No matter how fast your PC runs, one thing slows it down and hinders program installation and the easy storing of photos, songs, and documents: wasteful clutter. This includes all those gigabytes of unnecessary data, temporary files, ancient backups, age-old system restore points, and other huge data hogs.
Excessive clutter can limit your PC’s performance in two key ways.
- It creates terrible slowdowns. Probably the no. 1 cause of a sluggish machine (and even one that IT pros tend to overlook) is the message you see above. Low disk space can make every program slow down to an absolute crawl, increase load times, and cause dozens of error messages. Why? Windows and most third-party programs need disk space to “breathe”. For example, Windows creates something called a “paging file” on your hard disk to extend your PC’s physical memory (RAM). PhotoShop, Gimp, and other photo editors reserve space to temporarily store huge photos while you work with them. Low disk space prevents expansion of this space when needed, thus heavily reducing PC performance.
- It amplifies bugs & crashes. These go hand in hand with the first reason. If your programs and Windows run out of space to create their files, they’ll often refuse to work. This can result in everything from simple crashes to bluescreens, like the one below, where we let a Windows 10 laptop run to 00 MB, then used it for a while.
So Clean Out the Clutter on Your PC
Our experience suggests a three-pronged approach for cleaning out temporary files.
Step 1 – deploy disk cleaners
Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, and 10 include a nice basic cleaner, which can be turned into true PC hoover once you learn some of its secrets.
The regular Disk Cleanup tool is able to detect and get rid of:
- Temporary setup and program files
- Old Chkdsk files
- Setup logs
- Windows Update & Windows upgrade leftover files
- Windows Defender leftovers
- Temporary internet files & offline webpages
- System error memory dump files
- Windows error reporting files
- Thumbnails & user file history
To launch the Windows disk cleaner in any version of Windows (including Windows XP, 7, Vista, 8, and 10), right-click on your desktop and select New/Shortcut. Type in the following text:
%SystemRoot%\System32\Cmd.exe /c Cleanmgr /sageset:65535 &Cleanmgr /sagerun:6553
Name the shortcut whatever you like, such as “My PC Cleaning Tool”. Done? Then right-click on that newly created shortcut and select Run as Administrator.
Select all the files you want to clean up and hit the OK button. If you’re not sure what these options mean, simply highlight one and read the description.
The Windows Disk Cleaner only gives me a few hundred additional MBs. Some commercial cleanup tools can go much deeper cover not just Windows but also 3rd party programs or even games (if you’re into that). It’s a little bit like vacuuming the floor before your wax and deep-clean it – and that’s what professional cleanup tools do, like (ahem, plug coming) our own AVG TuneUp.
These commercial tools clean up leftover items like:
- Crash reports: Windows produces memory dumps containing relevant analytical information every time your PC crashes.
- Cache files: These are temporary files left on your disk by programs and Windows. This includes, for example, the font cache used by Windows® Presentation Foundation (WPF) programs and the bitmap cache of the remote desktop application.
- Thumbnails: Temporary thumb files created and displayed by Windows®-explorer.
- "Recently used files” lists: Many programs, including Windows, create lists of files you recently opened. And while that’s quite convenient, it’s also a privacy risk. (AVG Disk Cleaner does a great job of cleaning out this once and for all.)
- Gaming. Leftover files from the gaming platforms such as Steam and Origin can also eat up space.
Step 2 – clean up your browser
Browsers tend to collect a lot of leftover files when you’re checking Facebook or your favorite news site. These include:
- Cached files: Temporarily stored data of recently accessed websites.
- Cookies: Tiny applications that identify your PC to websites, such as social media sites and shopping portals. And while cookies are convenient for tracking users, they are a definite privacy concern. (Clearing them out usually means you will need to sign in to your favorite websites whenever you visit them or sacrifice some preferences.)
- “Remembered” URLs: List of URLs you typed into the browser’s address bar.
- Stored passwords: Passwords stored in your browser.
If you don’t have a tool that regularly cleans out Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, and other browsers, over time, the accumulated collection of temporary files can get out of hand, clog up your hard disk, and cause your browser to freeze. Moreover, having a track record of all the sites you visited may not be what you want when you’re sharing your computer or laptop with friends and family.
Every browser sports its own cleanup tool. We will show you how it’s done on the most common browser, Internet Explorer. But the concept is the same for all of them.
First, click on the little cog icon in the top right:
Then click on Internet options. Click on Delete in the next window and check all the items you want to delete:
Google Chrome and Firefox work similarly. However, if you regularly use multiple browsers, you’d have to painstakingly repeat that step for every browser and on a regular basis. It is better to install an automatic browser cleaning tool, like the one built into our own AVG TuneUp (yeah, we know, another shameless plug – but it actually works, give it a go with our free trial).
Step 3 – find huge files
It is easy to forget about huge files we placed on our hard drives and once intended to later remove.
I suggest regularly looking for these data giants and getting rid of the ones you no longer need. I actually do this every month. So far I have been able to save quite a few gigs of clutter. Here’s how to find big files:
In Windows 8 or 10, open Windows Explorer and click on the Search tab. Next, click on Size and select Gigantic.
In Windows 7, you also open Windows Explorer, click in the search field, and type in size:gigantic; then hit Enter.
This will give you a list of the largest files on your disk so you can easily get rid of them.
Follow these three steps regularly, and you should be able to maintain your PC’s performance by freeing up plenty of space.
The easier way (yes, it is based on our product)
If playing with the cogs and levers of your PC is not your thing, an optimization tool can do all of the above for you. AVG’s PC TuneUp is a case in point – doing the hard work so you have time for other things.