How To Clean Your Computer Hard Drive

Free up Some of That Hard Drive Space

Man's laptop infected with virus

Remember when you first got your computer and marveled at how fast it ran? How you immediately knew where - and what - every document was? Then some time passed, and your computer ran slower, took more time to boot up, and it was harder to find documents? If you clean your hard drive on a regular basis, you can restore your computer to its original speed, and keep it efficient. There are many tools right within Microsoft Windows to help you clean your hard drive, as well as some third-party utilities that work great.  

One optional tip to begin with: you may want to create a "System Restore Point" before attempting any of the techniques below. That way, if something goes wrong, you can bring your computer back to how it was before you started. You can find System Restore Point by going to All Programs, then Accessories, and then clicking on System Restore Point, following the instructions on the screen. Here's how to clean your hard drive.

  1. Under the Start menu, and under All Programs, go to Accessories, then System Tools. This is where you will find many of the utilities you will be using.
  2. Start with Disk Cleanup. Once Disk Cleanup starts, it will need a few minutes to analyze your hard drive. Once it finishes, you will be presented with a menu of items that can be deleted from your computer in order to free up disk space. If you want to delete an item, check off the box next to it. If you aren't sure what an item is, click on its name to see an explanation and decide whether or not to delete the item. You'll be amazed at how much extra free space you'll have after you finish your Disk Cleanup!
  3. The next thing you should run is the Disk Defragmenter. When you store things on your hard drive, they get put in different spots, and that means your computer has to search through more of your hard drive in order to find an item. This tool puts data in a more logical order, so your computer knows where to look.  You will also find Disk Defragmenter under Programs, then Accessories, then System Tools. Select your C:/ Drive (or whatever drive you are looking to clean up), and click "Analyze." The analysis will tell you whether or not you need to defragment your disk. If you do, click on the button that says "Defragment;" after it organizes your data, your hard drive will be running faster.
  4. Get rid of programs you don't use. Click on Start, then Control Panel. Once you are at the Control Panel, select "Add or Remove Programs." It will provide you with a list of all the programs on your computer. You may find programs that you don't need anymore - perhaps you downloaded trial software off the Internet, decided not to use it, and forgot you had it on your hard drive. You can take these programs off using "Add or Remove Programs." Click on a program's name, and then click "Change/Remove." This will start the uninstall process. Each uninstall differs by program, but using "Add or Remove Programs" makes the process intuitive if you follow the instructions presented on the screen.

    Warning: Make sure the program you are deleting is something you recognize and really don't need. If you don't know what the program is, or aren't absolutely sure you don't need it (or another program doesn't use it), then leave it be.

  5. Run a Virus Scan. You will need a third-party package for this. Make sure to scan your computer for viruses and spyware on a regular basis; if you leave your computer for a length of time each day (lunch, dinner, or when during a TV show), that is a great time to run a scan. There are a lot of great packages out there. Norton and McAfee are two of the most popular, and may come pre-installed on your computer. Be sure to keep your subscription to these packages up-to-date in order to protect yourself against new viruses.
  6. Keep your desktop clean. If you save a lot of stuff to your desktop, it takes longer for your computer to boot up once Windows starts. A good idea is either to move things to "My Documents" or, at the very least, create folders for each grouping of icons ("Work Stuff," "Baby Pictures," "Internet Bookmarks" and so on) on your desktop and move the icons to the folders. To create a folder, click the right mouse button, and you will see an option "New", then "Folder". You can rename the folder whatever you like.
  7. Empty your Recycle Bin. After all the cleaning you have done, there will be the stuff in your Recycle Bin. Review what is in your Recycle Bin and make sure you definitely want to delete everything, and then click "Empty Recycle Bin" on the side panel.

That's it! Now you know how to increase your hard drive space. Remember, just like anything else, your computer hard drive needs to be kept clean in order to work properly. Keep up with these steps and your computer will continue running fast and your hard drive will stay clean!


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