Make sure your computer has adequate hard disk drive space

Once you have a better understanding of what virtual memory is -- and you understand fragmentation and defragmenting a hard disk drive, you can tackle the issue of adequate hard drive space.

As we continue to use our computer and install all the latest and greatest software applications, create and save documents, take/download/modify images from our digital camera, as we rip and save our music files, and more, we continually eat up more and more of our storage capacity. If we get to the point that we have minimal free space (in large clusters) available (because we overlooked defragmenting our drive), or we just keep adding and adding more "stuff" to our computer because we can, we run the risk of hindering a system's performance even more if we run up against extreme fragmentation, or worse yet, we start bumping up against our Virtual Memory allocation on our hard drive. (Typically, a hard drive with less than 20% free space will run slowly. "Cleaning" the hard drive by reducing the number of files may help improve performance.) If you see messages like "your system is running low on memory, try closing out some programs and trying again" its a good hint that you're low on hard drive space. Some of the best ways to avoid this difficulty is to perform routine maintenance across your computer.

Delete programs you never use

  • Windows XP. Start >> Control Panel >> Add/Remove Programs (Look at the size and usage of the programs that populate the list, and carefully, choose which programs you no longer need). Also, many programs listed in Start, All Programs (list) will have an "uninstall" feature built into them. These are also beneficial at removing programs you no longer use.
  • Windows Vista. The Add/Remove window is similarly located in Windows Vista, and again many programs come with an uninstall feature built into the program group associated with the Start menu.

Back up any data that you rarely access to an external media source (CD or DVD ROM)

  • For both Windows XP and Vista the use of backups is a great necessity for virtually ALL computer users. You are only as safe as your latest backup. Also, moving less used files to an external media other than your hard disk drive will allow your machine to continue to perform with continued speed and agility.

Running Disk Cleanup to clear cache and other temporary files that reside on your computer.
Windows XP. Cleaning up unnecessary files in Windows XP (take your pick). You can start Disk Cleanup, by doing any of the following:

  • Click Start, and then click Run. In the Open box, type cleanmgr, and then click Start, point to All Programs, point to Accessories, point to System Tools, and then click Disk Cleanup OR
  • In Windows Explorer or My Computer, right-click the disk in which you want to free up space, click Properties, click the General tab, and then click Disk Cleanup.

Windows Vista. If you want to reduce the number of unnecessary files on your hard disk to free up disk space and help your computer run faster, use Disk Cleanup. It removes temporary files, empties the Recycle Bin, and removes a variety of system files and other items that you no longer need.

  • Open Disk Cleanup by clicking the Start button, clicking All Programs, clicking Accessories, clicking System Tools, and then clicking Disk Cleanup.
  • In the Disk Cleanup Options dialog box, choose whether you want to clean up your own files only or all of the files on the computer. If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  • If the Disk Cleanup: Drive Selection dialog box appears, select the hard disk drive that you want to clean up, and then click OK.
  • Click the Disk Cleanup tab, and then select the check boxes for the files you want to delete.
  • When you finish selecting the files you want to delete, click OK, and then click Delete files to confirm the operation. Disk Cleanup proceeds to remove all unnecessary files from your computer
  • Keep Windows up-to-date with regular Windows Updates.