How to Maximize Storage Space GuideGuest_Jim_* - March 7, 2013
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
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Looking back at my first self-built computer, I can still remember how fast it booted up, installed programs, and moved files around. Some of you may be thinking it was due to a solid state drive, but at the time, I had actually just moved from an IDE hard drive to a SATA-II hard drive. Today, my laptop sports a 60 GB SSD and my next computer will certainly be soon to follow. Unfortunately, most SSDs are still pretty limited in storage space. While I am careful to keep an eye on mine, sometimes files just accumulate on a drive without your knowledge, which can make it difficult to find and delete them. Such is the purpose of this guide; to help you find those files and other means to save precious disk space.
Of course, you may already know about some of the topics discussed here; either bear with me or skip around to the interesting parts.
First up, we look at the most evident cause of lost storage space; temporary files. Usually, these will cover a wide range of files and locations on your computer, so I'd advise against deleting them manually. Fortunately, there are many tools that will do the job. One I use the most is CCleaner. This tool finds and removes temporary files left behind by numerous applications and the Windows OS itself. It also gives you the option to decide what it should and should not delete.
When you first install and run CCleaner, the vast number of check boxes may seem a little intimidating. Fear not, all you really need to do is read the names next to the check boxes and check it off if you are comfortable with deleting what it says. This will not delete any necessary files for programs or the actual OS, though do keep in mind that a single misplaced check could affect your daily routine very easily. For example, if you use Firefox and have it set to automatically open previously used tabs, it's not a good idea to check the "Session" box in the Firefox area of CCleaner. "Cache" is fine to delete though; the corresponding webpages will simply redownload when you next visit them. As a note to those using Chrome, I suggest wiping its cache because it generates massive caches; saving two webpages representing 196 KB on the disk somehow becomes 5.65 MB of Internet Cache.
CCleaner also has the ability to delete Windows log files and error reporting files. Personally, I do not delete these because they may be useful at some point, but that is up to you.
Overall, if you decide to give CCleaner a shot, just read through all of its options and do what you think is best. If you are unsure of something, do a search online or check out our forums because there is a good chance your question has been asked and answered before, due to the already-large number of CCleaner users.
Unfortunately, CCleaner does not find everything; some temporary files you will need to hunt down on your own. A common example is installers, such as the older OpenOffice/LibreOffice installers and current NVIDIA drivers. What you download from the appropriate sites are not actually the program installers but self-extracting packages that place the installers and other files somewhere on your computer. In the case of the older OpenOffice and LibreOffice installers, you could actually select the extraction path, but NVIDIA driver installers are always put in the same place; C:\NVIDIA. Other software will put its install files in different places, but will most likely tell you where. In case it does not, an easy way to identify a self-extracting package is to notice whether there is a progress meter before it asks about installing the software. That progress meter is for the extraction process. All software is different, so I cannot guarantee this is always accurate, but it should be a big giveaway. If it does not tell you where it installs, you may want to search online about its location.
After installing the corresponding software is when you can go right ahead and delete the installer, which can free up hundreds of megabytes. If you ever need to reinstall the software, you can always use the original, self-extracting package to get the installers back.
Recently, I learned about another deleteable folder that holds NVIDIA installer data, which can be found at "Program Files\NVIDIA Corporation\Installer2". The files here are not needed after installing a driver, so you can get rid of them.
Another source of left-over files is from a connected iPod. If you use one, iTunes will automatically make a backup of the device and keep a copy of software updates, even after the update has been applied. These files can be quite large, with just an OS update representing 800 MB+. The backup files can be found in "AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup" on Windows 7 and the software updates can be found in "AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\iTunes\iPod Software Updates."