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A Little More Technical

If you're the typical homeowner, your garage needs periodic cleaning. Junk gets piled there, storage begins to overrun the spot for your car, and a layer of dust and grime just seems to materialize. That's true of your computer. Junk piles up, storage gets full to overflowing, and things just get grungy. You, too, can clean your computer using two pieces of software Microsoft designed just for that purpose. Let's learn how to use Disk Cleanup and Disk Defragmenter.

This site is devoted to Windows based PCs, specifically Windows XP computers. Visit a MAC site or a Linux site for other assistance.


Home >> Easy Computer Maintenance >> A Little More Technical

Backup to Stay Safe
Whenever you decide to make changes on your computer, it’s a good idea to do a Backup. If your changes end up causing problems, you can then restore your computer to the way it was before you made your changes."

Microsoft has a detailed and user friendly tutorial that will help you backup your computer files.

If you have a lot of important data on your computer (documents, personal photos, financial records), it's a good idea to have an ongoing backup plan. Read our section on Backing Up Your Computer Files, for information on hardware, software, and online storage possibilities.

Running Out of Room

Eventually we all run out of space. It's important to understand what happens when you do start to run out of room.

When you’re running low on disk space on your computer, you’ll receive a series of notices.

When there is less than 200 MB of space left, you’ll be told:
You are running out of disk space on [drive]. To free space on this drive by deleting old or unnecessary files, click here.

When there is less than 80 MB of space left, you’ll be told:
You are running very low on disk space on [drive]. To free space on this drive by deleting old or unnecessary files, click here.

When there is less than 50 MB of space left, you’ll be told:
You are running very low on disk space on [drive]. To free space on this drive by deleting old or unnecessary files, click here.

That may seem like a lot of space to have left on your drive, but Windows uses your free disk space for many different purposes, and running low will definitely have a negative impact on your computer.

You can do several things to deal with this problem.

  1. Get a bigger hard drive. Installing a larger hard drive if your C drive is really small is one way to deal with the problem.
  2. If you have a large C drive, install another hard drive to use as a data drive.
  3. Remove programs you don’t use. (This can be done from Disk Cleanup.)
  4. Use Disk Cleanup to remove all the unneeded stuff cluttering up your computer.
  5. Move old data that you may need in the future to backup or online storage.

Disk Cleanup

Disk Cleanup does a number of things including emptying your recycle bin and clearing your cache in Internet Explorer. Doing those steps before using disk cleanup will speed things along, but isn’t necessary. You should use disk cleanup 3 to 4 times a year if you regularly clear your browser cache or use it whenever you install or uninstall a number of programs. Don’t wait until you get a message telling you you’re running out of space or your computer starts running at turtle speed.

Select the Start button at the bottom left of your computer screen. Then select All Programs—Accessories –System Tools – Disk Cleanup.

A screen will pop up that asks you to select the drive to clean up. Select the drives you want to clean up.

Select Drive

Once you do you’ll need to wait while your system figures out what can be removed safely. If you have large hard drives or you haven’t done a cleanup in a very long time, this could take a while. Be patient.

Disk Cleanup Wait Screen

A list of the various cleanup options will appear.

Disk Cleanup Listings

By selecting each of these items one at a time, you will have access to information about what type of files are included and may be given the option of viewing those files. It will let you look at the Downloaded Program Files, Temporary Internet Files, and Recycle Bin Files, to determine if you really do wish to remove them. You may also determine the date for compressing old files. Files you seldom use can be compressed to use less disk space, but they will take longer to open initially once they’ve been compressed.

Once you’ve looked everything over and checked the items you wish to have removed, select the OK button.

Disk Cleanup Are You Sure

You’ll be asked if you’re sure. Select Yes.

Wait while the Disk Cleanup utility cleans up your unnecessary files. When it’s done the window will close, and you’re all finished.

Disk Cleanup’s Other Tab

The More Options tab on the Disk Cleanup utility allows you to do more things on your computer.

Disk Cleanup More Options

The first allows you to remove Windows components you don’t use. Be careful with this, you don’t want to remove anything that you might need in the future or that you’re using but don’t realize it. Below that is the Installed Programs section. You can remove unused programs here. You can also access this feature by selecting the Start button in the bottom left of your computer screen, then Control Panel, and then Add or Remove Programs. Don’t mess with the System Restore Cleanup unless someone specifically tells you to do so.

Windows Components Wizard

Selecting the Windows Components option from the More Options screen will give you the opportunity to eliminate any windows components you do not use. When you click that button the Windows Component Wizard opens and gives you a list of components you could remove and the space that will free up. Remove only components you are absolutely sure you do not want to use. If you're unsure, just leave things alone.

Add or Remove Programs

Once you’ve selected the Cleanup link in Disk Cleanup for Installed Programs or navigated the alternate route given above, you must wait while your computer generates the list of of installed programs.
Waiting to Populate
Look through the list of programs once it appears. (Note: not all installed programs will be found here. If you have older programs installed, they may not appear in this list. ) If you find programs you no longer use, trial versions or programs you don’t like, these are good candidates for removing and freeing up disk space. If you can’t figure out what a program does, it’s better not to remove it. There are items that can be listed here that are components of other items you won’t want to remove.

Select the program you wish to remove.

Select Program to Remove

Select the Change/Remove button
Follow the instructions on the screen that will appear. Different programs will require different input from you, but the instructions should make it clear what to do.
Once the process for a program is finished, you may need to restart your computer.

Potential Problems with Disk Cleanup

Disk Cleanup Tool Stops Responding While Compressing Old Files

Taking it a Step Farther

How to Automate the Disk Cleanup Tool in Windows XP

Windows XP News & Information

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