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What is the Temp Directory and Why Should You Clean It?

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012 by | Filed Under: File & Disk Management, System Tune-Up Help

Diane Spiers from England writes:

Recently you gave directions for “manual cleaning of the temp. directory.” Can you please tell me what a temp. directory is and if I really need to give it a cleaning?

Hi, Diane,

You have an excellent question!

The temp directory is the location on your computer to which all temporary files are saved.  Temporary files are files saved by your web browser or another program in order to speed up that program’s performance.  One good example are the temporary files created when you browse the internet.  If you go to, say,, typically you’ll access the same initial page.  A copy of this page will be saved to your computer so that the next time you go to that page, it will pop right up for you with little to no delay.  Your web browser will do this for many of the pages you access on the internet.  Often the files are deleted by the program that created them.  However, if a program ends in error, has a component that is not working properly, or any other irregularity, these files are left in the temporary drive. Others are retained simply for efficiency or to speed access to pages you have already visited on the web.

A somewhat ironic aspect of this process is that though having these files on your computer may speed up your access to, again, say, the more files that are in the temporary folder, the slower your computer begins to process.  Eventually, their existence is enough to cause a serious drag in your computer’s performance.

This is why you need to delete them.

Of course there are several ways to do it, but one way to delete the temporary files on your computer, not just those created by your browser, is shown in Andrew’s article “Temp Directory Shortcut.”

The more frequently you clean your temporary directory, the less often you will be burdened with a sluggish computer.  If you only use your computer periodically, a cleaning once a month or so should be sufficient.  If you use it a lot more, you might consider performing this maintenance more frequently.

I hope this clears up some of the mystery!  Happy cleaning!

~Karen Powers Liebhaber

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8 Responses to “What is the Temp Directory and Why Should You Clean It?”

  1. Gary G. says:

    Thanks for the shortcut “%TEMP% I had forgotten about using it.

  2. VH says:

    I need the kindergarden version of “Deleting for Dummies”! Is it safe to delete everything or are there some ‘never-never-ever’ delete items?
    While I am at it, is it better to use a power source for your laptop as much as possible or is it better to let it run down and then recharge?
    Still appreciate you and recommend you to a lot of folks. Thanks.

  3. Tom says:

    I was unable to delete all of the files in my temp folder unless I first booted into safe mode and then did the delete.

  4. Hi, VH,

    Items that do not need to be deleted are not found in the TEMP directory, fortunately! Therefore, if it’s in the temp directory, clean it out!

    Note: if you receive an error when trying to delete one or more files in this directory, that usually means that one of the temporary files you are using is currently open and running on your computer. Just go to your open programs, close them down, then go back into the temp directory and delete. :-)

    Actually, it is best to use your battery until it runs down than to use the power cable as much as possible. Not allowing the battery to discharge all the way will reduce its ability to retain a charge.

    Hope these help!

  5. […] them. Is it safe to delete all of them? Is this why my computer is slow?Hi, Madeleine!In my post What is the Temp Directory and Why Should You Clean It? I gave a brief description of temp files and how to delete them, but I didn’t specifically […]

  6. Ron says:

    I use a couple of rules of thumb
    – delete everything in TEMP except stuff with today’s date
    – skip anything that is locked when you try to delete it
    – reboot, don’t start any apps and delete everything in TEMP

  7. Jim McQuillen says:

    OK great for Win 7 but how do I access the temp files in Win XP Pro? Entering %temp% in the search yields “no files found”. I need anything I can to speed up my IBM T43 laptop, it takes 6 minutes for Windows to shut down!! Help, PLEASE!

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