BOOT CAMP 208 (15/12/01)




Disc space, or rather the lack of it used to be a major headache for PC users but with the introduction of inexpensive multi-gigabyte hard drives in the late 1990s it became less of an problem, for a while at least... However, Parkinson’s Law has a PC corollary and just as work always expands to fill the time available, so computer software always manages to soak up free space on your hard disc drive.


Much of the blame for this constantly growing demand for disc space can be laid at the door of devices like digital cameras and camcorders, new pastimes like downloading music from the Internet, fat attachment-laden emails and of course the latest versions of applications and operating systems. It’s not too bad on PCs bought within the last year or two, most of which come with 10 gigabyte or larger hard discs but older machines, with smaller drives can quickly become overloaded with picture and sound files.


This week we’re looking at ways of reclaiming wasted space -- as much as several hundred megabytes in some cases -- which should buy you a little breathing space, but in the end, if your drive is close to overflowing the only solution is to upgrade, or add a second ‘slave’ drive (see Boot Camps 87 and 88).


Before we begin, however, a few ground rules. Whenever you delete a program or application from your PC always use the Add/Remove utility in Control Panel or the program’s own uninstaller and only delete one item at a time, after which re-boot your PC and keep a sharp eye out for error messages. When deleting files and folders always leave them in the Recycle Bin for a day or two, just in case you’ve removed something important, or you change your mind.


The first step is to give your hard disc a really thorough spring clean and uninstall any programs that you no longer need or use. There are probably lots of them especially you are a regular reader of computer magazines with free cover discs. Go to Add/Remove Programs in Control Panel and work your way down the list. You should be ruthless with old games and long forgotten demo programs but if there’s anything you’re not sure about it’s better to be safe than sorry and leave it alone.


Not all programs are listed in Add/Remove Programs so click on any unwanted items on the Programs list (on the Start button) to see if they have their own uninstaller utilities. Never delete a program’s file folder in Windows Explorer, this may leave file fragments and Registry entries, which can generate error messages and upset Windows.


If you upgraded from Windows 95 to Windows 98 or later, and you’re happy with it, you can safely delete around 80Mb or so of uninstallation files, which allow you to revert to the old operating system. Go to Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disc Cleanup. Click 'OK' for Drive C and select the Disc Cleanup tab, on the Files To Delete list check the box next to 'Delete Windows 98 uninstall information' and click OK. Afterwards it’s a good idea to run the disc Defragmenter (Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools).  Whilst we’re on the subject of Windows 95 upgrades, if you haven’t yet converted to the more efficient FAT 32 filing system do so now. It can free up a lot of hard disc space and should make Windows and your applications run a little faster. Full details can be found in Windows Help, just type FAT 32 in the Index search field.


A lot of programs these days have multimedia content, such as tutorials and videos, these files can be huge, often running to several tens of megabytes. To find out if there are any lurking on your PC go to Search or Find on the Start menu and select Files or Folders, in the Search window type ‘.*avi’ (without the quotes) and this will seek out any video files. Sort them according to how much space they occupy by clicking on the ‘Size’ column heading once, (or twice), to get the largest files at the top of the list. Double click on each one in turn and this should open Windows Media Player and play the video. Delete those you don’t want but before you empty the Recycle Bin you should launch the program they are associated with, just to make sure they’re not needed.


That should take care of the obvious dead wood but many programs conceal large files that won’t necessarily show up in Windows Explorer. There’s a fair selection of automatic disc cleaner utilities on the market that will automatically search out hidden, redundant and duplicate files but they need to be used with caution. They can sometimes delete important system files and Registry entries or waste time flagging up lots of small and relatively innocuous files. I prefer to concentrate on the big space wasters and look for them manually. A utility called Disc Space Explorer displays disc usage – including hidden files – as an easy to understand pie chart. You can then decide whether to keep them or not, and use the program to delete the files. A 30-day trial version can be found at:


Next week – Managing your files





Audio-Video Interleaved, standard format for PC video files


FAT 32

File Allocation Table (32-bit) – efficient indexing system used by Windows 98/SE/ME and XP to control where and how data is stored on a hard disc.



A large, constantly changing file in Windows containing details of how your PC is set up and configuration information for all the programs stored on the hard disc



Fonts don’t necessarily take up a lot of space but over time you can accumulate hundreds of them, most of which you’ll never use, but how do you tell which ones are worth keeping? A tiny (50kb) Freeware program called FontList displays a sample of every font in your Internet browser, so you can decide which ones to keep and which to delete (using Fonts in Control Panel). FontList should only take a few seconds to download and it can be found at:

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