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Remove Unwanted Files to Cleanup Windows XP

written by: Thomas P. Walton•edited by: Brian Nelson•updated: 8/13/2009

Want a cleaner, faster Windows XP. Get rid of unwanted files on your system. Learn how to clean up files manually and assign Windows the task of cleaning up your hard drive.

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    XP Performance and Maintenance

    If you’re reading this article, then you probably have a computer running Windows XP, and it isn’t running as well as it could. You may have tried defragging your computer, but to no avail (If not, see my article on defragging your XP computer). Scattered files on a hard drive are just one element of proper computer maintenance on your XP operating system. Performance issues can spawn from other causes aside from scattered files on your hard drive. The next place to look for these causes is in the programs that run on your computer.

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    Manually Remove Programs

    To start blasting away at those useless programs on your system, click on the start menu and open the Control Panel. Click on the icon labeled “Add or Remove Programs”. It will take a little while before the window is populated with programs. When the list is ready, read through it carefully. See any programs that you don’t need on your system? These types of useless programs may include things like old dial-up software or old computer games. (Old computer games, by the way, are notorious for taking up space on your hard drive!). Look at all the programs on this list, and discriminate the ones you absolutely regard as surplus software. There could be tons of programs nestled away on your hard drive that don’t help you get work done.

    Consider all extraneous software. Perhaps you’ll find that you have way too many games on your computer. Or maybe the movie you watched on your PC installed an unnecessary movie player that came with the DVD. The possibilities for extraneous software could be endless.

    By the same token, you do want to distinguish between useful and surplus software. For example, you do not want to delete a hotfix or an update program. To erase your security updates would be the equivalent of disconnecting your car alarm and leaving the car doors unlocked at the supermarket.

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    Let Windows XP Take Out the Garbage

    Aside from manually removing programs from the operating system there may be other unused files that need deleted, you can ask Windows XP to do this for you. This marvelous feat is accomplished by running a beautiful little program on XP called Disk Cleanup.

    Click on the Start menu button. Point to All Programs> Accessories> System Tools> Disk Cleanup. The program will start right away, but it may take a few minutes to scan your hard drive.

    If you have multiple hard drives, then you’ll need to run the program on each one.

    After scanning your files, Disk Cleanup will display a list of files. These files are usually stuff that your computer gets from the Internet, such as temporary files and downloads. Check the boxes next to the files that you want to delete, and then click on “OK”.

    At this point, it is highly recommended that you make yourself some coffee, because Disk Cleanup will take a while to do its job. When you come back, enjoy your faster computer.