In your home, you have to keep things from getting too cluttered by taking out the trash regularly. You also need to clean out your closets once or twice a year and throw away things you no longer need (or that don’t fit). These are chores you do to make your home livable, and if you don’t do them, your house won’t be as nice as you’d like.
Just as you take out the trash when you clean your house, you have to clean up the trash you’ve accumulated on your computer occasionally too. There’s probably lots of data you’ve added but no longer need—music files, digital pictures that didn’t make the cut, files you unzipped and viewed but never deleted, temporary files, and documents you’ve created and mailed (or e-mailed). Thus, the first step in the cleansing process is to clean up the default folders. These include Documents, Music, Videos, Pictures, and others inside your personal folder. [See Image 1]
Deleting superfluous files might not seem necessary if you have a large hard drive, but it is. When a computer looks for a file, it has to search the full hard disk for it. Even if you turn on indexing, you’re still bogging down the machine if you’re storing files you don’t need. The more stuff on your hard disk, the more stuff your computer has to look through to find what you want. Additionally, deleting unnecessary files is certainly essential if you’ve received the dreaded “low on disk space” error on an older PC.
TIP: Cleaning out files usually means that you’ll have to open some of them to see what they are. Be careful! If you see an unfamiliar .exe file and double-click it, the file will run, and you may execute a virus on your PC. Other files with other extensions (Including .scr, .vbs, .pif, and quite a few others) can carry hidden malware. It’s always safe to open .TXT files, and almost always safe to open Image files like .gif and .jpg. To be safe, keep your anti-virus utility updated on a daily basis, and run a virus check immediately before spending any serious time “going hunting” for files to delete. If you have any doubts about a particular file, you can often right-click on the file and select a “check file for viruses” item, depending on your anti-virus software. (NAV does this, as does AVG and most other major AV products.) Better to spend a few seconds checking a file than releasing a virus to wreak havoc and create more gunk!
Windows XP provides a My Documents and Vista provides a Documents folder where many users store all of the documents they create. This folder serves as the default location until it is changed. Stop reading for a minute and look inside your Documents folder. If you see something you don’t like or you don’t need, delete it. Here’s how:
1. Open the Documents folder.
2. Right-click any file, and choose Delete from the shortcut menu. [See Image 2]
3. In the Confirm File Delete dialog box, click Yes to delete the file.
Tip: If you prefer using the keyboard over the mouse, hover the mouse over the item to highlight it and then press the Delete key on the keyboard. When prompted to confirm the deletion, press the Enter key. You can also drag the item to the Recycle Bin.
Delete to your heart’s content, but don’t delete files if you don’t know who they belong to or what they are used for. For now, let’s just concentrate on taking out a bit of the garbage that you’ve created.
Let’s now take a look at some other folders. Look at folders including Pictures, Videos, and Music for storing other types of files. If you have a digital camera, for example, you might find that you have a lot of files in the Pictures folder. If you make a lot of movies with Movie Maker, we’ll bet you’ve got some files in the My Videos folder you can delete as well. If you are a music hound, we’ll bet your My Music folder is really scary!
Pictures folders really take a lot of abuse. There are often subfolders, but there are probably lots of images haphazardly placed there. These need to be moved to the appropriate subfolders. As you perform this task you may also find old client artwork, a screen shot, or a folder with only one image, all of which should likely be deleted. Deleting pictures from this folder is just the same as deleting from the My Documents folder. You simply right-click, choose Delete, and be done with it!
Tip: Don’t delete any pictures you’ve used in Movie Maker 2 project files, office documents, or similar applications. When the file or program calls on them and they aren’t there, you’ll certainly hear about it!
Deleting video files is a little trickier. With Movie Maker, you capture the video files (raw footage) to your computer, and you create a project using those files. These project files are given a .MSWMM file name extension. You tweak the project file and then you create a movie, and the movie files are given a .wmv extension. The movie is the final product, so if you’ve turned a particular project file into a movie, you can delete that particular project file. However, if you think you’ll need any of those files later, if you want to save the raw footage for posterity, or if you are planning to use those files in another movie, you shouldn’t delete them.
Tip: Remember, though, a movie (the final product, the wav file) is not editable. So, if you think you might need the project files at another time, don’t delete them.
Ah, your music. We bet that you have quite a lot of files stored here if you’re a music enthusiast. Not only can you literally have thousands of files, but if you’ve subscribed and unsubscribed to various online music sources, you probably have a lot that you can’t even play because you don’t have the proper licenses. Deleting music files is just as simple as deleting anything else described so far: simply right-click and delete. You can also highlight the song or folder and click Delete This Folder or Delete This File in the File And Folder Tasks pane as shown in Figure 3-5.
If you’ll spend some time deleting what you don’t need and organizing what you do, you’ll certainly see improvements, if not in the PCs actual response time, at least with the amount of time you’ll spend looking for data.