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What are temp files?

18 April 2001

A friend told me I should clean up my temp files. When I looked for them I found several hundred of them. What are they and how can I stop them appearing?

Temp files can be described as the carbon paper of computers. In many programs, when you open a document a temporary file is created. All the work you do is on the temp file and when you tell the program to save your work it is copied from the temp file to the document.

When you are finished with the document the temp files should be deleted. Unfortunately this doesn't always happen, many programs don't clear them properly and if the program crashes the temp file will not be cleared.

If too many temp files are on the computer it will slow down and some temp files can cause problems. It is best to remove clean up stray temp files regularly.

Windows 98, ME and 2000 have a disk cleanup function, cleanmgr.exe, that you can use to tidy up the computer. Just press start, then run and type cleanmgr, the program will then ask you what hard drive and programs you want to clean up.

Windows 95 and NT users have to clean temp files out manually, close all your programs and do a search on the hard drive for *.tmp files.

Most temp files are saved in the Windows\Temp folder. Everything in this folder should be treated as being temporary and you should not save anything there. Some e-mail programs save attachments into this folder, if you want to keep them save them to another location.

Cleaning up your temp files is one of the little tasks that help your computer run better. Along with scanning your disk for errors and defragmenting it should be done every few months. We discuss the basic housekeeping on our optimise page.



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