How to Remove Clutter From a Hard Drive

by Contributor

It can be hard to find what you're looking for if your hard disk is full of unneeded files. Just like with your paper filing cabinet, do yourself a favor sometime and weed out unnecessary stuff.

Applications and Documents

Open your document and applications folders.

Drag the icons for unneeded documents to the Recycle Bin (Windows 95 or 98) or the Trash (Macintosh).

Copy documents you want to keep but don't expect to use often to floppy disks or other backup media.

Move these documents to the Recycle Bin or the Trash after you've copied them.

Empty your Recycle Bin or the Trash after completing the above steps.

Remove unwanted application programs by using an uninstaller program. In Windows, use the Add/Remove control panel. On the Mac, many program installers include a Remove option; you need to run the installer again and choose Remove.

Backup and Temporary Files

Your programs should clean up their temporary files by themselves, but sometimes they don't. Check your folders for file names that begin with a tilde (~) or end with TMP. Drag them to the Recycle Bin or the Trash.

Check your work and application folders for backup files whose names end with BAK. Remove these if you don't need them.

Don't empty the Recycle Bin or the Trash after completing the above steps.

Reboot your computer to make sure you haven't deleted a necessary system file.

Open applications to make sure they boot properly if you deleted files from their folders.

If you have no problems, empty the Recycle Bin or the Trash. Otherwise, return files to their original places.


  • check Application programs typically put files in your Windows or System folders in addition to what you see in the application folder itself; that's why uninstaller programs are helpful.
  • check Text files don't take up much space on a disk. Sound, graphics and especially video files take up much more.
  • check See Related eHows for tips on organizing your files and folders.
  • check Programs use temporary files to store the version of a document you're currently working on. When you save changes, the changes made to the temporary file are saved to your disk.


  • close Don't make changes to your system unless you know exactly what you're doing.
  • close Only delete files that you recognize and files that you don't need.

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