Software // Enterprise Applications
03:15 PM
Fred Langa
Fred Langa

The Explorer: Scrub Your Hard Disk Clean

Easy ways to recover up to gigabytes of wasted space!

Easy First Steps, Including IE and Netscape Caches
Shut down all top-level apps (browsers, word processors, etc.) Double-click on "My Computer" (or whatever you've named it on your system). Right-click on the icon for your C: drive, and select properties. Jot down the amount of "free space" shown in the dialog. We'll check the free space again at the end of the process to see how much you're gained; and you can check it at the end of every separate cleanup step if you wish to see your interim progress.

Now click the "disk cleanup" button next to the pie chart that shows disk usage. Windows' built-in Disk Cleanup Wizard will run and give you various options: Select the ones appropriate for your system and setup, and let the Wizard do its thing. Close the drive C: properties dialog.

You may have noticed that the Disk Cleanup Wizard includes "Temporary Internet Files" (your Internet Explorer cache) in its list of areas it will clean up. But it actually isn't very aggressive about cleaning those files. IE can do more: Launch Internet Explorer, and click to Tools/Internet Options. In "Temporary Internet Files," click delete. You'll then be given a confirmation dialog that includes the option to delete "all offline content." Unless you have some special need to retain local copies of Web sites, I recommend you enable the "delete all offline content" option.

Next, click the "Settings" button in the Temporary Internet Files area, and reduce the "amount of disk space to use" to a reasonable number. (I use 10MB.) If you wish, you can use the "View Files" and "View Objects" buttons to see what's in your disk cache, and manually delete the contents. In theory, anything in the cache may be deleted. But the theory may have some problems:

For example, odds are you'll find cookies in the Files area, and various applets and controls in the Objects area. Some people like to dump their cookies, but before you start slashing and burning, note that cookies may contain site logon information, including passwords and other account information. Deleting the wrong cookies may leave you unable to connect to your favorite sites. Worse, improperly deleting cookies may leave your Index.Dat file bloated with (literally) megabytes of bogus cookie pointers; and improperly deleting the pointers may leave you unable to access the cookies. For all these reasons, I don't recommend the wholesale deletion of cookies. Instead, we'll discuss ways to selectively inspect, delete and otherwise manage cookies in a future article.

Similarly, use caution in deleting Objects via the "View Objects" button. You may find Shockwave components stored in the Objects area, for example; but the best way to remove Shockwave stuff from your PC is via the "Add/Remove Programs" applet in Control Panel, not by ripping out controls stored in the cache.

Bottom line: You may choose to do otherwise, but I don't delete anything shown in "View Files" and "View Objects" area.

Next, still in IE's Tools/Internet Options dialog, reduce the "History" setting to the lowest number that seems sensible to you. Do you really need IE to remember more than, say, a few days' or a week's worth of sites you've visited? (I sure don't.) Set the "Days to keep pages in history" to the lowest number you're comfortable with, and then click the "Clear History" button. Close the Tools dialog, and shut down the browser.

If you use Netscape, click to Edit/Preferences and click on the "+" sign next to "Advanced," and the select Cache. Click the "Clear Memory Cache" and "Clean Disk Cache" buttons. If you wish, reduce the size of the disk cache to a lower number -- say 5000 or 10000 Kbytes (that's 5 or 10 MB), or whatever size you desire. When you're done, click out of the dialogs, and close the browser.

Take Out The Trash
Anytime you've been doing a lot of deletions from inside Windows, your Recycle Bin fills up: The files aren't really removed from your hard drive until you empty the trash. Thus, you may delete many files, but see no improvement in disk space until you right click on Recycle Bin and select "Empty." Do that now.

By default, Recycle Bin can consume as much as 10 percent of your hard drive, which is way too much on today's vast disks: If you have, say, a 10GB hard drive, do you really need a full gigabyte worth of junk files on your system? Even a lowly 2GB partition will have 200megabytes set aside for Recycle Bin!

Right click on Recycle Bin again, and select Properties. Set the "Maximum Size..." of the Recycle Bin to an amount appropriate for your disk size. You can use any size you want, but I find something in the 20 to 50MB range ample for any size hard drive.

If you wish, check to see how much disk space you've saved so far: Double-click on "My Computer" (or whatever you've named it on your system). Right-click on the icon for your C: drive, and select properties. Subtract the amount of "free space" shown in the dialog from the amount you got before. Chances are, you'll already see progress.

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