In the previous post about steps you can take if your computer or laptop starts working too slowly, I’ve talked about some hardware issues and things for the accomplishment of which you might need a qualified computer technician’s help.  Let’s see what else can you do to try and make you pc or laptop running Windows, (any windows from Windows ’95 to Windows 7), run much smoother, faster, more efficiently.

First and foremost, check how much free space you have left on your hardrive. The amount of  free space on your harddrive, and if it’s partitioned with more then one partition, particularly, the space on which the operating system’s temporary folders and files are kept, determine to a great extent how fast your system runs, both for simple offline text editing, wordprocessing, etc., and online browsing, e-mail communication and other online activities.

Because of the way all versions of Windows from ’95 to Windows 7, treat and use temporary files, the accumulation over time of a large number of files and/or subfolders in the system’s temporary folders, will invariably lead every now and then to a system slowdown, until you “clear” your temp folders. You see, every time you open a program, even if you just jot down a note in a wordprocessor or a text editor, the moment you start editing in the file, the OS creates a temporary file to hold the contents of whatever you’re typing in it. But since every file in a directory MUST have a unique name, the system has to perform a number of computations to come up with a unique name for your new file. And the greater the number of already unique files in the temporary folders, it’s obvious, that it will take a larger amount of time to perform those computations, since there are a large number of filenames against which the system has to check for uniqueness.

So in layman’s terms, if you have no programs open, and the temporary folders are filled with a large number of files, it’s safe to assume that those files can be deleted without causing harm or losing any of your data, making your system run faster after deletion. Since these files accumulate over time, it’s a good practice to clean the temp folders once every week, or if you can’t afford to spend like 20 or 30 minutes each weekend to perform some of these operations, at least every two weeks. It will be well worth it !

The simplest way to accomplish the deletion of the system’s temporary files, is to write 2 commands in the “run” command box. On Windows Xp, press the windows logo button and R together, or go to start menu and select run; in the command box that appears write these two commands – exactly as they appear – one by one and press enter. (write the first command, press ENTER, wait a few seconds for the command to finish, fire up the command box again, write the second command, press ENTER, wait a few seconds again).

del /F /Q %TEMP%\*

del /F /Q %TMP%\*

Now, the del command is obvious, it deletes files. The /F tells the command to try and also delete read-only files, the /Q tells the del command to be silent, so not much output is given except error messages, but since we’ve run the command in a runbox and not in the command window, we won’t see much of that anyway. It’s safe to assume that the files that were not deleted by these two commands, are currently in use, and there is a reason for not deleting them. In the great majority of cases in which these two commands are run, they perform a complete “reinitialisation” of the temp folders and clean up the mess, resulting in a much smoother operation afterwars.

Now, since we are talking about multi-user environments, every user in a typical windows environment is “alotted” a personal space in which there will be several other temporary folders used mostly by webbrowsers, but also by some other online apps, most notably messaging programs and peer-to-peer networking utilities. Deleting of these temporaries by hand is a little harder, but nevertheless, doable without complications.If you use “my computer” or “browse files on this drive” to access your harrdrive and files, or you usually click on the “my documents folder” to access your files, you know that usually, the path of the folder in which you’re in,

%HOMEPATH%\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files

is displayed in the “address” or location bar on top of the explorer window. To clean the temporary files of your “home” folder, copy and paste the following line into your explorer’s address / location bar (see the picture)

%HOMEPATH%\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files

and press ENTER. The temporary internet files used by all versions of Internet Explorer up to version 8, are displayed. You can simply select all files by pressing CTRL+A or selecting “Select all” from the menu, and then press the delete button or click on the “delete” , red X icon in the toolbar, to delete all temporary internet files.

To do the same with the temporary files used by almost all other programs, copy and paste the following line into your explorer, and select and then delete the files from that folder as well:

%HOMEPATH%\Local Settings\Temp

Even if you’re not a system administrator, you can still perform these commands even on Windows 7, because the files in %HOMEPATH% always belong to the currently logged in user, and %HOMEPATH% always leads to the proper folder, so no worries, you won’t be able to delete other people’s files, if you are working in a multiuser home environment.

In the case of the Firefox webbrowser, it’s easy to do a cleanup of the environment: go to the “Tools” menu, select “Options”, then “Advanced” on the last tab on the right, then “Network”, and click on “Clear now” near “Offline storage”. This will clear the temporary files folder of firefox, or at least, most of it.

So, these are the most important folders to clean up if you want a smooth, fast computing experience on your windows-based PC or laptop. Restart your computer after these most basic cleanups, and the system will run faster again, for a while.

In the next post, Steps to take if your computer or laptop slows down – part III – we’ll take a look at some of the settings you might want to tweak or change, to make your computer more responsive, and some of  the most useful applications to keep your PC running smoothly, especially, if you think that manual tweaks and commands that you’ve seen it these first two posts are too much for you, and you’ll like to automate the cleanups with the help of a program.

Have you tried cleaning up the temporaries by following these two posts ? If yes, how did it affect your computer ? Did you gain speed ? Tell me what you think in the comments.