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How to clean your hard drive - A Guide for Windows and Mac Users

A hard drive choc full of excess files is going to slow your computer down – meaning you'll have a harder time using applications, running updates, and generally just using it. If your computer has been feeling a bit sluggish recently, it might be time to clean your hard drive.

But don't worry! Cleaning your hard drive isn't as daunting as it sounds. In fact, if you regularly clean your hard drive, you'll be helping to keep your computer running quickly and smoothly. In this guide, we'll run through the cleaning process, as well as a few tips and tricks!


How to clean a hard drive

Here we go through the steps you need to take in order to clear your hard drive on both Windows and Mac machines.

How to Clean your hard drive on Windows

If you're a Windows user, you can follow along with the steps below to clean up your hard drive. Bear in mind that the process may vary depending on which version of Windows you're using, but not by much.

  1. Type "disk cleanup" in the search box, which can be found on the taskbar.
  2. Click Disk Cleanup.
  3. Next, you'll need to select the drive you'd like to tidy up. This is usually your C drive, so pick it out of the list and confirm your choice by clicking OK.
  4. You can now choose which file types to remove, under Files to delete.
  5. Confirm your choice again, and hit OK.
  6. Navigate back to the main Disk Cleanup menu and click on Clean up system files.
  7. Once more, pick the files you'd like to remove.
  8. Hit OK.
  9. You're all set! The cleaning process will now begin.

How to clean hard drive on Mac

Mac users can also manually tidy up the hard drive, and it's just as simple to do it!

  1. Open the Apple menu.
  2. Click on About this Mac.
  3. Then, select Storage. You'll be able to see the remaining free space on your device here.
  4. Select Manage.
  5. From here, you can review your Mac's space saving recommendations.
  6. You can decide which files to store in iCloud, delete media content you've already watched to optimize your storage, configure your recycle bin to empty every 30 days, and sift through your clutter settings via Reduce Clutter.
  7. From the Reduce Clutter menu, you'll be able to delete files directly, or open specific apps to determine which files to remove from inside it.

Why you should clean your hard drive

Cleaning might not be everyone's idea of a good time, but it's necessary – think how much more difficult it'd be to get about your day-to-day routine if your house was full of clutter and rubbish. It's the same with your hard drive!

Frequently cleaning your hard drive can drastically improve your computer's performance. But that's not all – we've listed some additional benefits below.

Keep your device running smoothly

As we mentioned, a computer with a hard drive approaching its capacity is going to be slower than a shiny new one. Free up some space to see an improvement in speed, better app performance, as well as easier downloads and installations.

Stay secure

You might not think that there's a link between tidying your hard drive and your security, but there is! Hard drives often accrue old files and documents, and these can contain sensitive personal information – the sort you wouldn't want falling into the hands of a cybercriminal. If you're not actively using these documents, it's better to get rid of them or back them up elsewhere rather than leave them lying around.

Purge temporary files

Your computer makes use of temporary files quite frequently, but contrary to their name, they can hang around until you decide to get rid of them. And you should – these files can take up a shocking amount of space in your hard drive! Your Chrome browser cache may contain these files, and redundant Windows system files can linger after system updates. Additionally, Windows uses temporary files to hold onto information whilst you're making modifications – like editing a Word document or using a printer.

You'll also see temporary files if you download a lot of things from the web. Temporary files are created automatically when you do, and again, will hang around uninvited.

Clear out the clutter

Ask yourself honestly – how many of the apps on your computer do you actually use? Probably not all of them, right? Especially the ones that come preloaded. These programs and applications can consume valuable hard drive space that you might need elsewhere, or want to free up for improved performance. Fortunately, it's possible to see which apps are taking up the most space and delete them manually.

Windows users can navigate to the Apps & Features menu via Settings, then Apps, and view a list of what's currently installed on the device. You can filter these apps by size, and click Uninstall on any you think are superfluous.

Mac users are able to delete junk apps from Finder or Launchpad. To do so via Launchpad, you'll first need to open it from the Applications folder. From this folder, you can drag apps to the Bin – though you might be asked to confirm your choice by providing an administrator's permission.

Enjoy an organized device

You might be the sort of person who knows exactly where all their files should go. You might not leave a single Word doc, photo, or app in the Downloads folder for a moment longer than necessary! Or, you might use it as a sort of dumping ground. It's worth combing through your device to see just what's inside the various folders. Is your Downloads folder full? Could you delete anything in your Documents folder? Are there duplicate holiday snaps in with your Pictures? There's no better time than now to establish an organizational method for the things you download and create in order to prevent junk from accruing again. Oh, and don't forget to check what's in your Recycle Bin, too!

Don't worry about defragmentation

If you're cleaning your hard drive in order to free space, then defraging is not going to help. The defragmentation process reorganizes the data on your hard drive, but it won't actually remove files, and is an outdated function now that most computers use SSDs.


How to clean your Conclusion

So, now you know how to clean up your hard drive and the steps to take to do it! It's well worth putting aside a little time to tidy up your device – you'll see an improved performance, be better secured, and have a more organized computer at the end of it.

In fact, cleaning your hard drive is such a worthy endeavor that it even has its own day. You don't have to wait until the second Monday in February to get stuck in and toss out some useless files and apps, however!

For more information about cloud storage, be sure to check out our guide titled "how secure is cloud storage". In this guide we look at the main providers - Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive and iCloud to decide whether or not cloud storage is secure.

Written by: River Hart

Originally hailing from Wales, River Hart graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University with a 1:1 in Creative Writing, going on to work as an Editor across a number of trade magazines. As a professional writer, River has worked across both digital and print media, and is familiar with collating news pieces, in-depth reports and producing by lines for international publications. Otherwise, they can be found pouring over a tarot deck or spending more hours than she'll ever admit playing Final Fantasy 14.


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