The Ultimate Spring Cleaning Guide 2012, Part One: 16 PCs. 125 GB of Junk. 103.000 Worthless Files. GONE!
Spring is finally here! With the warmer weather, however, comes the frenzy of throwing out old garbage, scrubbing our homes and reorganizing our belongings. Unfortunately, PCs rarely get the love they deserve during this all-inclusive scrub down – but they should. After all, even a PC or laptop that is just a few weeks old can already be cluttered with several gigabytes of data junk and hundreds of thousands of unnecessary files.
In this series, we’ll demonstrate how to clean your PC from top to bottom. We’ll go far beyond the typical tips, like cleaning temporary files or cookies, and take an in-depth look at cleaning the often overlooked areas of Windows and third party tools that most people don’t even know exist. In part one, we’ll do an experiment that demonstrates just how cluttered both old and new PCs can be. In parts two and three, we’ll share our most effective tips for cleaning PCs. So, let’s get started!
The Spring Cleaning Experiment: 16 PCs. 125 Gigabytes of Junk. 103,000 Worthless Files. All Gone.
First, let’s look at just how much junk exists on both new and old PCs. For the spring cleaning experiment, we invited TuneUp Utilities users, friends, colleagues, Twitter followers and Facebook fans from all over the globe to send us screenshots and actual photos of TuneUp Utilities 2012′s cleaning category (“Gain disk space”), which shows the amount of junk on a PC and gives some details about these files. Here’s an example:
We were blown away by the results we got over just about four weeks. Out of the dozens and dozens of screenshots sent in, we selected 16 PCs that represented the whole spectrum, from those that were relatively clean, to PCs that were mildly used and, of course, PCs that were totally bogged-down. Check out photos and descriptions of the files we received:
It was mindboggling how much junk we were able to find (and delete!) on 16 PCs. Here’s the break-down of the average:
• Out of 126 GBs of total junk, 65% was made up of temporary files, (PC average: 4625 MB)
mostly created by third party programs. For example, iTunes creates temporary files during synchronization when converting photos to iPhone or iPad resolution. Another example is third party installers that copy temporary data during setup. Some of these applications delete these files automatically, but others “forget” this step and create the mess you see here.
Note: TuneUp Utilities 2012 is well-aware of temporary files that are needed. It never deletes files that are in use and only shows them as “junk” if they haven’t been used for three day
• 30,000 MBs (PC average: 1875 MB) were consumed by older Windows restore points and old update backups.
Sounds critical right? Well, in most cases it’s actually not. System restore points are created before the installation of a critical update or after an application is uninstalled. Once the program is installed and everything is working well, there’s almost no reason to keep the restore point anymore (except for the newest one, which TuneUp Utilities never touches). Bear in mind that restore points contain previous file versions of critical Windows files and data – and can grow quite large. The same goes for old update backups. Once Windows, Office, Silverlight and other Microsoft products are done installing updates and everything works fine, there’s no reason to keep them anymore.
• 96 MBs of protocols containing personal and system-critical information or 500,000 written pages of protocols. (PC average: 6 MB)
Windows, drivers and third party programs keep track of thousands and thousands of operations on your system. From the installation of a program (such as DirectX) made by a certain user…
…to extensive logs of driver installations, up to massive logs of all “pending file rename operations” that Windows schedules. If a third party somehow – through a virus or just by copying them from your PC – gets a hold of these log files, they may be able to tell which programs you ran at what time. Granted, it’s not a major security issue, but for peace of mind it’s best to delete them. On 16 PCs, we found almost 100 MBs of log files, or in other words, 500,000 written pages of system protocols (see here for more on that calculation).
• 4,500 or 1500 MBs worth of stored web pages. (PC average: 281 MB)
To put things into perspective, Google reports the average website is 320 KBs in size, with one megabyte containing three web pages. So, on average, there were no less than about 4,500 websites stored on those 16 PCs. Given, that includes not just websites but also personal usage behavior, but that’s still quite a number.
• 4000 Error Reports generated by Windows. (PC average: 117 reports)
The moment an application or Windows feature crashes, an error report is generated and stored, giving users the option to send these reports to Microsoft. Yet Microsoft estimates the average error report is roughly 50 KBs in size – and contains information on the hardware and software where the problem occurred, including system information (read more on Microsoft’s privacy statement). So, on average that equates to about 4,000 error reports, although some of the PCs we measured had larger reports than others.
• In total: 103000 worthless files on all 16 PCs (PC average: 6437 files)
Why Is There So Much Junk On My PC?
We found it’s not just the age-old XP PCs that are riddled with junk, it’s the brand-new PCs as well. These days, PCs come with tons of preinstalled applications that are in the habit of creating unnecessary data. Third-party vendors like Norton, Microsoft and eBay pay hardware manufacturers to include things like trial software. However, while it takes up space, trial software and ads can actually be a good thing, since they help drastically reduce the price of a machine.
Here is an example of a shiny new PC that’s already riddled with files:
Why Should I Care About Deleting Junk?
Looking at those numbers you might be thinking, “OK, that’s just below 10 GBs of data junk per PC. I’ve got a 500 GBs hard disk so I’m good, thank you!” Wrong. First of all, some of the PCs we analyzed had between 20-30 GBs of data junk on them and even some of the moderately “thrashed” computers had at least a few gigabytes on them, which is still problematic. It becomes a bigger deal when you think about the following factors that are often a consequence of clogged-up hard disks:
• Solid State Disks (SSDs) are still quite small. Today’s ultrabooks and upcoming Windows 8 tablets sport SSDs ranging from 64 GBs to 256 GBs, with the average SSD clocking in at 128 GBs. On these systems, having 10-30 GBs of worthless data lying around hurts.
• There’s the privacy issue. As we stated above, temporary files, browser caches and log files may contain personal information. For more on this, check out the section below, “Spring Cleaning Your Digital Life: Wiping Data to Protect Your Privacy.”
• System stability. Application and Windows crashes often occur because of temporary files, both in the user folder and in the Windows folder. It generally happens when applications try to access or overwrite temporary files that are in use or don’t have enough security privileges. Also, if disk space gets low (on your primary partition C drive) because of too much data junk, you can expect all kinds of problems.
Temporary files spell trouble on systems with low drive capacity. They are a danger to overall performance and impair reliability in certain scenarios. For example, if a PC is cluttered with temporary files, some users may experience difficulties logging into Windows 7 (Event ID 1509) or run into problems installing and even running applications.
Spring Cleaning Your Digital Life: Wiping Data to Protect Your Privacy
Privacy issues, key concern for PC users, should be considered as part of any digital spring cleaning. Unfortunately, all versions of Windows, and several third party programs, don’t take the necessary steps to completely cover and wipe temporary files of personal and, possibly identifiable, information. This includes not only history lists (used to save the most recently used files), but also entire error reports that may even store passwords or other sensitive information. Microsoft tackles this issue with the following statement:
By using the “Unnecessary files” cleaning feature of TuneUp Utilities 2012, you don’t just delete these reports but also a ton of unnecessary data clutter and traces. This includes crash reports, Windows error reports, log files and temporary files.
But PCs aren’t just cluttered with unnecessary junk files, they’re riddled with thousands of registry files, long-forgotten files and more. In next week’s article, you’ll learn how to rid your PC of all this data junk and more.
16 Responses to “The Ultimate Spring Cleaning Guide 2012, Part One: 16 PCs. 125 GB of Junk. 103.000 Worthless Files. GONE!”
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