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Temp files, Why Do They Fill Up Your Hard Drive?

Temp files are necessary and they are controllable...

Ever wonder where all those file in your C:\Documents and Settings\your user id\Local Settings\Temp come from?

When computers became powerful enough to run a word processor, a spread sheet, and graphics manipulation programs there was a need for part of what the program was doing to be written out on a floppy disk for safe keeping.

These transitory parts of the document the user was working on had to be saved somewhere in case the changes being made were wrong and the user decided to revert the document back to the original content.

While you are editing a document the changes are kept in memory (now) but back then there wasn't enough memory so the changes were written to a floppy disk as Temp files, then once the edits are done and you save the document the program adds your changes to the document then (supposedly) deletes the temp file.

How about the folder C:\Windows\Temp?

Don't even get me started on where Vista and Windows 7 temp files are located!

Temp files are the scourge of all files ever created...

This allowed for a recovery or undelete function if someone wanted to undo a mistake.

When DOS was King the files were named with a .tmp extension and were fairly easy to find, after all with a 180K floppy how many files can you have on it? Lots :)

For DOS you could name a file with eight characters and an extension, such as .bat, .doc, .xls, and so on. And the name of the file could only be characters and numbers. No special characters such as ~/+=~!@#$%^&*() the exception was the dash - and underscore _.

When Windows 95 came along MS changed the game. With Windows 95 came 256 character names and some (not all) special characters in the name. How ever the extension was still 3 characters.

When Windows 2000 came out the file system went from text file system to an object file system, that is from a "(flat) file table" to a "Master File Table - MFT (objects)" on the hard drive that holds all the names and locations of the files on that drive.

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This advance also removed the maximum of 3 character extension on the file names, how ever you will notice very few programs use more than 3 characters for the extension.

With the change of the file system came special characters (again not all of them) and manipulation of the properties of a file beyond changing the attributes of read/write/hidden/system for files.

This advance in the file system opens up the programmers to name the temporary file anything they want, at fist they don't follow any conventions and the files could be just about anything! And finding them is like a treasure hunt on steroids!

Most programs today use .tmp or .temp for temporary files although web applications use the actual files as temporary files (d0wnloaded from the web site), that is why to delete those files using the 'Clear cache' function of the browser instead of searching for them is easier. Unless you set the environment variable to point to a specific location and then delete the files when the size of the folder reaches a certain point and just before you defrag the drive.

One way to keep all those temporary files such as .tmp, .Tmp, .Temp, .temp, .~tmp, and .~temp and all your temporary files is to set the Environment Variables on the Advanced tab of the System Properties (this is for Vista and Windows 7 / 8 / 10 also) to a specific drive/folder. Then empty that folder periodically.

Then set your browser to the same folder/directory.

If you want to find out more about setting the Environment Variables see this page: Performance optimization

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