It seems unlikely these days, but limited disk space is still a problem. In particular, devices like netbooks, nettops, and tablet PCs tend to have limited hard disk space which can cause major performance issues. We’ll show you five ways to get rid of tons of gigabytes of unnecessary data on your hard disk, like temporary files, ancient backups, age-old system restore points, and other huge data hogs. Once you’ve cut away the clutter, you’ll be able to enjoy full performance and more storage space for your programs or personal files.
Hard disk space is still a big issue
If 2008 was the year of the netbook, 2010 is the year of the tablet PC. Both of these devices need to be as light, thin, and small as possible—there’s just no room for a huge 500 Gbyte drive with them. For example, let’s look at the Asus Eee PC T91. It’s a wonderful tablet PC and a great handheld device that runs Windows XP, but it ships with only a 16 Gbyte SSD drive. You’ll want to make sure to get rid of all unnecessary files. After all, the more space you save, the more programs and personal files will fit onto your computer.
Here’s another great example: In high-end notebooks and desktops space, you’ll find expensive SSD drives. They are blazing fast, but usually come in sizes of 64 Gbytes, 128 Gbytes, or maybe 256 Gbytes. So even with higher end products, there’s a risk of running out of disk space eventually.
How low disk space affects performance
If your computer runs out of disk space, its performance sharply declines. Why? Your system can no longer use the hard disk as an “extension” to your main memory (RAM). This extension, called “Virtual Memory”, is what allows you to run many games and programs that require more memory than your system can provide at any given moment.
Bottom line: If Windows is no longer able to deliver virtual memory, you’ll encounter errors, crashes, and staggeringly low performance. To avoid this issue, here’s our list of the five best ways to get rid of all junk data. The first three tools clean up your computer very efficiently. To make sure that no junk data gets left over, you may want to use all three programs.
Clean-Up Tip #1: Use TuneUp Utilities to get rid of huge data hogs
TuneUp Utilities is the most important step in your clean-up marathon. The software is able to delete many log files, error reports, Windows Update backups, browser caches, and much more. Here’s how:
Simply install TuneUp Utilities (click here for a 15-day trial) and go to “Gain disk space”. You’ll find this feature under the “Increase performance” section. Then click on “Unnecessary files” and clean up the files you don’t need anymore. For example, I was running into major performance problems on my notebook, since I run out of disk space all the time. I was able to free up over 3 Gbytes of unnecessary files:
Hit “Clean” and you’ll finally be done with the junk. Go to the “Old backups” section and get rid of those files as well. On my notebook that added up to over 2 Gbytes of data:
Next, we’ll use “TuneUp Disk Space Explorer”. I personally like this feature the best, as I often store huge files on my hard disk (HD videos, ISO images, program setup files, etc.) and sometimes forget about them. Disk Space Explorer lets you find the largest files on your hard disk and makes it easy to get rid of the unwanted data.
Open up TuneUp Disk Space Explorer and select the drive you want to scan for huge files, in my example, that’s drive “Windows (C:)”:
Click “Next” and “Finish”, once the progress is complete. Then click on “Top 100 files”. For example, I found a huge virtual hard disk that I no longer needed and some huge iOS applications I no longer used:
These files needed an incredible amount of hard disk space. By deleting these, I was able to free up a lot (!) of gigabytes of data on my notebook.
Clean-Up Tip #2: Use the “hidden” Windows Disk Cleanup tool
You know the good old “Disk Cleanup” tool that’s buried deep in your Windows start menu? It’s a nice basic cleaner, but it’s capable of much more. However, its entire set of features is hidden by default.
Here’s a list of elements the regular Disk Cleanup tool is able to detect and get rid of:
Here’s the same Disk Cleanup tool when you launch it in (let’s call it) “Expert mode”:
There’s a lot more data to get rid of! On my work PC I use daily, thanks to many dump and error reporting files, I was able to delete more than 17 Gbytes. To access these hidden cleanup options, you will need to create a special shortcut. Here’s how:
- Right-click on your desktop, select “New/Shortcut”. Type in the following command: %SystemRoot%\System32\Cmd.exe /c Cleanmgr /sageset:65535 &Cleanmgr /sagerun:65535
(I recommend copying and pasting)
- Click “Next”, name it “Disk Cleanup Ultimate” (or any other name you would like) and then click “Finish”. Double-click on the shortcut to launch Disk Cleanup:
- Check all the files you would like to delete. If you’re not sure what these options mean, simply highlight one and read the description below. For example:
- Once you’re finished selecting all the items you’d like to delete, click “OK”.
Clean-Up Tip #3: Clean up third-party apps with an enhanced CCleaner
While CCleaner is a popular tool, it only cleans Windows and a handful of third-party programs, but we’ll show you how to use CCEnhancer to make this classic tool more powerful. CCEnhancer adds support for more than 270 applications, such as DivX, Media Player Classic, Adobe Flash Player, WinRAR, and some built-in Windows applications.
- Download and install CCleaner from http://www.piriform.com/ccleaner. Then go to http://thewebatom.net/programs/ccleaner-enhancer/ to get CCEnhancer 1.4. Start this tool and simply click on “Download Latest”.
This will instantly download and add support for all third-party programs. Click on “Yes” to launch your customized version of CCleaner.
- Now check all items you want to delete from the “Windows” section and then move on to the all-new “Applications” category.
- Select all the apps you’d like to clean out, such as DivX, WMP, or the MS Office Picture Manager. Hit “Analyze” to see which files CCleaner will delete. Hit “Run Cleaner” if you’re ok with the selection.
Clean-Up Tip #4: Get rid of Windows features you don’t need
Some of you might remember the old days of Windows 95, 98, or Windows Me, when the Windows setup asked you before installing a feature on your computer. This option was useful, since it allowed you to save precious disk space and gain a bit of performance.
Windows now installs all features with no questions asked! The good news is, with Windows Vista and Windows 7, Microsoft has reinstated the ability to remove features. Not in setup, but after the fact and on the fly. Here’s how it works under Vista and Windows 7:
- Click on the “Start” orb and go to “Control Panel”. Move on to “Programs” and select “Turn Windows features on or off”. The following window appears:
- You’ll be able to add and remove many features, such as:
- Windows games (Chess Titans, FreeCell, Hearts…)
- Internet Explorer
- Media Features (Media Player, Media Center, DVD Maker)
- .NET Framework – I don’t recommend removing this, as you’ll have trouble installing and running a lot of applications.
- Print Services – Covers Internet printer services as well as the fax and scan feature.
- Remote Differential Compression – Makes copying files across the network (between Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2) faster.
- Tablet PC Components – Useless if you don’t have a tablet.
- Windows Search – Makes it possible for you to find files faster.
- XPS Services/XPS Viewer – Microsoft’s alternative to PDF.
Now, get rid of all features and services you won’t ever need.
Don’t worry, you can reinstall them later, if you need to.
You will need to restart your system. Removing these features won’t make a huge difference in terms of disk space, but it’s a start.
Clean-Up Tip #5: Uninstall programs you don’t use anymore!
Last, but definitely not least, you should regularly check for programs you installed but don’t use anymore. We’ve already covered how to do this in last year’s blog post: “TuneUp Blog Diary – Removing Unused Programs on My Mom’s Windows PC”.
This guide, which works perfectly with TuneUp Utilities 2010, outlines exactly how to search for programs you haven’t used in a long time and how to get rid of these data hogs.
Bottom line: Phew! That was quite a “fall” clean, wasn’t it? Of course, your mileage will vary, but I suspect many users will be able to get rid of lots gigabytes of unused data if they follow these five tips.
Using method 1 (TuneUp Utilities), I managed to get rid of the most annoying clutter and free up Gbytes of disk space on all machines I tested. Both methods 2 (Windows clean-up tool) and 3 (CCleaner) got rid of some residual files, which is I recommend using all three methods on a regular basis. Method 4 needs to be done only once, however. On the other hand, method 5 should be performed regularly, say every 3-4 weeks, to make sure that no unnecessary programs remain on the hard disk.
Got another cool Windows cleaning tip for us? Let us know!
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