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Cleanup Your PC by Deleting Unused Files in Hidden Locations

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: Christian Cawley•updated: 6/16/2009

If you look hard enough, you’ll find megabytes (or even gigabytes) of unwanted files on your PC. Picture and image files, Photoshop files, MP3s, log files, and even temporary files appear in the strangest places. Learn how to find and purge them, and clean up your PC.

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    When you clean up unnecessary files on your PC, you probably delete items in your personal folders, the root drive, and the Recycle Bin. You may even use Disk Cleanup to get rid of temporary files and log files. No matter what steps you’ve taken though, it is likely that you have unwanted files hanging out on your hard drive, hiding in places you haven’t even thought to look.

    Fortunately, you can use the Search option to locate files on your main hard drive that you no longer need. For instance, if you know you have lots of JPEG files from your digital camera stored on your computer but you can’t find them, you can search for them using the Search command. If you have created art files in Photoshop, Arts & Letters, Corel, or a similar art program, you can locate those files by searching for their file extensions as well. For instance, Arts & Letters is a program I use to create artwork. These program files all end in a .ged file name extension. Those files aren’t stored in the usual My Pictures folder and are hard to find. The same goes for Photoshop and Corel files. You can also manually locate and delete misplaced music or video files simply by searching for them.

    Here’s how to get started:

    1. In Windows XP: Click Start, and click Search. (If you don’t see the Search option on the Start menu, right-click the Taskbar, choose Properties, click the Start Menu tab, choose Start Menu, click Customize, click Advanced, and check Search. Work your way out of the boxes by clicking OK as needed.) In Windows Vista, simply type what you’re looking for in the Start Search dialog box and click Search Everywhere. [See Image 1]

    2. From the Search dialog box, perform independent searches for *.jpg and *.jpeg to locate missing digital camera files and pictures; *.psd to locate missing Photoshop files; *.gif, *.tif, *.bmp, and *.tiff to locate art files; *.midi, *.mp3, *.wav, *.avi, and *.wma to locate music files; *.doc for Word documents; and *.pdf to locate PDF files. Of course, there are hundreds of other file types to search for; this is only the beginning, but it will probably keep you busy for a while. If you’re using Vista, you can also cull the search by selecting Picture from the Menu bar. [See Image 2]

    3. If you find files you don’t need that you created, opened, or imported yourself (these don’t include program files), you can delete them from the Search window by right-clicking and choosing Delete.

    4. You can also move the files by dragging and dropping. Simply drag and drop to the correct folder or cut and paste to move them as desired.

    Tip: You can choose items to delete by selecting them separately, selecting them in nonsequential groups by holding down the Ctrl key, or selecting them in sequence by holding down the Shift key. Press Delete on the keyboard to delete the selected files.

    Here is a list of other files types to look for:

    • ASA or ASP—Active Server documents

    • ASF—Windows Media Audio/Video files

    • CHK—Check Disk files

    • COV and CPE—Fax cover page files

    • FRM—WordPerfect 10 documents

    • MPA, MPE, MPEG, MPG—Movie files

    • PPT and PPS—PowerPoint files

    • SCR—Screen saver files

    • TXT—Text files

    • XLS—Excel files

    Tip: Although you can search for temporary files from the Search command window, you can also use Disk Cleanup. However, if you are so inclined and want to remove your temporary files manually, search for *.tmp. You can safely delete files that are more than a week old.

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