5 Ways To Keep Crap Off Your Computer

Posted May 1, 2009 7:09 am by with 9 comments

This article concentrates on the crap you download and not the crap that just accumulates over time.

It honestly amazes me how much I download. If you’re like most people (including myself), you probably have a downloads folder where you place everything. Then seemingly all of a sudden the folder contains 6 gigs or more worth of files, with the top 3 culprits (in bigness) being video files, audio files and installation executables.

And forget about organizing the downloads folder you have because every time you think you’ve got it just right, you need another category which means another subfolder. And another. And another.

Here are the 5 ways to keep crap off your computer box.

1. Keep email attachments in email.

Email in today’s modern internet has gigs and gigs of space at your disposal. Hotmail, Yahoo Mail and Gmail have ever-increasing file quota sizes. That being the case, if someone sends you a file and you view it once, delete it off your drive afterward. It’s in your email anyway, so if you ever need to retrieve it again, it’s there.

2. Make a habit of archiving installation files immediately after installation.

You download Mozilla Firefox because you want to try it out, and install it. Right after the installation, push the file over to CD, DVD or USB stick and delete it off your hard drive.

Do this for every type of program you download and make a habit of it, else these seemingly smaller executable files can turn into a mess in short order.

3. Periodically search your hard drive for the largest files.

In Windows XP: Start / Run / type explorer / press Enter.

Highlight your primary hard drive (usually C).

Click the Search button or use the CTRL+F keystroke.

Choose to search All files and folders.

Expand What size is it? and choose to search for files 5000 KB or larger.

It should look similar to this:

image

The search will take time to complete. When finished, click View, then Arrange Icons By, then Size so you can see the largest files first (or last depending on how your list is set up).

Examine what you find. Sometimes you’ll find crap in there you don’t even need.

Here’s an example using my own computer:

image 

The file I have highlighted is wireless drivers for my Dell laptop. I archived this months ago. 80MB of space wasted. I deleted it and got the space back.

Important note: Do not delete anything out of vital system folders, such as C:\WINDOWS, C:\Program Files or anything underneath it.

And if you find a file that looks odd to you, perform a Google search to see what it is. For example, in the above screen shot you see MRT.exe. A Google search for that file reveals that to be a Microsoft-specific program needed by the operating system.

4. Use a compression program for large batches of files.

I recommend 7-Zip to compress files into smaller easy-to-manage archives.

Example: You have a digital camera and take a lot of photos. On your hard drive are 500 of them you want to store.

After installing 7-Zip, go to where the files are, highlight them all, right-click, hover over the 7-Zip menu and select to add to archive. Make your archive and it’s a done deal.

Archiving with a file compression program is not so much for saving space as it is for organization using it in this way. In addition you can encrypt archives and set passwords with 7-Zip. It even has the option to make self-installer executable SFX archives too.

5. Use encrypted volumes that mount drive letters easily.

You know that a store-bought DVD can hold 4.7GB worth of data.

Wouldn’t it be nice to set a drive letter in Windows that was exactly that size, so when it’s full you know it’s time to archive it and make a new one?

With TrueCrypt you can do just that – and do it securely.

Download that software (it’s free) then read the Beginner’s Tutorial on how to create a "container" on your system. While following the directions, make your container size 4.7GB (it’s best to set it to just 4GB so you know it will always fit on a DVD no matter what).

Assign it a drive letter in Windows (the software does this easily and tells you how) and when it’s all filled up, push it to DVD afterward, then just create another.

When the size limit is reached for the container, Windows will let you know by stating it cannot write any further data to the selected drive.

It doesn’t get any easier than this. There is no partitioning necessary, no rebooting, none of that. You get the "extra" drive letter you want at exactly the right size you specify that gives you appropriate warnings when you tap the limit.

Try to keep your computer box crap-free, everybody. :-)

9 responses to 5 Ways To Keep Crap Off Your Computer

  1. Chris May 1st, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Don’t forget this one…it is my pet peeve!

    Delete ZIP and RAR files after you have unzipped them…

        Reply

    • Drew May 1st, 2009 at 5:57 pm

      But if you have a RAR/ZIP file that you need to extract to setup a program, logic dictates you archive the RAR/ZIP file – not the folder of files you exacted. That way you have the files all compressed and ready for extraction the next time around instead of a bunch of miscellaneous files all throughout a folder.

      So deleting the RAR/ZIP file isn’t exactly the best of solutions – deleting the folder of extracted files is.

          Reply

      • Chris May 3rd, 2009 at 2:01 am

        Good point Drew…I forgot about those pesky self-extracting ZIP files that tend to extract to a TEMP directory. I hate it when developers do that! Get a copy of InstallShield already!! LOL

        I was mostly thinking of zipped documents and stuff like that.

            Reply

  2. stezton May 1st, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    I honestly don’t get the point of #2. Archive then delete? Heck, just delete. Why bother keeping an install .exe after you’ve installed? Like right now I’m downloading the install .exe for Open Office. After I install it, I’m going to delete that file. That’s one reason I always put them to the desktop, so I can always remember to delete them.

        Reply

    • Drew May 2nd, 2009 at 10:57 am

      I’m sure you’ll remember this post one day when you have no access to Internet but need to install a program that you have no way of accessing :)
      Archiving *then* deleting makes perfect sense to the logically minded.

          Reply

  3. David M May 3rd, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    Doesn’t this philosophy go back to the days when a 100 Gig drive was considered large? Or am I mistaken? Do people even bother to compress files any longer in order to save drive space? Even a 1T drive is starting to look small these days.

    Is there a good reason to be obsessive (other than malware) about what resides on your hard drive if its not even half full?

        Reply

    • Drew May 3rd, 2009 at 7:53 pm

      Common sense over obsessiveness – the more files you have scattered around on your 100Gb or 1Tb hard drive, the higher the number of files you have available to become fragmented and cause clutter/slow downs on your hard disk.

          Reply

  4. Awais Imran May 5th, 2009 at 5:39 am

    Great list. I was in dire need of tips to make up space on my space-effed 60GB hard drive.

        Reply

  5. Why is my computer so slow August 25th, 2009 at 6:42 am

    Very interesting article! I’m TERRIBLE about organising my hard drive.

        Reply

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