Thursday, May 31, 2007

Temp files? What are they good for?

Temporary files - or temp files - as they are commonly referred to, are everywhere. When you add software to your computer, change a setting, browse a webpage and create a document, a temporary file is created. Some are beneficial, most are a nuisance and take up precious hard drive space. What’s more, cleaning them is not so easy because they often reside in many different folders. It can be quite a task locating them and deleting them. Some of them are can even be operating system required files. Delete one of these and you’ll quickly learn the hard way that temporary files cannot haphazardly deleted with a fell swoop of the delete key. For the most part, yes they can be, and if they are needed by the operating system, they won’t easily be deleted.

Some say that temporary files are the droppings of bad software; when a developer forgets to include the instructions to clean out the temporary files. When a program is installed, or requires large amounts of data, they will often create a temporary file. These usually end with file extensions such as tmp, or a leading ~ tilde in the filename. Internet explorer and Microsoft Office utilize capitalized alphanumeric folder names to store temporary data. If you are working on a word document, a temporary version is opened as well until you save it.

Not all temporary files are bad though, you may often find log files that signify the process of an installation or an update to a piece of software. One example may be installing Microsoft Office, and then reinstalling it to add or remove a component. Office leaves temporary files that are used to aid users in modifications, upgrades, un-installations and so on. Microsoft is not the only software designer to use temporary files and you will find temporary files in Linux as well. Just as dust mites grow and multiply, so do temp files! The million dollar question – how do you get rid of them? There are some computer data-swiffer’s and electric broom’s to clean up the data-mites. If you care to use the 3rd party route, then look here for some great cleanup utilities. If you are curious as to where to look for them, and what they look like, start off:

- Your local user profile (c:\documents and settings\(your username)\local settings\temp
- Same as above, but temporary internet files (easily cleaned by opening Internet Explorer, selecting Tools\Internet Options\Temporary Internet Files – delete

You may also locate more temp files in the following folders:

- C:\temp
- C:\windows\temp
- C:\windows\system32\temp