Disk Cleanup and Disk Defragmenting

After the installation and optimization of Windows, it is time to clean up the unnecessary files of the hard disk. Deleting the unnecessary files, followed by a defragmentation of the hard disk improves system performances significantly. Do not expect miracles, but every small improvement is important. Because some files are secured, it is not always easy to delete files. But there are still a lot of files which can be deleted safely to create additional free space.

Disk Cleanup

There are a lot of files stored on the hard disk during the installation of Windows and programs, some of them can be deleted safely afterwards (like the folder Windows.old with the files of the old Windows installation and the history of the browser). Most of these files can be deleted using the Disk Cleanup tool. Disk Cleanup is available by right clicking the Windows partition (the C: partition in most cases) in the Windows Explorer and select Properties, tab General, button Disk Cleanup. On the first tab select all categories of files (except the Office Setup files, these can still be of use later on) and delete them by clicking OK.

Disk Cleanup Windows 7

Deleting manually
The content of the following folders can be deleted manually as well (for most it is necessary that the folder options are set to show hidden and system files by the item Folder Options in the control panel, tab View). The most important folders with files to be deleted are on the following locations:

C:\Users\loginname\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files
C:\Users\loginname\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\UserData\Low

ATTENTION: The history of the Internet Explorer browser can be deleted better from the item Internet Options of the control panel, tab General, sub Browsing history, button Delete (use a tool like IEHistoryView (download www.nirsoft.net/utils/iehv.html) to view the content of the history). Although this option should delete all history related files, there still remain files (this can be verified by viewing the properties of the folder C:\Users\loginname\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files). These files are not visible in the Windows Explorer and therefore can't be deleted. Use a tool like Total Commander (download: www.ghisler.com) to delete the remaining files.


On many websites flash video is shown for advertising purposes. To track your surfing behavior, special Flash cookies are saved which can't be deleted the normal way (e.g. from the Internet Explorer by Tools, Internet Options, tab General, button Delete). Deleting the Flash cookies can be done by visiting the webpage www.macromedia.com/support/documentation/en/flashplayer/help/, click the link Website Privacy Settings Panel in the left pane, button Delete all sites. To prevent saving Flash cookies in the future, click the link Global Storage Settings Panel and deactivate the option Allow third-party Flash content to store data on your computer.

Delete more files from the hard disk?

If you would like to free up hard disk space, have a look at the following items:

C:\HIBERFIL.SYS (hidden, as big as the available RAM memory)
The hibernation file is a copy of the total RAM memory, which is used to recover the computer from hybrid sleep or hibernation. Hibernation is especially used for laptop computers to save battery power, bus frequently used on desktop computers as well. Enabling and disabling the hibernation is done at the item Power Options in the Control Panel, task Change when the computer sleeps. If hibernation is not used, it is safe to disable it (if not done already). The file size of HIBERFIL.SYS equals the total of RAM memory, so deleting the file will save a lot of space! Deleting the hibernation file is done by starting the Command prompt (start menu, All programs, Accessories) with additional administrator rights (by right clicking the shortcut, selecting Run as administrator) and enter the command POWERCFG /hibernate OFF. Use the command POWERCFG /hibernate ON to enable the option to hibernate.

C:\System Volume Information (hidden)
This folder is necessary for the Windows 7 System Restore (and the use of shadow copies to restore previous versions of files). By default, the system recovery is only applied to the Windows partition (in most cases C:), but it is also possible to enable it for the other partitions (by System in the Control Panel, task Advanced system settings in the task pane, tab System Protection, select a partition and, click button Configure). By disabling System Restore for every partition/disk, the earlier created restore points (necessary for the recovery of unwanted system changes) are deleted and the folder System Volume Information will be emptied (but not deleted!). After disabling System Restore and deleting the restore points as a result, it is no longer possible to recover from any unwanted system changes! If System Restore has been turned on again, a new restore point is created by clicking the button Create. As an alternative, deleting of restore points can be done without disabling System Restore: go to Disk Cleanup, button Clean up system files, tab More options, sub System Restore and Shadow Copies, button Clean up. The last restore point will be kept, which is a big advantage above other options!

C:\PAGEFILE.SYS (virtual memory)
The paging file (the 'virtual memory') is stored on the hard disk and is therefore slower then the RAM memory. The paging file is only used in addition to the available RAM memory in case there is not enough RAM memory to run the tasks of that moment. The paging file PAGEFILE.SYS is stored on the root of the Windows partition by default. If there is a lot of RAM memory available (2 Gb or more), and there are no programs requiring a lot of memory (like picture and video editing software), it is safe to restrict the use (or even disable) the page file. It is also wise to move the paging file to a (faster) partition. Changing the paging file settings is discussed on the page about optimizing the Windows 7 settings.

The folder SoftwareDistribution stores the Windows/Microsoft Update information including the downloaded and already installed updates. In time this folder will become larger and larger as a result of many updates. Although this information is not that important, it is not that easy to empty this folder. Before deleting the folder SoftwareDistribution, it is necessary to stop the service Windows Update first (right click the service and select Stop, for more information visit the page about optimizing the Windows services). After a few seconds the whole folder C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution (subfolders included) can be deleted, followed by a restart of the service (or a restart of Windows). After the service is active again, this folder is recreated. Because the update history and settings are gone, start Windows update to make sure the update procedure still works fine. To upgrade Windows update to Microsoft Update, to receive updates of more Microsoft products, click the task Change settings and activate the option Give me updates for Microsoft products and check for new optional Microsoft software when I update Windows. Be aware that this procedure solves many Windows Update-problems!

Recycle Bin
Probably not necessary to tell, but make sure the Recycle Bin is empty. This is done by right clicking the Recycle Bin on the desktop, option Empty Recycle Bin. A tip for quickly deleting files and folders: the key combination SHIFT-DEL deletes without moving files and folders to the Recycle Bin.


Sometimes it's not possible to delete or move a specific file or folder because the file or folder is locked by a specific process. To find out which process is locking it, you can try to find out and stop the process with Process Explorer (download: www.microsoft.com/technet/sysinternals/ProcessesAndThreads/ProcessExplorer.mspx; a good replacement for the Task Manager). In the menu bar of the Process Explorer click Find, Find Handle or DLL and enter the name of the locked file to find the name of the process which is responsible for locking the file. The found process can be stoppen in the default windows: right click the process and select Kill Process.

TIP: Windows uses the Task Manager (available by the key combination CTRL-SHIFT-ESC) as default manager for processes. Would you rather use the Process Explorer, set this manager as default by Options, Replace Task Manager.


At this page many unnecessary folders/files are mentioned, which is a good start. If this still doesn't give you enough free space for you, it's time to do some further analysis to delete some extra files and/or folders (or if you are just curious...). The utility Disktective (download: www.freebyte.com/disktective) gives you this opportunity. Disktective shows by means of pie pieces the use of your hard disk. Another interesting utility is SpaceSniffer (download: www.uderzo.it/main_products/space_sniffer/), which shows rectangles.

Defragmenting the hard disk

Before imaging the Windows partition, it is wise to defragment this partition first. A partition which is fragmented contains many files which are split up in fragments. This happens when the first available free area to store a file is not large enough to store the whole file. The remaining part is saved on the next available free area, which goes on until the whole file has been written to the partition. Because larger files take more space to save, they probably will be more fragmented. If the fragmented files are used frequently by the system, it will take relatively a lot of time to read them which will delay the processing. Defragmenting the hard disk will defrag those files which can improve the system performance significantly.

By default, defragmenting takes place daily as a background task. Because defragmenting has a low priority, it is normally not noticed by the user. When the automatic defragmentation is disabled (or the computer is switched off at the moments defragmenting is planned), it is also possible to start the defragmenting manually by the start menu, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, sub Disk Defragmenter. For each partition the percentage of fragmentation is shown. Select a partition and click the button Defragment disk to start defragmenting the partition manually. If desired, the defragmenting can be scheduled weekly or monthly and partitions/disks can be ruled out.

Disk Defragmenter

ATTENTION: The Windows defrag tool works fine and even better than other defragmenting tool, therefore there is no need to install additional defrag tools! When alternative tools are used, deactivate the scheduled fragmentation by the button Configure schedule, option Run on a schedule (recommended) to prevent file being moved continuously.

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