Thursday, 15 November 2012

Temp File Cleanup

Removing temporary files from a Windows PC

Temporary files are usually thought of as just files with a .tmp extension but there are other ‘temporary’ file to be found in a Windows installation. Browsers ‘temporarily’ keep copies of  files pulled from web site when we view them, your mail client may keep ‘temporary’ copies of email attachments that you opened from within the client. And of course the Recycle bin will hold deleted files until it is emptied. Not all of the ‘temporary’ files have the .tmp extension!
So how do we get rid of the temporary files filling up our systems? The obvious way is to use Windows Search to look for ‘ .tmp ‘ and delete everything that Search finds. There are two problems with this. The first is that when you select all the .tmp files Search finds and try to delete them some will actually still be in use but Windows or programs on your PC and will be locked. Windows will, helpfully, prevent this from happening and not delete the remaining files. If you identify the file that just stopped the delete process and try to delete the remainder you will quickly find another locked file. And so it will go on. So the second problem with this method should now be clear, it’s slow and frustrating. But it will work.

A better approach is to use a program designed to remove temp files. These will work faster than the manual method and will also remove other ‘temporary’ file such as you browser cache and a whole raft of files that Windows keeps when ever you download and install Windows updates. These are hidden the Hidden files in the Windows folder that you may have seen. The folders holding these files have names with the format $abcdef$ . Generally speaking these can be deleted, but you may wish to keep those with recent date and time stamps.

So which programs do I favour? Well for scripting and general use I use TempFileCleaner from . But I also make use of ATF-Cleaner which you can get from Major Geeks at amongst other places. My final choice would be Temp File Cleaner by Old Timer also known as TFC . Again this is available on Major Geeks at . This program requires a system restart after running.

Which is the best, well we could argue that all day! They all work well, they all do the job. Some times the reboot required by TFC may not be convenient. Some times you may want to script the process and so TempFileCleaner may be your choice. As I would normally remove temp files as part of a complete clean up process, I would be running a number of programs and would therefore script the whole process to reduce the amount of user interaction required. 
I’ll cover scripting the whole process once we have talked about defraging and a few other little speed up tricks!

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