As the computer is used, temporary disk files are created, log files are written to, thumbnail caches grow, Windows updates are added and so on. None of these is essential and it just amounts to disk clutter. Too much can affect the performance of a PC and cause it to run more slowly. There are two disk clean-up tools in Windows 8.1 – are you using the right one?
Traditional mechanical disk drives have capacities in the hundreds of gigabytes and many are one terabyte or more. The amount of free space on a disk is enormous. The same cannot be said of SSD (solid state disks). These are becoming more common and they can be found in Microsoft Surface. Disk clutter on SSDs can seriously affect the amount of free space and it might even run out.
For many years now, Windows has had a utility for clearing out the disk clutter called Disk Cleanup. If you have Windows 8, hold down the Windows key and press S to open the Search pane and enter disk cleanup.
Three programs are listed (programs in the search results are listed first and have icons whereas Bing search results don’t). Click the first item, Clear disk space on this PC, and you get this Windows 8 Start screen app.
It provides useful information, such as the amount of disk space available and the amount used by apps, pictures, videos music and so on, but the only option for cleaning the disk drive is to empty the Recycle Bin. That is useful, but it does not go far enough and a better clean-up tool is required.
The second item in the search results above, Uninstall applications to free up disk space, does not open Programs and Features in the Control Panel as you might expect. Instead, it shows a list of the Start screen apps installed and if you click one, there is an Uninstall button to remove it.
This is useful, but apps are not really disk clutter and you might want to keep them all, not remove them.
The third item in the search results above, Clear disk space by deleting unnecessary files, runs the old Disk Cleanup tool. It is actually called Disk Clean-up in Windows 8.1 and even searching for Disk Clean-up does not return it as the first search result.
It is the best tool for clearing the clutter from the disk drive and it presents a list of items that can be cleaned along with the amount of space that can be recovered.
All the items listed are safe to delete except for one, the Recycle Bin. You might want to clear the tick against that because it enables you to recover deleted files. If you are absolutely sure you will not want to restore anything from the Recycle Bin, go ahead and include it.
Do not click OK just yet because there is even more junk that can be cleared. Click the Clean up system files button.
This rescans the disk for junk and adds several more items. None of them are essential and they can be cleaned. Notice that the disk space to be gained has risen from 2.14 GB to 3.95 GB. It is worth clearing out system junk. After selecting all the items, click OK.
It is worth using Disk Clean-up at least once a month to keep the disk clear of clutter.