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26-08-2004, 05:52 PM
FAQ #33 - How do I delete my temp files? Which files can I safely delete?

Originally written by Susan B


Keeping your computer free of Windows' temporary files will ensure that it remains free from unnecessary files that hog space and slow your computer down significantly over time. You will spend less time waiting for your computer to boot up, tasks to be performed and pages to open when browsing the internet if you delete the temporary files regularly.

Another reason that you may wish to delete your temporary files is when you are having problems with internet connection or browsing or if you are suffering from virus infection. Deleting the temporary files is essential in order to clean up the PC.

Windows comes with a Maintenance Disk Cleanup under Start>Programs>Accessories>System Tools>Disk Cleanup (Windows XP path - other versions may vary) that performs the deleting of temporary files (as well as cookies, temporary internet files, etc) for you but if you wish to delete your temp files yourself the following explains how.


1. Windows temp files

Temporary (temp) files are created when certain programs are run or installed. Windows is supposed to automatically delete them but it often misses a lot of the files and if left behind they can cause lots of problems with your computer, not to mention clutter up your hard drive unnecessarily.

To delete temp files first close all open programs. Now go to Start>Find>Files or folders.... and in the "Find: All Files" dialog box, make sure the "Look in:" box has the C: drive selected (or, if you have multiple hard drives or partitions, be sure "All Local Drives" is selected) and be sure there is a tick in the box next to where it says "Include subfolders". Now put your mouse cursor in the "Named:" box and type the following, exactly as it is here (copy and paste, preferably):

*.tmp,*.temp,*.chk,~*.*,*.~*,*.*~,*.bak
and click Find Now or press Enter. It is extremely important to make certain that no errors are made when you type the above or your search will produce the wrong files.

These files are explained as follows:
*.tmp :Temporary files
*.temp :Temporary files
*.chk :Saved disk error data from scandisk
*.~* :Temporary files
~*.* :Temporary files
*.*~ :Temporary files
*.bak :Temporary backup files

Other files you may wish to include in your search are:
*._mp :Temporary files
*.old :Temporary backup files
*.syd :Temporary backup files
*.gid :Temporary help file search data
mscreate.dir :Temporary directory information
0???????.nch :Temporary cached newsgroup data
*.dmp :Memory dump files

Once the search is completed and the files are listed in the results window, have a quick look through them to ensure that you have not made an error. The files should look something like these: ~dff96d.tmp, www11B1.TMP, ~1st-index_page.html, etc. You will notice that the majority of the files reside in the C:\WINDOWS\TEMP folder and are thus quite safe to delete. Do NOT delete the Temp folder itself. Files in other folders are generally safe to delete also but a little discretion is sometimes warranted.

Now hold down Ctrl and press A to select them all and press the delete key. If some of the files can't be deleted it means that they are currently in use by a background program so you may have to delete them one at a time.

After the files have been deleted you are able to save this process as a shortcut on your desktop so that all you need to do is double-click on the icon to repeat the search. To make the shortcut, in the "Find: All Files" dialog box go to File>Save Search and click on OK. You are now able to use your new desktop shortcut to quickly delete your temps any time you wish.

After deleting your files wait a couple days before emptying the recycle bin so if you find that you need something that you have deleted you can restore it. After a couple days, if all is working well, then empty the recycle bin!


2. Temporary Internet Files

The Temporary Internet Files folder contains web pages stored on your hard disk for quick viewing.
Instead of downloading the same page and graphics at every visit your browsing speed is quicker when those items are stored in your browser's cache.

In time, however, too many files stored in the temporary internet files folder will slow things down as your browser has to spend more and more time searching for them. That is why it is a good idea to periodically empty this folder and begin afresh. How often you do this depends on your surfing habits but once a week would be a good idea for an enthusiastic websurfer.

To empty the temporary internet files close all browser windows and go to Start>Settings>Control Panel>Internet Options>General. In the Temporary Internet Files section click on Delete Files and OK.

Whilst in this Internet Properties dialogue box it is a good idea to check the temporary internet files' Settings to ensure that the amount of disk space used is not too large. Around 30 - 50MB is a good size with dialup users having the smaller figure.

Clearing the History will also speed up browsing if you have many days' worth, unless there are certain recently visited links that you wish to hold on to. Minimising the number of days to keep pages in history will also speed things up. Five days should be sufficient, less even better. Pages that you visit often should be stored in your Favorites folder.


3. Cookies

While you are in the Internet Options dialogue box you may also wish to prune out the excess cookies as well. Click on Settings>View files and in the window that opens click on the heading for Internet Address. If you haven't already deleted your Temp Internet files then that will sort the cookies to the top of the list. You will want to keep cookies that hold your passwords, such as for Press F1 and other forums and your bank cookies if you use online banking, but virtually all the others can be deleted. A new cookie will be created the next time you visit a site so don't worry if any get deleted accidentally.


4. index.dat files

Users of Windows 9.x and ME should delete their index.dat files regularly. Refer to FAQ #32 - How do I delete my hidden index.dat file?


5. Windows Update files (Optional)

If you upgraded your version of Windows (without reformatting), or Internet Explorer, eg from Windows ME to Win XP or Internet Explorer 5.5 to 6.0 you will find a number of folders and files in your Windows Temp folder. Some of those files are quite large and they are there in case you experience problems or change your mind about your upgrade and wish to revert back to your previous version.

If you have experienced no problems then you can regain some hard drive space by deleting these files. Once gone however, you will not be able to revert back to your previous version of Windows or Internet Explorer.


6. Cleaning Programs

There are a large number of cleaning programs available that will do all of the above for you, including Norton CleanSweep. My personal favourite is ToniArts Easycleaner (http://freeware4u.com/modules/mydownloads/singlefile.php?lid=165) which gives users plenty of control on what they want deleted. It also comes with an interesting help file.

Another recommended program is CleanUp! available from here (http://software.stevengould.org/).

Both programs will delete all temp files and the index.dat files (see FAQ #32 - How do I delete my hidden index.dat file?) and have options to delete cookies, if you wish. CleanUp! will also delete the Opera browser's cache as well as Netscape Navigator/Communicator and Internet Explorer's temporary internet files. Make sure you check out the Options settings to remove any settings that you don't want to run, eg if you wish to keep your cookies.

Also make sure that you read the Help file, Readme file and FAQ page before using any cleaning program in order to see what it will do for you. Some programs can be a little too enthusiastic so make sure you have a backup of the files you wish to keep in case something goes wrong.


Original FAQ available from here (http://pressf1.pcworld.co.nz/thread.jsp?forum=1&thread=21793&message=58441&q=faq+%239a#58441).