National Clean Out Your Computer Day — a day devoted towards decluttering hard drives to keep computer systems as efficient as possible, and reclaiming wasted disk space — is on February 12th. There’s even a social media hashtag for it: #CleanOutYourComputerDay.

I’m a big fan of minimalism and tuning my systems for maximum results, so I have a few techniques for this strategy up my sleeve.

Here are six tips you can follow to achieve the above steps and help your beleaguered hard drive get a little breathing room.

1.Uninstall unnecessary programs

On Windows 7: Click Start, Control Panel, then choose Programs and Features.

You can click the Size column to sort your installed programs to show the largest to smallest. I’m not sure why a simple PDF reader (Foxit) consumes the most disk space on my machine, but as you can see there’s not much I can free up, and the apps listed are all ones I rely on.

On Windows 10: Right-click Start, choose Settings, click Apps and Features:

Click the Sort by field and choose Size so the largest programs appear at the top, then examine the list and see what can be removed.

SEE: Data backup policy (Tech Pro Research)

2.Analyze your system

Take a walk through your computer using Windows Explorer to see where the storage hogs may be. You know where you keep your files so this will be subjective to your system, but I can advise you to check and clear the Downloads folder if possible. It probably contains lots of low-hanging fruit to delete.

Get a serious look at your digital photos. Some cameras now set the resolution so high that a picture might be two, three or more megabytes in size. These add up – do you really need 16 different shots of the Epcot Ball at Disney or pictures of the meal you ate at Chef Mickey’s?

Go granular and search all files to look for excessively large ones you might be able to delete.

On Windows 7: click Start, Computer, enter * in the search box in the upper right then hit enter. The system will be scanned and all files displayed (note this may take few moments).

You’ll want to sort them by size for the best results, so hit the Left Alt button to bring up the Windows Explorer menu near the top of the screen. Click View, Details then sort by the Size column.

On Windows 10: Click Start, choose the File Explorer icon on the left (the one which resembles a folder in a tray), expand “This PC,” select the drive you want to Search then enter * in the “Search this PC” field in the upper right and hit enter.

The results of all files found on the system will appear (note this may take few moments).

Sort the results by size for the best results – click View, Details then sort by the Size column:

(You might have to scroll down through the folder listings to view the actual files.)

You can then examine and possibly delete unnecessary files, but be aware some of these will be system files (like pagefile.sys) which Windows probably won’t let you delete and would simply recreate if you did (or worse, render your system unbootable).

Google a particular file name if you’re not sure what it is and want to know if it’s safe to delete it.

Make sure to empty your Recycle Bin after deleting the files you no longer need (right-click the Recycle Bin icon on the desktop and select Empty Recycle Bin.

3.Use disk space utility programs

There are plenty of helpful utilities out there which can help you tame disk space. One of my favorites is called TreeSize Free and tells you the size of the directories on your system.

Run the program and click Scan then select the Drive or Directory to check (in this example I simply selected C:)

Here we can see the Dropbox folder on my computer holds the most amount of data, so I can reduce files therein or remove folders from syncing as needed (I’ll elaborate in step #5)

Use CCleaner to purge temp files and other debris which can waste space:

CCleaner can wade through your hard drive to search for temporary data and the like then automatically remove it for you. It will also empty your Recycle Bin as well and has a Registry cleaner along with some other tools to help look at startup options, securely erase files and more.

SEE: 12 tips to get more out of Windows 10 (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

4.Use duplicate file utility programs

Duplicate files can be pretty common, especially when the same file ends up downloaded over and over again. Removing these can save disk space. You can use CCleaner to search for and eliminate these, but here are a couple of other options.

Duplicate files finder is a simple to use program which can sniff out redundant files.

Add the directory to scan (e.g. c:\) in the Directory field, then click Add. You can customize the search to include or exclude specific file types, to look for minimal or maximal file sizes, and other options such as checking hidden or empty files.

Click Go! when ready. The program will then show you all files found with equal sizes.

Right-click and delete the files you don’t want to keep.

Dup Detector works especially well with pictures, and can detect duplicate or very similar images even if they have different file names.

You have to click the Get data tab to build an images data file which basically just means pointing the application to a directory you want to scan (make sure to check off Include all subfolders (recursive search).

Click the Find dups tab, then Find dups to begin scanning, then View dups to work with the results; you can delete the extras as needed.

5.Offload data

Simply moving files off your hard drive to another storage location can be one of the most obvious and effective cleanup strategies. You can move data to an external hard drive or flash drive, but I strongly advise you to back up anything crucial since all hard drives have a finite life span.

You can also use cloud storage such as Dropbox or Google Drive to get files off your computer. Each has an option to selectively synchronize only specific folders, which means your data will exist in the cloud but not on your PC (Google the specific steps as the processes can change).. You can still access the information in the cloud as needed, of course, and if you change your mind and would like to restore it to your PC a few mouse clicks will work.

6.Tips for Linux users

I didn’t forget to include some Linux advice since plenty of workstations and servers run it, and often cleaning up disk space on a critical server is a lot more important than tidying up a workstation.

I’ve covered these and some other commands more extensively here, but these four suggestions can help you hit the ground running. Note it’s best to run them as root.

Run du – sh * | more at the root volume (or a subdirectory) to show the size of the folders underneath (in bytes), which you can then further analyze.

This can be a bit tedious, however. You can cut to the chase by running this command at the root volume to show the top ten largest directories:

du -a / | sort -nr | head -n 10

(ignore any access errors involving the /proc folder)

Run find / -printf ‘%s %p\n’| sort -nr | head -10 to show the top ten largest files:

Run find / -xdev -type f -size +100M -exec ls -la {} \; | sort -nk 100 to show the top 100 largest files over 100 MB in size (adjust that “100M” value as needed, say to 15M for 15 Mb and larger files):

Final note: I’ve seen a few myths when it comes to tuning up computers. Defragmentation won’t really help recover disk space (nor frankly do I consider it particularly relevant with today’s modern operating systems), nor will closing the running apps or browser tabs you have open.

Don’t spend money on paid products when free utilities such as the ones I covered above are more than sufficient – be especially wary of popup ads offering “PC Cleaner” software designed to optimize your system with dubious or even non-existent results.

And, I’ll admit this is a pet peeve, but “memory” is not the same as “storage.” Memory signifies RAM and storage relates to disk usage. Think of memory as things being actively worked on and storage as things being filed away.

Also see:

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Stay up to date on the latest in technology with Daily Tech Insider. We bring you news on industry-leading companies, products, and people, as well as highlighted articles, downloads, and top resources. You’ll receive primers on hot tech topics that will help you stay ahead of the game. Delivered Weekdays