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

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, WorldStart.com, 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 WorldStart.com, 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 [1].”

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