Windows: Optimizing the Speed & Space of your Hard Disk

Throughout this document, run commands, or commands that are launched from the Windows Run dialog box, are given as alternate ways to launch the programs used throughout this article. To launch the Windows Run dialog box, go to Start > Run or press WinKey + R.

Run the Disk Cleanup Utility

To launch by:

Start Menu: Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup

Run Command: cleanmgr.exe

Disk Cleanup will provide options for clearing extranneous temporary files created by the operating system. Running Disk Cleanup this way runs it in “Normal Mode,” which allows you to clean up only one drive at a time. However, one of the more important features of this mode can be found in the “More Options” tab, which allows you to clear all but the most recent System Restore point. System restore is a disaster recovery feature which allows the user to revert crucial operating system files back to a recorded state (known as a ‘restore point’). Over time, these points can take up a lot of space.

The advanced mode of Disk Cleanup can be accessed with the Run Command cleanmgr.exe /sageset:xxx, where ‘xxx’ is a number of your choice. This mode allows you to set even more types of files to be cleaned than is visible in normal mode. To run Disk Cleanup using these advanced settings, use the Run Command cleanmgr.exe /sagerun:xxx, where ‘xxx’ is the same number as before.

Do not clear Office Setup Files!!! These may be needed to install the latest updates for Microsoft Office.

More information about Disk Cleanup be found in this Microsoft article.

More information about System Restore can be found in this Microsoft article or on Wikipedia.

Clear Temporary Internet Files

To launch by:

Start Menu: Start > Control Panel > “Switch to Classic View” (if applicable) > Internet Options

Run Command: inetcpl.cpl

With every viewed web page, the pictures, text, etc. is saved on your computer for faster viewing later by only updating the files that have changed since your last visit. When websites are viewed, the required files are downloaded to the computer. Sometimes, it’s good to flush this cache and start over, removing any hidden spyware.

If you are running Internet Explorer 6:

To do so, go to the General tab > click Delete Files > check Delete All Offline Content > click OK .

If you are running Internet Explorer 7 or 8:

To do so, go to the General tab > click Delete… > click Delete Files… > click Yes .

If you are running Mozilla Firefox (as of version 3.0):

To do so, go to the Tools > click Clear Recent History.

Alternatively, pressing Ctrl + Shift + Delete will also open the “Clear Recent Historyā€¯ window.

Disabling Visual Effects

To launch by:

Start Menu: Start > Control Panel > “Switch to Classic View” (if applicable) > System > Advanced tab > under Performance, click Settings > Advanced tab

Run Command: sysdm.cpl > Advanced tab > under Performance, click Settings > Advanced tab

Right-clicking My Computer: Properties > Advanced/ tab > under Performance, click Settings > Advanced tab

Visual effects, such as animations when maximizing and minimizing windows, are pretty but unnecessary features that may hinder performance. You can turn on/off these options here. Personally, I disable all but the following:

  • Show translucent selection rectangle
  • Smooth edges of screen fonts
  • Use a background image for each folder type
  • Use common tasks in folders
  • Another nested list item
  • Use drop shadows for icon labels on the desktop
  • Use visual styles on windows and buttons

Click OK to apply the changes.

Optimize hard disk speed with Disk Defragmenter

To launch by:

Start Menu: Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter

Run Command: dfrg.msc

Run Command (in Windows Vista): dfrgui.exe

Disk Defragmenter helps to improve performance by optimizing your hard drive. It works by making data needed by the operating system faster to find. Run this after running everything else, for it will take the longest. To graphically view the amount of fragmentation, click Analyze. To begin defragmentation, click Defragment.

More information about Microsoft Disk Defragmenter can be found by clicking this link.

Bonus: CCleaner

CCleaner is a piece of software designed to clear temporary internet files, clean the registry, and perform other system optimizations quickly and easily. One advantage of this program is its ability to clear the temporary internet files used for both Internet Explorer & Mozilla Firefox simultaneously, with just one click.

Click Analyze to have CCleaner find out how much space can be cleaned. Click Run Cleaner to begin the cleaning process. In order to clear the temporary internet files of Mozilla Firefox & Internet Explorer, these programs must be closed.

CCleaner can be downloaded from this link.

CCleaner has the ability to clean the windows registry. Microsoft warns on this site that users “should not edit the registry unless it is absolutely necessary. If there is an error in the registry, the computer may not function properly.” After clicking Fix selected issues…, be sure to click Yes to backup changes made to the registry so that changes can be reversed in the event of a problem.

More Information