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Issue #724: June 6-12, 2021

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Q: I’m trying to keep my laptop clean and fast, and I notice that the Downloads folder has a lot of high MB files. I’ve deleted the easy ones – like the puzzles from the Daily News that I print in the AM. But what about old ZOOM calls, and updates such as Dell Display Manager and CCleaner? What happens if I delete all of them? Also software downloads for my Olympus camera – if I delete the downloaded file, will the software still be on my laptop? Any other advice on keeping my machine fast will be appreciated.

 – Marianne K.
Destin, Florida

A: It is natural to want to get the most speed out of your computer, and I applaud you for being diligent in trying to keep yours in the best shape possible.  However, it is a fallacy to believe that having a lot of spare hard drive makes for a fast PC.  Now, as with most “rules” having to do with computers, there are exceptions to this one, mostly when a hard drive has only a few hundred megabytes left on it.  In most other circumstances, the amount of available hard drive space does not significantly affect the speed of your PC.

Nevertheless, it is a good idea to clean out the old stuff occasionally.  This will not only help to keep your hard drive in shape, but it makes sure the task of cleaning it doesn’t get so large that it becomes overwhelming.  Cleaning out areas such as the Downloads directory is part of a regular regimen of PC maintenance that everybody should do to keep their computer happy.

Now, each of the things that you mentioned came to be on your computer in a different way, and the ramifications of getting rid of any of them are correspondingly different.  Let’s start with the installers and updates in your Downloads folder.  Once a given installation is completed, there is little reason to hang on to the installer. The installed software is fully independent of the installer itself, so deleting the installer will not affect the software. If for some reason you find that you need to perform a re-install, you can always go and download a fresh copy of the installer.  Other files of a more personal nature need more consideration.  If by “Zoom Calls” you mean recordings, the choice of whether to keep them is completely yours.  If you mean invitations, then once they’ve expired, trash them, unless you need a historic record or some such thing.

Always remember when you delete files on your Windows PC, unless you take specific steps, the files aren’t really gone, and still take up space on your disk.  Rather than removing them outright, Windows moves them to the Recycle Bin, where they will sit indefinitely.  So, be sure you empty the Recycle Bin as part of your housekeeping regimen.

Windows actually has a built-in tool that will help you to tame the files on your computer and remove unneeded ones. It’s called Disk Cleanup, and you can find it by using the Search box in the Windows Start menu.  Although the tool doesn’t automatically delete files, it does have some smarts built-in to help it locate and recommend deletion of files that might no longer be needed.  You can select what you want, remove them with a few clicks of the mouse.  It will even empty that pesky Recycle Bin for you.

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