How to clean out junk files in Windows 10

Just like your fridge, computer storage needs to be cleaned out every once in a while to keep things running smoothly. “Temporary” files can be left behind permanently, and major Windows updates can create many gigabytes of backup files that you never use.

Many clean out junk files apps go too far, however, such as deleting your web browser cache, which will refill itself over time and whose files help you load websites faster. are Let’s show you how to clean it yourself using Windows’ built-in tools.

The Disk Cleanup tool

Every storage device in your computer has access to the Disk Cleanup tool. Find it by clicking the Start button, typing “disk cleanup” (whenever I say to type something, I mean it without the quotes) and clicking the Disk Cleanup shortcut in your search results. . Click and drag this shortcut to your desktop or taskbar for easy access next time. You can also find the tool by right-clicking the storage device in File Explorer, selecting Properties, and clicking the Disk Cleanup button to the right of the pie chart.

Sometimes the shortcut doesn’t appear in your search results. If so, type “free up disk space” instead of “disk cleanup”. A sentence can work when there is no program name.

If you have a lot of stuff to clean up, it may take several minutes for the tool to analyze your situation and configure it to delete your junk. Once this is done, you will be presented with a new window with a list of items that are safe to delete. Some boxes are already checked, such as the one next to Temporary Internet Files.

Browser and thumbnail caches

Browser and thumbnail caches can use several gigabytes. When you load a web page, it’s stored here for faster access later, so clearing the cache can slow down future browsing.

Chrome and Firefox caches are cleared from within these apps via the menu accessed by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Delete when the browser opens. Doing this within the browser is preferable, as you have more detailed control over what you want to keep and get rid of.

Although clearing your browser cache only temporarily frees up space, if you have security or privacy concerns, it doesn’t hurt to clear it periodically and start fresh.

Dealing with thumbnails

The Disk Cleanup tool has a list of items specifically for thumbnails. Thumbnails include things like app icons and image scenes. But if you clear this cache, Windows will have to recreate the images the next time you visit a folder that contains a lot of media or icons. Rebuilding each thumbnail will also take time, so a large folder can take several minutes to rebuild its cache. If you’re looking for a specific photo or video, you’ll have to wait until a thumbnail is created, unless you know its file name.

We recommend leaving the Thumbnails item unchecked in Disk Cleanup unless cache size is causing problems with your available free space.

System files

The biggest hoarders of your disk space are probably the system files, so click the Cleanup system files button to access them. This will do another analysis, which may take a few minutes, especially if it detects the Windows Update backup files we mentioned earlier. It will then load a window that will look exactly like the Analysis Results window you saw in clean out junk files.

This time, however, there are additional items on the list. If you’re using Windows 7 (at $5 Target), you may find several gigabytes of service pack backup files listed. In theory, this archive can be used to undo service packs. In practice, this takes up loads of space, and it would be faster and more reliable to simply restore from a previous backup image rather than undoing the service pack.

System Restore

Windows uses System Restore to protect system files in case they are accidentally deleted or damaged. System Restore is like a bookmark or snapshot that the operating system can go back to. It doesn’t back up all the contents of your storage device, so it can’t help you if you can’t boot Windows at all. And these frequent bookmarks can be hogging a lot of space. In fact, in Windows 8 and 10, System Restore is disabled by default, so you don’t need to mess with its settings unless you enable the feature yourself.

Unfortunately, Windows doesn’t let you choose which restore points you want to keep, nor does it easily tell you how much disk space your restore points are taking up. The Disk Cleanup tool lets you delete all but the most recent, and that’s about it. To do this, go to the Disk Cleanup tool. Click Cleanup System Files, then the More Options tab, then down to the System Restore and Shadow Copies section, then click the Cleanup button, and finally click the Delete button to confirm.

Managing the Recycle Bin

When you delete a file, Windows doesn’t delete it by default. The file simply goes to the Recycle Bin, where it will remain until you tell Windows to empty the bin. The bin, therefore, needs to be checked periodically to ensure that your disk space is not being consumed by large files that you no longer need.

You can also adjust how much storage the Recycle Bin uses. To do this, open File Explorer (press Windows+E), locate the bin in the left-hand pane, right-click it, and select Properties. The bin may not be displayed by default, in which case you need to right-click in the left-hand pane and select Show All Folders. (Bin is technically a folder.)

In the Recycle Bin Properties window, you can tell Windows the maximum amount of space you want the bin to use. The default is 5 percent of your C: drive’s storage capacity, and you can increase it to 10 percent. You can also tell Windows to skip the bin entirely, as well as disable the confirmation prompt when you try to delete a file. When you are done with your changes, click the OK button to save them.


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