these system alterations at your own risk. MakeUseOf claims no responsibility if you damage your system in any way. If you aren’t sure of what you’re doing, don’t do it!
5. Upload to Cloud Storage
One of the newer advancements in technology has been the cloud. More importantly, cloud storage. With it, you can upload your files to a server and have them keep it safe and sound so you can free up space on your local hard drive. Most cloud storage services will automatically sync your data between cloud and computer. Just go with a well-known service, like Dropbox or Sugarsync, and there will be minimal risk of losing your files.
One word of warning, though: you may not want to put your sensitive data on a cloud. There’s been a lot of talk recently about security, PRISM, eavesdropping, and all that jazz. If you don’t want anyone – and I mean anyone - reading your data, then don’t upload it to the cloud. Otherwise, feel free to use cloud storage as extended storage or even just as a backup.
6. Uninstall Programs
Of course, don’t forget that you can uninstall programs to free up space. If you have any programs that you haven’t run in years, go ahead and uninstall them, but make sure you have some way of reinstalling them if you ever need them. For web downloaded stuff, don’t fret, but I’m talking about CDs and DVDs for paid software – make sure you still have those before you wipe them from your drive.
While the Windows default uninstaller works fine for most programs, you can try a third party tool like GlarySoft’s Absolute Uninstaller to completely remove all traces of installed software.
Don’t let your computer devolve into a smattering of stray programs and files that clog up your space. If you find yourself always on the verge of running out of disk space, frantically looking for files to delete here and there to tide you over until next week, then maybe you ought to sit down and really clean out some space. These methods and tools will help you there.
What tips and tricks do you use to clean out your computer? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!