How To: Spring Cleaning for Your Drives

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How to clean up the clutter on your rig

Maybe you're a pack rat like some of us here at Maximum PC, downloading and keeping files unsorted in a folder for months before getting to them. But when drive space is running low and outright buying a new drive to store even more files is out of the question (or just silly), it's time to clean house and figure out what needs to be pitched. The question is, where do you even start? And while it's easy to go through personal folders and toss out old data, what about the crud from programs that don't clean up after themselves?

We'll help you figure out where to start and how to (safely) clean up your PC's clutter.

The First Wave

On Windows, there are two popular tools that you can use to do a good job of scrubbing for files that are no longer necessary, and they're both free. The first is the venerable CCleaner. The second is Windows' built-in Disk Cleanup tool.

Using CCleaner is easy: Download, install, and launch the program. Next, click the "Cleaner" tab on the left, then click "Run Cleaner." When the cleanup is done, CCleaner will report how much space it recovered and from what applications. By default, when cleaning up web browser data, CCleaner will not mess with your history, important cookies, saved passwords, and autocomplete entries, so you don't have to worry about losing them.

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CCleaner in action.

To use Disk Cleanup:
Open up File Explorer and go to "Computer."
Right-click a drive you want to clean, and select "Properties."
Where the drive space is detailed, click the "Disk Cleanup" button; this will launch the Disk Cleanup utility.

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By default, the list contains temporary files from applications, files generated from File Explorer itself, and the drive's Recycling Bin contents. You can get a more thorough list, which has system level files, by clicking the "Clean up System Files" button.

One nifty category of files this exposes are old Windows update files that are no longer needed, or have been superseded by a newer version.

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The "More Options" tab takes you to the "Programs and Features" utility, and a way to delete all but the most recent System Restore point and Shadow Copy.

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The files that Disk Cleanup removes are those that are in the temporary directory and Windows files that can be removed, like log files and update files that are no longer needed.