Fall leaves

Fall Cleaning, part 1

Some beautiful fall leaves
Feel the fresh air and cleaner computer.

The leaves are changing color, the weather is becoming cooler, and the World Series is on. Yup, it’s fall.

It’s become sort of a tradition with me to clean up my computer every fall, since just Spring Cleaning is rarely enough.

I’m here to share with you my secrets and guidelines to fall cleaning, and since most people are on Windows I’ll be showing you how to do Fall Cleaning on a Windows 7 machine.

What do we have to do?

Here’s a brief overview of what has to be done:

  • Get rid of old, unused files and programs
  • Organize stuff
  • Clean up the desktop
  • Improve the health of the computer

Now it’s just a matter of breaking these down into more manageable chunks and going from there.

Out with the old programs

The first and easiest thing we can do is uninstall old programs, which often lurk in the depths of your hard drive. Luckily, they’re easy to sniff out. Open up your Windows menu (or hit the Windows key) and go to the Control Panel. From there, select Uninstall a program. You’ll soon be greeted with a window that looks like this:

Control Panel - Uninstall a Program
The "Uninstall a Program" window

Click on the “installed on” button so that the programs are ordered by when they were installed, with the newest first. Go through the list of applications and double-click on any ones that you don’t use very often. These are generally the oldest ones, which are farthest down in the list.

Some things you should look out for:

  • Old games. These take up tons of space.
  • Old Java versions. Check around the top of the list for the newest Java version you have (you can tell by its update number.) You can remove all the older ones you have.
  • Junkware. This junk comes pre-installed on your computer and doesn’t really do anything. You’ll find these at the very bottom of your list.

I find it helpful to click on the “size” button to order programs from biggest to smallest. Consider uninstalling the biggest programs; additionally, if you’re on the fence about a smaller program, keep it since it isn’t taking up too much space.

Trash old files

As with programs, files can build up under your nose. Let’s weed those out.

Our first stop will be the Temp folder. You may have never heard of it, but that’s where programs store their temporary files, and as such the temporary files can be deleted with no consequences.

Open up Windows Explorer (the file browser) and click on the “address bar.” Enter C:\Users\[yourname]\Appdata\Local\Temp. Substitute your username in the [yourname] spot.

Temp Folder
The Temp Folder

You can select all of these files and delete them. Some files may still be in use and Windows will complain that you can’t delete them; just agree to skip deleting them.

Now we’re going to clean out your Downloads folder. Whenever you, well, download something such as an installer or file, it goes to your downloads folder. Navigate to C:\Users\[yourname]\Downloads and delete all the files in there. (Installers you won’t need anymore, and any files that are still there you probably won’t need either.)

By the way, it’s not a bad idea to move your Downloads folder to your Desktop so you can clear it more often.

Now to take out the trash. See, these deleted files went to the Recycle Bin, so it would be stupid to not delete whatever’s in there. Open up the Recycle Bin (there should be a link on your desktop) and click Empty the Recycle Bin above the list of files.

See you later

You’ve probably gotten rid of several megabytes – if not gigabytes – of files and programs. Enjoy the warm, fuzzy, clean feeling you’re getting until next time, when we tackle organizing stuff and cleaning up the desktop.

Published by

Neel Mehta

Harvard College. Web developer. Sometime philosopher. Baseball junkie.

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