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Community Newsletter: Q&A forum: What files can I safely delete in Windows Explorer?

by: Lee Koo (ADMIN) July 20, 2007 10:08 AM PDT

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What files can I safely delete in Windows Explorer?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) ModeratorCNET staff - 7/20/07 10:08 AM


First, thank you for this great newsletter and its helpful members. I was wondering about going through Windows Explorer and deleting unneeded files. In the past I've done this with some unfortunate results, creating panic and migraines. So now I just look at the extensions and figure I'll leave them alone, except many new files are piling up. What is safe to remove and what isn't? For example, recently I found a folder "minidump" and extensions .dmp. Is there a list out there so I know what file types are safe to remove? Others might want to be guided to removing and lightening up their computers, too. Is it worth messing with? Any advice on the best practices of removing unnecessary files would be appreciated.

--Submitted by Tom D.

Answer voted most helpful by our members

Safe to delete?

Firstly, what NOT to delete:

Any file with the following extensions are to be kept: EXE, DLL, DRV, VXD, COM, INI, 386, CPL, INF, OCX, SYS and some others. There is an exception: INSTALLATION files. Once the program has been installed, the installer may be deleted if you want.

TTF, TTC, FON and OTF are fonts files and normally in the font folder. Those that are elsewhere are NOT available, delete them OR place them in the font folder.

HLP and CHM are help files. Your call! If you no longer need some help, you can remove them, but it's good to keep those that you use the less, as they are those you'll most likely need to consult if you happens to use the corresponding application or feature. Also, good to keep those of programs that you rarely use.

ICO are icons. ICL are icons library. Most can be removed, at worst, some files will receive the "default" icon.

Now, files that are SAFE to delete:

ALL TMP (TeMPorary, some are in use and thus undeletable), DMP (DuMP files, may be useful for some debugging, IF you are an expert), the content of any "temp" and "tmp" folder.
The content of the "temporary Internet Files".
Don't forget to periodically empty your trash can. ALWAYS do it before defragmenting as it release some working place on the drive and reduce the number of files to optimize.

Any BAT files? Explicitly open them in a text editor, like notepad. If they don't open, or are over 64K in size, DELETE them as they are NOT proper BATch files! BAT files are text command script files, editable and viewable in notepad, that contains automated instructions for some process. By definition, they MUST be less than 64K. INI files have the same mandatory size limitation.

Open those LOG files in a text editor, if they don't appears to be installation logs, you can delete them. Installation logs contain LOTS of mentions of copying and moving files, full files paths, usually the name of some program, date of the install and some other information. You must absolutely NEED them if you ever want to uninstall the related program for any reason.

The following can always be suppressed: DIZ, 1ST, ME,CHK, NFO.

After a crash, you may have one or many "foundxxx", where the "xxx" is a 3 digit number, folders with one or more files. Those are "recovered" file fragments. You can safely suppress those folders, as the content is almost 100% pure junk.

Sift trough your images and other medias, you can delete any that you don't wish to keep. Any file that you created or downloaded and no longer need or want can be suppressed.
If you never use a screen saver, you can delete the corresponding SCR, and possibly INI, file. Some screen savers also use an EXE file, it have the same name as the SCR. If you deleted the SCR and maybe INI, you can remove that EXE.

Any ZIP or other archives? Take a look at the content, if you find some that you don't want to keep, or don't even remember why you have it... give it a one way ticket to the trash can.

Open the "Add/remove programs" and look at installed applications that you no longer use. Uninstall them. Don't touch those that looks like they are associated with your installed hardware and peripherals, even if you don't think they are used: they probably ARE used in the background.

Finally, for ANY file that you are not sure about but think that you may want to delete: Make a copy, possibly compressed, that you keep in a safe location BEFORE you delete. That way, if the file comes up as really needed, you can restore it easily. It's a good idea to include in the archive some text file that say why those files where archived, their original location and any other information you may think about.
Be carefully if you navigate the windows folder and any of it's sub-folders. It's the CORE of your system! While there are files there that can be removed, like images and some SCR, most are essential.

You should also be careful when navigating the Program Files, as it contains most of your installed applications.

--Submitted by Alain Martel1

If you have additional advice for Tom, let's hear them! Click on the "Reply" link to post. Please be detailed as possible in your answer. Thanks!

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