Windows Temp Files

Question

I keep accumulating windows temporary files and when I do disk cleanup, it tells me I can safely delete these if they have not been modified in the past week. I do not know this and am afraid to delete? Can you clarify this for me.?

-Judy

Answer

This question was answered on September 8, 2006. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

Windows uses the temporary file structure for many purposes, ranging from unsaved changes on current open documents to Internet web browsing history and settings

Removing these temporary files is usually harmless, depending upon what has happened in the recent past.

The two biggest reasons not to delete temporary files are if you had a recent system lockup or a recent power outage while working on important files In both of these scenarios, important data may be stored in temporary files that would allow you to recover lost data.

The "Auto Recover" feature built-in to many Microsoft programs, such as Word and Excel, makes use of these temporary files as the recovery source if your system crashes before you get a chance to save manually

When a document or spreadsheet is being worked on, Windows makes temporary versions of the file in the background just in case something happens to the system or if the amount of information being worked with exceeds your systems working memory space (referred to as RAM - Random Access Memory), a temporary file is created to make up the difference.

When you re-boot your machine after a crash and re-open the application that was open during the crash, it will usually pull these temporary files up and offer them to you as a "recovered" version of what you were working on.

It may not be the up-to-the-minute version of your file (the default interval is every 10 minutes), but it will be some previous form of what you were working on.

This scenario is probably the most likely that would keep you from wanting to remove temporary files until you have recovered any lost files.

When it comes to the temporary Internet files, deleting them may cause certain websites to take a little longer to generate or personalized settings may be lost at sites that use "cookies" to remember who you are, but that's about it.

Windows "caches" your activity on the Internet so if you go back to the same site, it can load portions of the site from your local hard drive instead of the slower Internet connection This is more important for those with slow Internet connections.

Windows limits the amount of space it allocates to Temporary Internet Files, but cleaning them out on a regular basis is a good idea (about once a week for heavy Internet users, and once a month for casual users).

Once again, if your system is not experiencing any crashes or did not experience a recent power outage while turned on, you should be fine in deleting any of the temp files the Disk Cleanup utility (Start/All Programs/Accessories/System Tools/Disk Cleanup) finds.

Be sure to close all other programs before running the Disk Cleanup utility because open programs usually have open temporary files in use It is also best to leave the computer alone while the Disk Cleanup utility runs so it can do its job unimpeded

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on September 8, 2006