How to Know Which Files Are Safe to Delete with Windows Vista's Disk Cleanup
When your computer is running low on space, Vista's Disk Cleanup will locate a wide variety of files that you can delete, but if you don't know which files are safe to delete, you might delete a file that will cause you more problems than just limited space.
If you need to run Disk Cleanup, click Start→All Programs→Accessories→System Tools→Disk Cleanup.
The following table takes you through each of the file types that Disk Cleanup might find. You'll find an explanation about what each of those file types do and a recommendation as to whether the different types of files are safe to delete.
|Type of File||Contains||Delete These Files?|
|Temporary Setup Files||Vista and other Microsoft setup files.||Yes|
|Downloaded Program Files||ActiveX controls and Java applets. Typically these are small programs downloaded from the Internet. They work with custom applications: games, Web file viewers, and the like.||Yes|
|Temporary Internet Files||Cached pictures and pages from Internet Explorer (not Firefox).||Yes|
|Offline Web Pages||Pages that are downloaded automatically so that you can see them without being connected to the Internet.||No|
|Hibernation File Cleaner||If you check this box, you will completely turn off the hibernation feature in Vista.||No|
|Debug Dump Files||If Dr. Watson (Microsoft’s crash reporting tool) wanted the files, he’d have ’em by now.||Yes|
|Old Chkdsk Files||Lost fragments of files that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men would never be able to put back together again.||Yes|
|Previous Windows Installations||System files and folders from previous versions of Windows. Chances are good you’ll never be able to recover them anyway.||Yes|
|Recycle Bin||A good guideline is to never delete Recycle Bin files automatically. If you’re ready to get rid of your old files, delete the files manually by going into the Recycle Bin.||No|
|Setup Log Files||Log files generated when Vista was originally installed.||Yes|
|System Error Memory Dump Files||More Dr. Watson files that you’ll never want.||Yes|
|System Error Minidump Files||Ditto.||Yes|
|Temporary Files||Anything in a Temp folder.||Yes|
|Temporary Windows Installation Files||If the Vista installer didn’t clean up after itself, these are still sitting on your disk.||Yes|
|Thumbnails||The thumbnail files that sit inside every folder. Save time by keeping them.||No|
|Files Discarded by Windows Upgrade||The Vista installer puts files that it doesn’t recognize in a specific location. Unless one of the users on your machine lost files during the upgrade to Vista, you can delete these.||Yes|
|Various Windows Error Reporting Files||More Dr. Watson–style files.||Yes|
If your Disk Cleanup list includes a box called Office Setup Files, be careful about checking the box. Some Office 2003 patches have had bugs that stumble when they find these installation files missing, which can result in a number of strange error messages. It's best to leave these alone.