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Clean Your Windows PC With Built-In Tools From Microsoft

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 5/25/2011

If you know which choices to select (and which not to) when using Disk Cleanup, you can get the done in the shortest possible time.

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    Use PC Management Tools in XP, Vista, and 7

    Disk Cleanup looks and functions the same in all of the various Windows operating system versions, at least to the casual user. The interface and cleanup process is basically the same too, no matter if you're running Windows XP or Windows 7. [See Image 1] If your computer meets certain criteria though, you may see an additional tab (More Options) or be prompted to choose which drive to clean up, but for the most part, using Disk Cleanup is just about the same for everyone. [See Image 2]

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    Know Which Options to Choose (and Which Not to)

    Before you run the cleanup utility, you must decide what to delete. [See Image 3] If you make your selections carefully, you can improve performance while minimizing how long Disk Cleanup takes to run. Here's what you might see:

    • Downloaded Program Files - These files download automatically when you view certain Web pages.
    • Temporary Internet Files - These files contain copies of web pages you've visited.
    • Offline Webpages - These files are web pages you opt to view without being connected to the Internet.
    • Games News Files - RSS files accumulated from games you play.
    • Recycle Bin - These are the files in the Recycle Bin. Note that files are not permanently deleted until you empty it.Setup Log Files - Files created by Windows during setup processes.
    • Temporary Files - Files created and stored by programs for use by the program.
    • Thumbnails - Files that represent icon for pictures, videos, and documents.
    • Per user archived Windows Error Reporting - Files used for error reporting and solution checking.
    • System archived Windows Error Reporting - Files used for error reporting and solution checking.

    You may also see items like Zune temporary converted files and other odd entries. Click and read what these files are, and delete them if you're comfortable doing so.

    As noted, you may also access the More Options tab, where you can remove programs that you do not use; you may not. This tab is shown only on certain systems that meet specific criteria. Clicking Clean Up from this tab opens Control Panel, where you can view installed programs and remove the ones you don't use. If you purchased your computer from a "Big Box" store, you probably have lots to get rid of. Do it. Also from the More Options tab, System Restore and Shadow Copies Clean Up option lets you delete all but the most recent restore point s(which I won't suggest), and old backup images.

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    Perform Cleaning Tasks on a Schedule

    You might want to schedule Disk Cleanup to run once a week or once a month. You can do this with Task Scheduler. Using Task Scheduler, you can be sure that your computer is free of unwanted data, without having to remember to run it and manually start the program yourself. With Task Scheduler, you can configure Disk Cleanup to run when you aren't using the computer as well, like at 2 a.m. in the morning.

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    Clean up your own files or the entire PCMore OptionsDisk Cleanup
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    Author's Own Experiences: I don't run Disk Cleanup on a schedule with Task Scheduler. Instead, I have a calendar entry on my digital calendar in Outlook to remind me, at the first of the month, to run it. By doing it manually, I can also easily remember to delete unwanted image files, documents, etc., and remove unwanted icons from my Desktop. This, together with other management tasks, helps keep my computer running smoothly.

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