Software

How do I... Use the Disk Cleanup tool in Microsoft Windows Vista?

No matter how hard you try to keep your hard drive clean, lean, and mean, temporary and other junk files will eventually gunk up your disk space. Running the Microsoft Windows Vista Disk Cleanup tool will free up that all important disk space for you. Here is how you use it.

This article is also available as a TechRepublic download and a TechRepublic gallery.

While the available cheap capacity of hard drives continues to grow toward terabyte size, there seems to be a never-ending need for more storage space. One of the best ways to ward off a lack of remaining capacity on your hard drives is to delete files you no longer use or need. The Disk Cleanup tool that comes standard with Microsoft Windows Vista automates much of this deletion process for you. This How do I... tutorial explains how the Disk Cleanup utility works.

Making room

The Windows Vista Disk Cleanup tool is located under the Performance Information and Tools icon in the Control Panel. Navigate to Control Panel | Performance Information and Tools and click the Open Disk Cleanup link on the left hand side of the window (Figure A).

Figure A

Performance Information and Tools

Alternatively, you can use the handy Vista Desktop search tool. Click the Vista Start button, type in "disk" (See Figure B) and hit the enter key to get to the initial dialog screen (Figure C). Note: You have to have administrative rights to run Disk Cleanup for all users.

Figure B

Desktop search for "disk"

Figure C

Initial Disk Cleanup dialog screen

The next dialog screen wants you to make a drive selection. (Figure D)

Figure D

Choose a drive

After you choose your drive, the tool calculates the potential space savings that can be achieved. (Figure E)

Figure E

Calculating space savings

Once the analysis is complete, the Disk Cleanup tool gives you a list of potential space saving file deletions it can make. The list includes the usual suspects like Temporary Internet files, but it also includes more obscure files like the hibernation file. (Figure F)

Figure F

Disk Cleanup analysis

One of the largest files on my laptop was the System queued Windows Error Reporting files. These files were generated during the month I was operating without Vista approved wireless 802.11 LAN card drivers. Thankfully, those bad days are behind me and I can regain over 25 Mb by deleting those files. (Figure G)

Figure G

Regaining 342 Mb

Under the More Options tab (Figure H) of the Disk Cleanup dialog you can reach the Programs and Features icon on the Control Panel (Figure I). This Vista tool is similar to the Windows XP Add/Remove Programs. Here you can uninstall applications if you wish.

Figure H

More Options

Figure I

Programs and Features

Also on the More Options tab (Figure H) you will find a button for deleting and cleaning System Restore and Shadow Copies. Clicking the "Clean up" button in this category allows you to remove old System Restore points to free up hard drive space. You will get the obligatory "Are you sure" box (Figure J), but assuming your Vista installation is stable, deleting these files should have not impact on operating system functions.

Figure J

Are you sure?

Once you click OK to give it the go ahead, the Disk Cleanup tool will report its progress as it removes files and creates space (Figure K).

Figure K

Cleaning in action

Once the process is complete you returned to you desktop with more hard disk storage space to work with. All-in-all the Microsoft Windows Vista Disk Cleanup tool is a straightforward and easy to use utility.

About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

20 comments
Gerhard vR
Gerhard vR

I've just had pretty major brain surgery with wonderful results.... but I've forgotten lotsa memories. However as they are still stored in the back of my head, I have the opportunity to re-visit all the beautiful memories that exist in the sea of memories of my past. So I am in the process of cleaning up stuff that had been piling up while I was under the control of a very fuzzy thinker, I am also checking the nooks and crannies of my comp. Trying to clean up and simplify. Found excellent step by step info. Thanks ever so much; and now I will never forget it. (I used to know a fair bit about desktops) Gerhard

davidclubb
davidclubb

Thank you for sharing this. Here are two free Disk Cleanup tools that you can try too. I use them all the time.

Zshabbir
Zshabbir

Well there is no Performance and tools icon in my control Panel.Its my Windows Vista-Home Premium.Need help as fast as possible!!!!

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

Your computer seems to make a copy of every file that it sees.Unless you really need it!These files are copied to the hard drive and for some reason they slow your computer down.I suppose that I could check everything in.YEOW!

GeneK123
GeneK123

Run the Disk Cleanup Tool then run CCleaner (free) http://www.ccleaner.com/ and ERUNT (free) http://www.larshederer.homepage.t-online.de/erunt/. After that, run your defragging program. The two programs I have recommended are free for personal use and I could find no limitations for any other use such as business, education, etc. when I navigated the sites; however, to be safe legally I would E-mail a query to the support sites. Gene

trward
trward

I ran the file clean up and it wasted alot of iles that I really needed. This sucks...

dt6string
dt6string

There are many disk cleanup tools available. I've never found MS tool in XP to do a great. I use System Mechanic Pro, but even Spybot has a feature that will look for junk and unused files and get rid of them faster that MS's built in tool. I'll admit that I haven't tried it in Vista, but I'm not expecting much.

fred.newkirk
fred.newkirk

The cleanup tool in Windows Vista is much more robust than that of any previous Windows versions. Not only is it looking in more areas for more items it is faster, and has the ability to do all users on the machine, which is handy in a shared business environment. We are NOT talking about spyware removal, we are taliing about disk cleanup and maintenance. A defrag after a cleanup is almost mandatory to get the most bang for your buck

-TwiTch-
-TwiTch-

I'm not the BIGGEST fan of the disk clean up tool but it does find things that i have not yet been able to find with any other disk cleaning tool. Specifically, the "compressed old files" are hard to find with any tool other than disk clean up. I perfer to use a variety of software to clean a hardrive of unwanted trash: - Disk cleanup - spybot ( always *update and immunize before use) - adware (always update* before use. Mainly for spyware and recently used) - EasyCleaner 2.0 (has a built in registry cleaner as well as other useful tools) - EmpTemp (if your anal retentive you can scheduale this to run everytime you start your computer. it really helps.) - and the built in cleanup tools in the web browsers. (firefox, IE, AOL, all have their own tools -- you'll find IE's tools in the internet options) When used separately, these tools are helpful but not effecient. I suggest taking 1 day out of the week to *update and run all of these tools. --By the way, all of the tools i listed are FREE! go to download.com and google.com to search for them. While you're at it, Download AVG Free from Free.grisoft.com which in my experience has been an accurate and easy Anti-Virus to use but best of all it's free. I also find that after cleaning your disk of all this junk, it is a good idea to DEFRAG. add "microsoft update" to that list of to do's and you have yourself an excelent maintenance. --- rinse and repeat once per week (depending on computer usage you can spread appart maintenance, or do it more frequently.) -TwiTch. :)

-TwiTch-
-TwiTch-

I Personally have not had to chance to try out vista's version of disk cleanup but I'm sure it won't be leaving my tool box anytime soon.

GeneK123
GeneK123

That folder would be the perfect thing for many, many people. Put shortcuts to the built-in Disk Cleanup Tool, the Check Disk Tool. plus the Defrag Tool in that folder along with a SHORT set of instructions for each. Plus the OEM maker could include the same for the anti-virus,and anti-spyware which are almost always included in the build. Tell them to run every one at least once each week. Then the world would be an easier place for help-out relatives and friends. Gene

-TwiTch-
-TwiTch-

Ha! you're absolutly correct. I suppose that's where we come in. The least microsoft could do is put a folder on the desktop by default with all the tools some one needs to keep they're desktop in decent shape. Maybe even give them a one stop solution for Disk CleanUp and Defrag. wouldn't that be nice. Oh well, looks like we'll just have to wait for WinFS to start autodefraging systems and routine cleanups in the next version of windows *post Vista*

GeneK123
GeneK123

I also bash Microsoft frequently; however, you have to admire the balancing act Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates must perform. Keep it uncomplicated enough so you do not lose the average user yet provide a means to get deeper into the OS for those of us wanting to look into the hidden corners. Gene

dt6string
dt6string

I concede the point about "average users". Eventually though, with built in MS tools, they are going to need some help from an IT pro who will use the tools we have been discussing. Its interesting that I find myself bashing MS kind of fequently nowadays, and yet I owe a pretty good piece of my income to them. HMMMMMm

GeneK123
GeneK123

Very, very true. Exotic complicated programs often cause more problems than they prevent for the average user. Among the worst are the multi-function programs (firewall, anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-spam, etc.). I would estimate the average user is at least 75% of the market. Gene

Beoweolf
Beoweolf

Many, if not most, non-IT people (general users) want/need a simple one-stop solution. As evidenced by the number of computers that are routinely infected with 5 year old virus payload, or the number of comic complaints about spam, 'lost' files or other things that Microsoft protects users from - by default! It has gotten to the point that owners have to really work at screwing up a machine to put it into an error state; however, as usual - "where there is a will, there is a way". The reason Microsoft includes utilities like defrag, backup...etc. is to establish a bottom line, default safety net. You don't have to be a genius to use these tools and utilities; they are 'free', they are GUI and they work. Sure, 3rd party tool may have more features, provide a more granular interface allowing a "knowledgeable" operator the flexiabity he or she needs to automate a process...but the average user is confused with too many choices. Remember, Granny, in Switchback, AK is using these machines just as often as some Geek. Face it; PC's are consumer devices now. Just like a telephone, dishwasher or automobile. The average user just wants to turn the key and get the service - what he does not want is to read, learn or install some exotic software to protect him from himself. There is a 3rd-party market to serve the need of the enlightened, so its not fair to say the MS user support products are 'less' than their commercial counter parts, they just serve different markets and should reasonably be judge under different criteria.

-TwiTch-
-TwiTch-

I agree, these vulnurable end users come into some place like Best Buy or Circuit City to buy AV software when what they end up getting is a bloated security suite they don't know how to use. It is very sad that everywhere you look people who don't know any better get taken advantage of. One MAJOR problem I encounter when dealing with house calls, is the client has a system built with the minimum memory to run the OS and a security suite like Norton Internet Security that requires even more RAM than most enterprise applications. It all comes down to the same idea, "educate the end user". The people that SHOULD be doing this are the ones who guide their purchases in the electronic stores. Unfortunately these employees (for the most part) have limited computer knowledge and should not be giving out advice.

dt6string
dt6string

After cleaning files, spyware, bho's and other pests from your hard drive, you're right, defrag is the next logical step. Defrag runs faster after a fresh boot, so add that to your maintainence routine. AVG free is a good AV tool, but Avast home edition is better I believe. More functionality and it has a 14 month free subscription. Try it, it even scans web pages before they load (well worth the several milliseconds extra it takes) and makes a backup database of all files to restore from in case a virus can't be removed without damaging a critical file. So when AVG free expires, then you can use Avast, by then there will probably be a few new AV programs that are free. By the way, one thing that really iritates me. When a novice goes to buy AV software, they always get a salse pith for Noron System Works, or Internet Suite, or other equivilant unnecessary software, for a cost of about $70.00 when you can buy JUST the AV software itself for $20 from McCaffee or $25 from Symantec. What a rip these bundles are. No wonder so many people are unprotected.

dt6string
dt6string

You take the discussion a little further than its original boundaries, which is what this forum is all about. On the subject of deleting unwanted files, system mechanic pro CAN locate compressed files (you can of course tell it what to look for, even exclude areas or folders and more), it isn't expensive and can be purchased on a CD so that you can run it on any PC you want without having to install it. I'm not a salesman for iolo technologies, but its one of the best all around tools out there. It will even clean clean AND defrag the regsistry, someting fairly unique. All that said, you're right, I shouldn't knock MS cleanup tool without fully testing it. I can't help but say that every tool MS builds into their OS, there is a third party tool that outperforms it. But they're getting better.

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