Clean Up & Clean Out


We sometimes hear folks say that AOL and/or one of our programs seem to be running slowly or sometimes "freezing". This is most often caused by the accumulation of excess files that clutter the hard drive. Even if you don't manually create files, many are created (and constantly appended) for you -- by AOL, by add-on programs, by internet browsers, and by all other programs which log events and content; but there's a price to pay for letting these pile up! 

Cleaning out these files and doing routine maintenance on your computer system will help keep it running smoothly, improve your system's performance, and can even serve to prevent errors and problems!

Give your Hard Drive some breathing room!

When your system's memory isn't quite enough to handle active applications, it builds a pool of "virtual memory" using the extra space on your hard drive. When your system looks for extra space and can't find enough, problems can occur. Do the following on a regular basis:

Delete unnecessary AOL files


Clean out your Personal Filing Cabinet
Open your PFC and check all the mail/newsgroup postings/file downloads that are stored there. Delete whatever items you no longer want; highlight the items and click the Delete button. If you are using AOL 6.0/7.0, check all the tabs: Mail, Newsgroups, and Downloads. If you are using AOL 5.0, check all the folders that are in the PFC. 

After deleting all the unwanted items, Compact the PFC:
AOL 8.0/7.0/6.0: Click the Manage button at the bottom, then click Compact, then Compact Now.
AOL 5.0: Click on Compact PFC at the bottom, and at the prompt, click on Compact Now/Compact PFC.


Purge the Internet Cache files
AOL's built in browser comes with a cache, or temporary storage place. Images and text from Web pages you visit are stored on your hard drive for fast reloading when you return to them while you're still logged on. When the cache fills up, performance can slow down. The temporary internet files should be deleted to keep your browser running more smoothly (note: these files are not AOL Favorite Places). You can also set your Microsoft browser to automatically delete these files whenever you close it, and/or you can set a limit on the amount of space your browser will use to store cache files (directions below).

AOL 8.0/7.0/6.0:
Go to keyword: Preferences
2. Click Internet Properties (WWW).
3. On the General Tab under Temporary Internet Files, click the Delete Files button. If you have a Delete Cookies button, click that.
4. Under History, click Clear History button.
5. Click OK and close the Properties window.

AOL 5.0:
1. Click the My AOL icon (AOL icon on the PT Toolbar), then click Preferences.
2. Click the WWW icon.
3. On the General Tab under Temporary Internet Files, click the Delete Files button, click OK.
4. Under History, click Clear History button.
5. Close the Properties window.

If you had many files in your cache, it's a good idea to run a scandisk and a defrag after removing these files (see below).

Automatically Remove Cache Files
1. Click Start, Settings, Control Panel, Internet Options (Win XP users, click Start, Control Panel, Internet Options).
2. Click the Advanced tab.
3. Scroll down the list of items to the bottom where it says Security.  Put a check mark next to "Empty Temporary Internet Files folder when browser is closed."
4. Close the window.

Set a Limit on the Amount of Disk Space Used for Cache Files
1. Click Start, Settings, Control Panel, Internet Options (Win XP users, click Start, Control Panel, Internet Options).
2. Under "Temporary Internet files," click the Settings button.
3. Where it says "Amount of disk space to use," type a number between 1 and 5 in the disk space box.


Purge your online art file
AOL's main.idx file where artwork is stored can take up an enormous amount of space on your hard drive and slow down AOL.

To make this file smaller: 
Click on Members menu, Preferences, Graphics Icon. 
Where it says Maximum disk space to use for online art, reset that number to 1. When you sign off AOL, your main.idx file will be purged of old online art. 

When you sign on again, go back to the Graphics preferences and reset the graphics preferences again. The recommend setting is 6-7 MB.

Delete Unnecessary Files on Your Hard Drive


Files left behind in your Windows\Temp folder:
TMP files are left behind when programs are shut down without being properly closed. This often happens when you receive error messages or when you freeze while online and have to shut down the computer without closing AOL. TMP files do not contain necessary information, but they can take up an enormous amount of space on your hard drive and slow down performance.

Some software programs place files and folders in the Temp folder during installation; generally these are deleted when the installation is complete, but not always. The files and folders are no longer necessary once you have installed the program.

Open your Windows Explorer or My Computer, then double click on the Windows folder, then double click the Temp folder.  Unless there is something in the Temp folder that you have personally placed there, everything there can and should be deleted.  Highlight all the files and folders in the Windows\Temp folder, right click, then click Delete.

If you get a message saying "Access Denied," that means some program is using a TMP file. Just ignore it and delete the others.


CHK Files:
When your computer does a scan disk and fixes errors, it often puts CHK files to your hard drive, usually in the C:\ directory.  These files can be safely deleted.  Follow the Find process above, type in *.chk. Delete all CHK files you find.


Once you have deleted a large number of files on your computer, it's recommended that you do a defragmentation of your hard drive.

Close the gaps and correct problems

Once you have done the above, here are a few simple maintenance procedures that can correct these problems before they can cause permanent damage, as well as reorganize data to keep your computer running smoothly.

Using ScanDisk and Disk Defragmenter
If your system is running slower than usual or you are getting Windows error messages, you might need to run these built-in Windows utilities: ScanDisk and Disk Defragmenter. ScanDisk checks your hard drive for errors and fixes them if it finds any; Disk Defragmenter arranges file data so that it can be efficiently accessed when you need it.

Before you run these utilities, do the following:

1. Close AOL and any other open applications.
2. During defragmentation, disk Defragmenter must restart each time other programs write to the disk. Therefore, be sure that no programs are running. Press CTRL + ALT + DEL one time to bring up the Close Programs list. Highlight each program listed there, except for Explorer and Systray, and click End Task. (These programs will automatically be reloaded when you reboot your computer.)
3. Empty your Recycle Bin.
4. While these utilities are running, leave your computer alone; don't try to run programs or open files, etc, which can interfere with the scandisk and defrag process. Go have a sandwich and coffee, or click the "Details" button when you defrag and watch your computer at work.


Run ScanDisk anytime your computer goes down improperly (like a power outage), when you are thrown offline, when you get GPF or IPG error messages, and when you accidentally shut down your computer without closing programs. Running ScanDisk immediately after such problems can locate and repair problems and may prevent severe damage to good programs and data later. Because errors like cross-linked files can grow in magnitude, early corrective action is best. Always run ScanDisk before you run the Disk Defragmenter. 

Instructions on running ScanDisk (this link will open in a new window)


Defragmenter will put files and folders back into continuous units.  This will improve hard disk performance, and increase the available free space (so you can save more data).  Even if your system does an automatic defrag using the Scheduler, we recommend a manual defragmentation at least once or twice a week.  When Disk Defragmenter is run on the Scheduler, Windows samples the drive first, and ONLY runs if fragmentation is high on that sample (which may not accurately reflect how fragmented the rest of the drive is).  Running Defrag manually will remove all fragmentation without relying on a sample, thus ensuring a proper defrag.

Instructions on running Defragmenter (this link will open in a new window)

Make sure you have all your Windows updates

Use the following hyperlink to download the most current updates for windows!