CeePrompt! Computer Connection

Delete key is your friend when used wisely

September 29 1997

Cathi Schuler

In the last episode of the Computer Connection, ("Don't spaceout on your hard disk" Sept. 15,) I outlined some of the files that can lie stealth on your hard drive, robbing you of valuable hard-disk real estate.

Keep in mind that maintaining a fair amount of free disk space is critical to optimal system performance, since Windows relies on this extra space to swap various computing tasks in and out of memory.

As a caveat, before you embark on a zealous seek-and-destroy campaign, be sure the files you're about to purge are truly extraneous, unnecessary files. When in doubt, don't!

It's also a good idea, after deleting files, to let them reside in your Recycle bin for a few weeks until you've given your PC a good test drive and are assured that the deleted files won't be missed.

From the Windows Explorer, some of these nonessential files can be easily deleted by clicking the "Delete" button on the toolbar or simply by pressing the "Delete" key on your keyboard.

Starting with your root directory c:, for example, you can safely delete any files with the extensions *.log, *.old, *.bak, *.000 and *.001 (the asterix refers to the file name.)

In your Windows folder, you can delete files with the extensions *.old, *.log, *.bak, *.---, *.000 and *.001. Files ending with *.txt are often "Readme" or informational text files that can also be safely deleted if they're no longer relevant.

Note: If you cannot see the file extensions in the Windows Explorer, you must change the View, Options and disable the option to Hide MS DOS extensions.

To view text files from the Explorer, click the right mouse button on the file and choose the Quick View option. After perusing the file contents, you can choose to delete it or not. I found many text files in my Windows folder that referenced programs long since deceased.

MSCREATE.DIR is a useless file, created by Microsoft installation routines, that is actually empty and takes up no disk space, but it's an annoyance. I found 191 MSCREATE.DIR files on my hard disk. To find these files all at once, click the Start button on the taskbar and choose Find, Files or Folders. Type the filename you're looking for and click Find Now.

You can delete any unwanted files directly from the Find File dialog box.

While using the Delete option is good for deleting individual, unwanted files, it's not a very efficient way of getting rid of entire programs.

Gone are the old DOS days when all the files for a particular program lived neatly under one subdirectory. Since the advent of Windows, and especially Windows 95, applications stash many critical files and references throughout your hard disk and in the Windows Registry. Files such as *.exe, *.vxd, *.ini or *.inf that reside in the Windows folders are necessary for an application to function properly.

If you simply delete a program folder using the "Delete" option, you leave behind these "widow and orphan" files to clutter your hard disk. For this reason it's best to use an uninstaller program or remove utility that cleans up any old programs while insuring that all the ancillary files are deleted as well.

Windows 95 offers an Add/Remove Programs option from the Control Panel, but it only references 32-bit Windows 95 applications that are "registered" with Win95. Rarely will you see all your program files listed for quick removal. Uninstall programs such as CleanSweep by Quarterdeck and Uninstaller by CyberMedia are designed specifically to uninstall applications efficiently from your hard disk.

These utilities, both priced under $50, are trained to search for widowed and orphaned files that have no known association to any existing program files. Additionally, when you use CleanSweep or UnInstaller to remove unwanted programs, all associated files are swept from your hard disk at the same time.

Both applications provide step-by-step wizards to coach you through each phase of the uninstall process and each provides an opportunity to create backup or archived files as a safety valve. The new CleanSweep Deluxe offers the additional tools needed to clean up the Internet litter that amasses on the hard disks of online users. I expect new changes from UnInstaller as well since it was acquired in April 1997 by Cybermedia, famous for it's First Aid and Oil Change utilities.

Both UnInstaller and CleanSweep are excellent products, but UnInstaller is probably better suited for the beginner since it's very conservative in identifying files to be deleted and won't allow the user to delete critical system files. Intermediate and advanced users will enjoy the speed and flexibility of CleanSweep, but this application doesn't have as many built in safety features as UnInstaller.

Identifying unwanted files and programs on your system is only half the battle. Insuring that they're properly removed will guarantee and neat and tidy hard disk.

Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at cschuler@uop.edu or cschuler@ceeprompt.com or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at http://www.ceeprompt.com 

Cleaning aids

What: UnInstaller 4.5
Maker: Cybermedia
Cost: $39.95 http://www.cybermedia.com

What: CleanSweep Deluxe
Maker: Quarterdeck
Cost: $39.95
Information: http://www.quarterdeck.com

Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at cschuler@uop.edu or cschuler@ceeprompt.com or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for past archived columns.
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