I have a friend who recently bought a PC from a yard sale. When she got the PC home, she discovered that the hard disk was almost completely full of programs that she didn’t own a license for. She didn’t really want to go through the trouble of reformatting the hard disk, so she asked me to help her clean it up.

Fortunately, the operating system was in decent shape. The first step that I took to clean up the hard disk was to go into Control Panel and double-click the Add/Remove Programs icon. I was able to remove most of the programs by using this function.

Then, I decided to clean some other areas of the hard disk. I began by emptying the My Documents folder. Next, I cleaned out any temporary files by deleting the contents of the Temp folder and the Tmp folder.

After covering the basics, I went into Windows Explorer and looked for program directories that might not have been deleted by the Add/Remove Programs function. If you end up having to do this on your own, the most likely locations for such directories are the root directory and the Program Files directory. You can often use the contents of the Start menu and icons on the desktop for a clue as to what program directories may exist.

After cleaning out the old program directories, I decided to use the Start menu’s Find command to locate files that were just taking up space and to eventually manually delete them. These included temporary files and backup files. I deleted the following types of files:

  • *.OLD
  • *.TMP
  • *.BAK
  • *.DD
  • *.CHK

Finally, I used the Find program to search the hard disk for all files greater than 1 MB in size. After doing so, I reviewed the list to see if any of those files were candidates for deletion. If a particular file could be safely deleted, I also looked at the directory that contained the file to see if it could be completely removed or if other files within the directory could also be removed.

Once I finished removing files from the hard disk, I decided to do a little more cleanup work. This involved cleaning up desktop icons and removing old programs from the Start menu. For good measure, I also went through the Config.sys. Autoexec.bat, and Win.ini files and removed unnecessary commands. When I completed the process, I also defragmented the hard disk to improve the system’s performance.

Brien M. Posey is an MCSE who works as a freelance technical writer and as a network engineer for the Department of Defense. If you’d like to contact Brien, send him an e-mail. (Because of the large volume of e-mail he receives, it’s impossible for him to respond to every message. However, he does read them all.)

The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein, but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.