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Tech: What to safely delete from HD?

Uncle_DaveO 09 Mar 11 - 02:02 PM
Geoff the Duck 09 Mar 11 - 02:43 PM
Crowhugger 09 Mar 11 - 02:51 PM
Bernard 09 Mar 11 - 02:53 PM
treewind 09 Mar 11 - 03:25 PM
JohnInKansas 09 Mar 11 - 03:34 PM
JohnInKansas 09 Mar 11 - 03:41 PM
Uncle_DaveO 11 Mar 11 - 08:01 PM
JohnInKansas 11 Mar 11 - 11:42 PM
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Subject: Tech: What to safely delete from HD?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 09 Mar 11 - 02:02 PM

My hard disk is perilously full, and won't defrag because there is less than 15% space available. I'm trying to delete data and uninstall, move, or delete unused and unneeded programs, to free up more room.

Can someone guide me in this process?

By the Command Interface, I have deleted lots of files from over the years, and have moved a lot more to an external hard drive, but need to leave at least the shortcuts for such programs as WordPerfect and QuattroPro on the Desktop, where they are accessible. I'm not sure whether the basic programs themselves need to reside on C:.

In the Delete Programs facility I see that there are many, many, many XP PRO updates, accumulated over the years, shown. Are they (or some of them) safe to remove?

There are a lot of programs shown in the Delete Programs facility which I don't recognize. How can I decide what's necessary and what's excess?   I'm sure a lot of them are downloaded utilities.

The XP PRO built-in games: Dare I remove them? They have never been of any use at all to me, and I'd like to reclaim the HD space they represent.

Answers to any or all of these would be appreciated, as well as any suggestions for other things to do.

XP PRO Service Pack 3. This is a SCSI drive, if that's relevant.

Dave Oesterreich

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Subject: RE: Tech: What to safely delete from HD?
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 09 Mar 11 - 02:43 PM

First step is get rid of temporary and pointless files including the stuff your web browsers automatically download and cache unless you set the browser to delete them when you quit browsing. These can add up to megabytes. Windows has a prog named Disk Cleanup (Programmes - Accessories - System Tools on my version of Windoze) which will lose a bunch of safe to delete files. There are freeware programmes that get more of the crud - C-Cleaner and "Empty Temp Folders" are two.
Sound files and pictures take up lots of space - copy them to DVD (a backup is wise practice anyway) then delete the originals from your hard drive.
Alternatively copy to another computer or external hard drive.
See what space you then have.

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Subject: RE: Tech: What to safely delete from HD?
From: Crowhugger
Date: 09 Mar 11 - 02:51 PM

I second GtD's advice about unloading pix and music to alternative storage. Huge space hogs, they are. So far that's always solved the space problem for me. Best to make 2 copies of the ones you really care about. The ones I don't think are worth making 2 copies of, well I try to re-think keeping them at all; sometimes do, sometimes don't.

Which is not to say the more commerical junk file clean-up approach isn't a good one, it's just that I'm quite uneducated, unskilled in that area.

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Subject: RE: Tech: What to safely delete from HD?
From: Bernard
Date: 09 Mar 11 - 02:53 PM

If your machine is running normally, you can get typically 5Gb back if you run Disk Cleanup, and select 'remove all but the most recent restore point' in the 'More Options' tab. Okay, it's a temporary fix, because restore points will be added again in time, but it will release space.

I doubt that uninstalling the games will give you much extra space...

The programs probably won't run if they're not on the C drive, because the registry won't know where all the files are.

It's probably wiser to migrate your 'My Documents' folder to either a second internal drive (preferably), or an external drive. All you do is RIGHT click on the My Documents icon (if you have one), or under the 'Start' button - select 'Properties' and select 'Move' from the 'Target' tab.

If you move the 'My Documents' folder to an external drive, remember that the system won't find it unless the drive is connected and working, which is why it's better to install an internal data drive.

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Subject: RE: Tech: What to safely delete from HD?
From: treewind
Date: 09 Mar 11 - 03:25 PM

Another good trick, assuming you have an alternative internal drive or partition, is to go to your virtual memory settings and put your swap file on drive D: or whatever it's called.

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Subject: RE: Tech: What to safely delete from HD?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 09 Mar 11 - 03:34 PM

WinXP Pro includes a backup utility, although you may need your original installation disk to install it on your computer since many default installs don't put it there.

With the number of files you appear to have, a "decently complete" backup could require a big box of CDs or DVDs, so using an external drive (preferably a portable USB IMO) would be a good idea.

If you can make a good backup you'll be free to delete at your pleasure, since an ETTS1 event can be recovered by restoring your previous files.

1 ETTS = everything turns to sh*t

A fairly "friendly" description of the WinXP Pro backup process is given at Microsoft: Windows XP Backup made easy

As it appears that you've been using this machine for quite a while, it's quite likely that your hard drive is "quaintly tiny" relative to the common sizes now in use, so a better option might be just to install a larger HD. Most replacement drives will come with a "transfer utility," or will tell you where to download theirs, to allow you to "move the whole system" from an old drive to a new one fairly easily; but it might be worthwhile for you to let a pro do it for you since you do need to have both old and new drives connected.

It might be possible to install an additional HD in your computer to just copy data files to, but especially in older machines you may not have the existing wiring/connectors to do that.

You can also easily attach an external USB HD (again I recommend a "portable" due to better tolerance for bumps and bruises) that you can copy all the "data" files off to, to make room on the original HD for the "system and programs" stuff. Portable USB externals are available for $40 US (small) to about $140 for 1TB.

You do NOT want to mess with anything in your Add/Remove Programs lists unless you're sure it's something you'll never want to use again - or unless you're sure you have the original install disks in case you want to put them back later.

Data files (.doc, .xls, .pdf, .jpg, etc) can mostly be moved or removed once you have a place to put them off the original HD. Usually moving the accumulated data will leave enough space for the original system and origianl and normal additions of program files.

(Some .jpg may be icons used by programs, so be be cautious about ones in C:\Program Files.)

My current HD is "only" a 500GB, upgraded from the original 250GB when it was still WinXP; and it would be "stuffed" by now without a permanently connected external USB where I put all my "web notes" (mostly my mudcat stuff?).


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Subject: RE: Tech: What to safely delete from HD?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 09 Mar 11 - 03:41 PM

You asked specifically about "updates" in the Add/Remove programs listing.

The updates shown there are generally critical to your security, and if you remove them you are likely to be vulnerable to malware that wouldn't otherwise be a concern.

If you remove the latest "SP" update, you will no longer be able to get new security patches until you can put it back.

The only way to recover updates is by download from Microsoft, and getting all the critical ones on an older WinXP can mean very long downloads.



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Subject: RE: Tech: What to safely delete from HD?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 11 Mar 11 - 08:01 PM

Geoff t D, thanks.

I used the cleaner, as you suggested, and while I can't tell you the numbers of MBs or GBs gained by the cleaning, the "free percentage" of the hard disk, as shown by Defrag, went from only 12% free to 28%! I was then able to defrag, which took about three hours!

Dave Oesterreich

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Subject: RE: Tech: What to safely delete from HD?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 11 Mar 11 - 11:42 PM

If it's been a very long time since you ran defrag, a rerun sometimes can sort out additional remaining fragmentation. WinXP probably will tell you that you don't need to run it, but you can tell it to "run anyway."

A first pass at defrag usually assembles most of the files, but may not consolidate the free space. A second (or third etc) rerun should move all the files together to consolidate the free space into fewer but larger empty spaces. This can affect how the OS assigns and uses "temp files" and sometimes helps with how efficiently some programs run. The main advantage though is that with all the free spaces assembled into a few bigger empty clumps the system doesn't build up lots of newly fragmented files quite as rapidly as if new files have to be poked into many smaller spaces.

A problem with rerunning defrag more than once is that frequently the "closer you get" to perfection the longer it takes to run the next pass. My notes show that with Win98SE in one "determined effort" to get as clean as possible, the first defrag was about 3 hours, the second took about 5, and after a couple of additional passes the "peak" pass took about 17 hours, after which the last one - with all the free space pretty much consolidated - was back down to under two hours.

To "reassemble" a file only one or two files may need to be moved, but to merge a couple of free areas, all, or nearly all, of the files in one clump have to be moved over next to the other clump, so it does take longer to shove everything together than just to put all the individual files together.

This isn't something that's really "necessary" with WinXP and later, since the newer Op Systems are more flexible about using fragmented free space. You might consider it if you have a few hours when you can leave the machine on but don't really need to use it; but it's definitely "optional."

It was sometimes a really big help with Win98 & WinMe (or even older systems), especially if you had a nearly full drive.

Defrag almost never needs to be run manually in Vista or later, since the OS runs it in background automatically whenever more than a little fragmentation appears.

If you feel inclined to try another defrag pass, be assured that you can interrupt defrag at any time with no harm to the system. It will start over the next time you start it, but what got done will be done.

Incidentally, in Windows Explorer you can right click on a Drive and select "Properties." There should be a "Disk Cleanup" button there that's a little more convenient to find than going the Programs|Accessories|System Tools route to it. When running Disk Cleanup, it's significant to remember that you cannot delete a file that is open, and neither can Disk Cleanup. You need to run it with the absolute minimum number of programs turned on to get a full cleaning.


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