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:
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:
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. 🙂