BOOT CAMP 314 (24/02/04)




Following on from last week’s hardware valeting exercise it is time to turn our attention to the jumble and clutter accumulating on your hard disc drive. If your PC is more than six months old there is a fair chance that between a quarter and a third of your hard disc is filled with detritus left behind by Windows, uninstalled or unused programs, web downloads and general rubbish.


This redundant data is clogging up your system and slowing your PC down it could also harbour potentially harmful files or viruses and result in all manner of conflicts and crashes when you install new software. 


Before you start make a note of how much free space you have on your hard drive by going to My Computer or Windows Explorer, right click on the C: drive icon and select Properties, to see a simple pie-chart. Alternatively download a brilliant little freeware utility called SpaceMonger, which provides a visual representation of what’s on your hard disc; it is available from:



Windows has several built-in cleaning and tune-up utilities, which do a fair job and are safe to use, so we’ll start with them. However, before we begin a few words of caution. If you have any irreplaceable files or data that only exist on your PC’s hard drive then back them up. Only carry out one procedure at a time and after each one reboot to make sure everything is okay. If you have any doubts about whether or not to delete something, leave it alone!


Disk Cleanup is on all versions of Windows you’ll find it by going to Start > Programs > Accessories > System tools. Drive C should be selected so click OK and a list of file groups you can definitely remove will be ticked. There may be other file groups shown unchecked but they are all uncontroversial and it is highly unlikely that there’s anything you need to keep so zap the lot. Whilst the Disk Cleanup window is open click the More Options tab. In all versions of Windows the top two buttons take you directly to the Add/Remove Programs utility in Control Panel. Use this opportunity to remove the dead wood but don’t forget, uninstall only one program at a time and reboot after each removal.


In Windows 98 & SE the third Disk Cleanup option is to convert to the FAT32 filing system, which makes more efficient use of disc space. It should be greyed out, indicating that your drive has been converted, if not click the button and follow the prompts. In Windows ME and XP the third option is to delete old System Restore files and this is worth doing if your PC has been running smoothly for some time.


You may have noticed that one of the items Disc Cleanup purports to remove is Temporary Files. These are files that Windows or other applications create and should automatically remove, when they are finished with them. Sometimes this doesn’t happen, possibly due to a crash or unexpected program termination and they get left behind. To see what’s lurking on your PC go to Find or Search on the Start menu (Files or Folders in Windows 9x) then in the ‘Named’ or ‘All or part of the name’ box type ‘*.tmp’ (without the quotes).


Don’t be surprised if there are several hundred temporary files occupying tens of megabytes of hard disc space and you can almost certainly get rid of most of them – in fact many will have nothing in them (0 bytes). Click the Date column label once or twice to sort them by date with ones created today and currently still in use at the top. These will be protected and cannot be removed. It’s safest to remove the rest in batches of a couple of dozen at a time with a reboot in between each session so use the keyboard shortcuts Shift + down arrow to highlight a line at a time or Shift + Page Down for a page at a time then press the Delete key. Don’t forget the regular reboots and don’t empty the Recycle Bin for a day or two, just in case. See Tip of the Week for how to remove other types of redundant files.   


To see how much space you’ve regained repeat the earlier steps to display the space usage pie chart or launch SpaceMonger again. If after a day or two everything seems to be okay run the Disc Cleanup utility again then follow that up by ‘defragging’ your hard disc, to optimise the filing system. Defrag can be found in System Tools in Accessories on the Programs menu.


Finally, for advanced users I suggest running a Registry Cleaner utility like RegSeeker (, which will weed out unused and redundant entries. It has a backup facility so it is safe to use and like SpaceMonger it is entirely free.


Next week – Spring Clean & Upgrade, part 3






Over time the files on a PC's hard disc drive become disorganized - 'defragging' the drive restores order and speeds up reading and writing data


FAT 32

File Allocation Table -- the indexing system used by the PC to control where and how data is stored on the hard disc. FAT 32 makes more efficient use of the storage space and allows drives larger than 2Gb to function as a single drive



Windows 95, 98, SE and ME versions




Temporary (*.tmp) files is only one of a group of files that waste space on your PC but rather than removing them all manually try this freeware utility called HDCleaner. It is programmed to look for the commonest type of junk files and space wasters and you can add your own. As an added bonus it also identifies duplicate files and cleans up your Run, Find, Recent and typed URL History logs, leaving your hard disc squeaky clean. HDCleaner works with all versions of Windows, the download file is just over 800kb and it can be found at:


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