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Oh, So That's How It Works!

HOW-TO: Improve Windows Performance
by Deleting Orphan Work Files


Microsoft Windows and Windows applications have a bad habit of leaving lots of clutter in the form of orphan files. These include files left behind when an application crashes. In the case of Windows 2000 and Windows XP, most of them accumulate in the User Temporary Directory.

When the number of orphan files grows large, they can adversely affect the performance of your computer in two ways.

  1. Your computer will run more slowly because Windows must do more work to create new work files.
  2. Some applications behave erratically when there are many work files. The cause of this bad behavior is beyond the scope of this article.

You can prevent or alleviate both of these problems by deleting orphan work files regularly. This tutorial shows you how a few simple steps, taken regularly (weekly or monthly) can help your computer run faster and more reliably.

1

Start Windows Explorer.

2

On the Tools menu, click Folder Options. Your screen should look something like Figure 1 below.

Figure 1 - Screen Image of Windows Explorer with Tools, Folder Options Selected

Figure 1 - Screen Image of Windows Explorer with Tools, Folder Options Selected

3

The General tab of the Folder Options dialog box is displayed. It looks like Figure 2.

Figure 2 - General Tab of Folder Options Dialog Box

Figure 2 - General Tab of Folder Options Dialog Box

4

Click the View tab, the second tab, located next to the Genera tab, at the top of the dialog box. The screen that displays looks like Figure 3.

Figure 3 - View Tab of Folder Options Dialog Box

Figure 3 - View Tab of Folder Options Dialog Box

5

Click the Show hidden files and folders radio button. Depending on your screen resolution and prior use of this dialog box, you may need to scroll down or click on the folder icon labeled Hidden files and folders to see this option. Your dialog box should now look like Figure 4.

Figure 4 - Show Hidden Files Option Selected

Figure 4 - Show Hidden Files Option Selected

6

Near the bottom of the dialog box are three buttons labeled OK, Cancel, and Apply. Click the Apply button to change the setting. The active Explorer window may flicker briefly. Depending on where you are in the tree, more files and directories may appear in one or both panes.

7

You may click either the OK or Cancel button to dismiss the dialog box.

8

Expand the view of your system drive, usually drive C. so that it looks like Figure 5 below. Follow these steps to expand the correct folder.

  • Click on the Local Disk, which may also be labeled Drive C.
  • If you have expanded the correct drive, you should see a folder named Documents and Settings beneath it.
  • Click on this folder to expand it. You should see a group of folders beneath it. There will be one folder for each user who has an account on the machine, plus one labeled Default User and another labeled All Users, which are created and managed by Windows.
  • Expand the folder that corresponds to your name. In rare cases, including renaming and re-creation of a user account, the folder name may differ. In the latter case, the folder name will be UserName.000.
  • When you expand your user folder, there will be a folder named Local Settings. Click on it to expand it.
  • The Local Settings folder contains several folders, one of which is called Temp. This is where all the clutter accumulates.
  • Your Explorer window should now look something like the picture below.

    Figure 5 - Screen Image of Windows Explorer with User Temp Directory Displayed

    Figure 5 - Screen Image of Windows Explorer with User Temp Directory Displayed

9

Click the Temporary Internet Files folder to select it. You must keep this folder because your Web browser uses it. Though it accumulates clutter, too, you cannot use this method to clean it up.

Your Explorer window should look like Figure 6 below.

Figure 6 - Temporary Internet Files Folder Selected

Figure 6 - Temporary Internet Files Folder Selected

10

Select Invert Selection from the Edit menu. This will deselect the Temporary Internet Files folder and select all other files and folders in the Temp directory.

Your Explorer window should look like Figure 7 below.

Figure 7 - Inverted Selection

Figure 7 - Inverted Selection

11

Press the Delete key. Windows will display a prompt like Figure 8 below. Choose Yes or press the Enter key to approve the deletions.

Windows will then attempt to send the selected files and folders to the Recycle Bin.

Figure 8 - Recycle Confirmation Prompt

Figure 8 - Recycle Confirmation Prompt

12

Windows may be unable to delete all the selected files and folders. If so, you will see a prompt like Figure 9 below.

If this happens, delete the remaining files and folders manually, taking care to leave the Temporary Internet Files folder.

Figure 9 - Delete Error Prompt

Figure 9 - Delete Error Prompt

Clearing the Temporary Internet Files Folder

The way you purge old files from the Temporary Internet Files folder depends on which Web browser you use and whether you use Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express for mail. The following two sections give instructions for Internet Explorer and Netscape.

Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, and Outlook

1

Start Internet Explorer or switch to any open Internet Explorer window. Choose Internet Options from the Tools menu, as shown in Figure 10 below.

Figure 10 - IE Internet Options

Figure 10 - IE Internet Options

2

The General tab of the Internet Options dialog box displays. It looks like Figure 11 below.

Figure 11 - IE Internet Options General Tab

Figure 11 - IE Internet Options General Tab

3

Click the Delete Files, located near the center of the dialog box. The prompt shown in Figure 12 below appears. Press OK to delete all but offline content. To clear all files, check the box labeled "Delete all offline content" in the center of the box.

Figure 12 - IE Delete Files Prompt

Figure 12 - IE Delete Files Prompt

4

Press the OK button on the main Internet Options dialog box to dismiss it.

Netscape

1

Start Netscape or switch to any open Netscape window. Choose Preferences from the Edit menu, as shown in Figure 13 below.

Figure 13 - Netscape Edit Preferences

Figure 13 - Netscape Edit Preferences

2

The initial Preferences screen, shown in Figure 14, appears.

Figure 13 - Netscape Preferences Initial Screen

Figure 14 - Netscape Preferences Initial Screen

2

The initial Preferences screen, shown in Figure 14, appears.

Figure 13 - Netscape Preferences Initial Screen

Figure 14 - Netscape Preferences Initial Screen

That's it. You are all set.


Disclaimer

We have done our best to make these materials accurate based on information and experience as of the date they were posted. However, since vendors change the way software works, sometimes without notice, we cannot guarantee that any recommendation we make today will work as expected in the future.

This material is supplied as is and without warranty. We specifically disclaim any warranty of merchantability or fitness for a particular use.

You are responsible for evaluating the suitability of the materials for your intended use and for the consequences of your use of them.

Use at your own risk.




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