Keep your local disk usage under control

Most new Windows NT systems ship with prodigious amounts of local disk space; however, not everybody is lucky enough to use one of those behemoths. Many of us manage systems on which disk space is a precious commodity. This month, I share tips for reclaiming your hard disk space.

10. Empty your Recycle Bin. Using Windows Explorer to delete files simply moves the files into your Recycle Bin. After a while, your Recycle Bin can accumulate a surprising amount of junk. Right-click the Recycle Bin, and select Empty Recycle Bin.

9. Delete files from the \temp directory. The \temp directory contains all the temporary files that NT applications use. Ideally, the application deletes these files when the application ends. In the real world, applications often crash, and useless files accumulate in the \temp directory. Manually deleting the files in this directory can reclaim a substantial amount of space. (Some applications don't use the \temp directory. From the Find window, search for .tmp files to uncover other temporary files.)

8. Delete applications you no longer use. Although files and other user documents can take up space, the real disk hogs are installed applications. Applications commonly take up more than 100MB of disk space. Use Control Panel's Add/Remove Programs applet to remove old or unused applications.

7. Defragment your disk. With age and use, your hard disk space can become fragmented, especially if you're using the FAT file system. Periodically using a defragmentation utility lets you reclaim disk space and improve system performance.

6. Defragment your Registry. Fragmentation also affects the Registry, but most defragmentation utilities neglect Registry hives. Use a third-party Registry defragmentation tool (e.g., Systems Internals' PageDefrag) to free the space locked up in your Registry.

5. Delete old Microsoft Word backup files. Many users configure Word to automatically create backups of all the documents they open in Word. Although these automatic backups are useful while you're working on a document, they often just take up disk space after you finish. By default, Word saves these automatic backups with the descriptive tag Backup of.

4. Compress your bitmaps and image files. Under high color resolution, one simple screen capture can consume more than 2MB of disk space. Using a Zip file utility such as WinZip can reduce image file sizes by 97 percent or more.

3. Compress your Microsoft Outlook Express folders. Outlook Express folders continue to grow even if you periodically delete the messages inside them. To reclaim the disk space that Outlook Express gobbles up (e.g., I reclaimed more than 300MB of space), select File, Folder, Compact.

2. Clear temporary Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) files. To optimize performance, IE copies all recently accessed pages into the \profiles\username\temporary internet files directory. Typically, IE fills 2 to 3 percent of the available hard disk space with these files. To delete IE 4.0 temporary files, run IE; select View, Internet Options; and click Delete Files on the General tab.

1. Enable NTFS file compression. NTFS file compression is completely integrated in NT. Depending on the type of file you want to compress, this feature can save up to 90 percent of the space the file typically requires. To enable NTFS file compression, open Windows Explorer, right-click the folder you want to compress, then select Properties. On the General tab, select the Compress check box and click Apply.