The Explorer: Scrub Your Hard Disk Clean - InformationWeek
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!

If this were TV or radio, I'd begin by saying "We interrupt this broadcast..." You see, we were in the middle of a series on how to "Save Your Butt With DOS." That is, how to use DOS to perform various low-level diagnostic, maintenance, and repair tasks on your Windows system.

Part One of the series set the context and gave the essential ground-zero information; it also contained a plethora of DOS-related links to get you started. Part Two detailed how to create a custom boot or "emergency" disk -- a better boot disk than the one that may have come with your copy of Windows, or that you can make via the Control Panel "Add/Remove Software" applet. Part Three helped you stock your DOS toolkit with interesting, worthy -- and mostly free! -- DOS tools.

DOS apps and utilities are controlled by commands you type in at a "command prompt," which is usually something like "C:\>". Done manually, you type commands in one at a time. But you can also place a series of DOS commands in a special kind of text file, and DOS will run through the whole series of commands, step by step.

This is a powerful automation tool; in fact, it's an early version of what we now call "scripting." But back in the early days of DOS it had a different name: These DOS scripts were, in essence, a whole batch of commands, and they were called "batch files." Although a batch file is an ordinary text file, it's given a special batch file extension (".bat") so the operating system knows that it contains commands that should be processed line by line.

Today's article was intended to be all about batch files, and in preparation, I'd cobbled together a little demonstration file that cleaned up parts of your hard drive that sometimes don't get thoroughly cleaned by other utilities, such as Windows' "Disk Cleanup" Wizard. I was going to use that very simple file as a guinea pig to show how any batch file can be optimized and modified; or how you can create your own batch files to automate all kinds of low-level tasks outside of Windows.

We'll still do that in a future column, but, in TV/radio fashion, "we interrupt this series" because of the extraordinary response to that innocent-seeming cleanup batch file:

Save 12GB of Space?
I presented the early versions of that simple disk-cleanup batch file to readers of my newsletter and was astonished at the response. Many readers reported that the cleanup file recovered hundreds of megabytes of disk space that they couldn't otherwise recover; and a few readers reported truly staggering gains of up to 12 gigabytes of space! Even some expert readers who were using every trick they knew to keep their drives clean -- including using automated, commercial cleanup applications such as the $40 "Window Washer" -- found my little free file saved them up to tens to hundreds of megabytes that otherwise had been wasted.

That suggested to me that hard drive cleanup is a worthy subject in its own right, and that many people might benefit from a discussion of the best free ways to scrub your hard drive clean of junk files -- for free!

So without further prelude, let's step through easy, free ways you can recover wasted space on your C: drive or Windows 98 partition. (You can generalize the principles to any other drive, partition or OS.) I can almost guarantee you'll gain anywhere from tens to hundreds of megs. And although you probably won't gain the full 12GB that one astonished reader got -- I think you'll be happy with the results.

Let's get started by cleaning up what's easily done through Windows' own tools:

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