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Tricks to Reclaim Your Hard Disk Space

written by: •edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 5/2/2009

Cleaning software can't do everything; roll up your sleeves and delete some stuff to free up more disk space.

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    What Else Can I Do to Free Up Space?

    Assuming you have already uninstalled or deleted things you definitely don't need, and have already run a drive cleaning tool (we reviewed a great, free, one in the previous article), it might seem you are beginning to exhaust your options. No worries - there are still a few tricks you can use to get some space back.

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    Where Do The Downloads Go?

    Do you download software? If so, once you have downloaded and run the installer, you don’t really need it any more. These often massive files set up everything the program needs to run on your system, including writing the needed data to the appropriate folders. That means you essentially have the same stuff twice: one compressed, single-file version and a version that actually runs. Delete the installer. If that makes you uncomfortable in terms of the time required to download the file or not being able to download a new copy of something you paid for, burn it to a disk, and then delete it to free up disk space.

    If you download software, video, audio, and other similar files (or torrents for that matter) through an application other than your browser, how many are incomplete and forgotten? All those half songs, books, movies, and so on add up. The safest way to get rid of them is through the software you used to start the download.

    If you aren’t sure if that did the trick, the files often hide in Applications Data Folders. In XP, you can find this on the C: (or main Windows) drive: Documents and Settings -> User Name (whatever that is for you) -> Application Data. Find the programs you use to download stuff, and look for folders with names along the lines of “Incomplete.”

    Be careful deleting stuff in here. It cannot only screw up the way something runs, but the information here is personal: application preferences, saved games, some of your music and pictures, etc. You can reinstall the application, but your stuff will be gone if you don’t have it backed up somewhere.

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    It's Been There How Long?

    Finally, go look at your Inbox. If you don’t already do this, organize important things you want to keep in subfolders of your Inbox. Make folders for work, school, shopping; whatever kinds of emails you feel are worth keeping. Try to keep your Inbox largely for incoming mail. Get rid of as much as you can from your Junk and Trash Folders (you can set up your e-mail client to do this automatically if you would like).

    Keep sent mail around for a while - it can come in handy if you forget the details about something. I am a little paranoid so I keep junk and trash around for awhile as well, but there are limits. If you accidentally sent a job offer from 2006 to the trash heap; it is a safe bet that the employer has decided to go with another candidate by now. You can free up disk space by deleting it.

    Whenever you are working with optimizing, cleaning, or other such software, bad things can happen. It is always a good idea to make extra sure your backups are up to date before you start tools or begin deleting things by hand. And if you are in doubt, best not to touch it.

Reclaim Your Hard Drive's Speed and Space

We tell you why your hard drive is slow, why it fills up so quickly, and what you can do to fix it easily and for free.
  1. Reclaiming Your Hard Drive’s Space and Speed
  2. CCleaner Will Get Oodles of Junk Off Your Hard Disk For Free
  3. Tricks to Reclaim Your Hard Disk Space
  4. Auslogic Disk Defrag: A Quick and Free Way to Speed Up Your Hard Disk