SOP Friday: Managing Temporary Files
Karl Palachuk / Karl Palachuk
There are basically three ways to address these files: 1) Ignore them; 2) Clean them moderately; 3) Clean them aggressively. Every company needs to decide which of these is best – and implement it consistently across all machines.
As a general rule, we expect programs to clean up after themselves. Some don’t, by design. Some don’t because they’re inefficient. Some clean up most but not all temp files. Some temp files you will never need, even if the program leaves them there in case you might. For example, Windows updates leave temporary files so you can un-install the updates and put old O.S. files back. But if you never plan to un-install the updates, you don’t need the temp files.
Internet cache files can take up a lot of disc space, depending on the browser version and how many users have profiles on a given machine. Office files create all kinds of temp files and are notoriously bad at cleaning them all up. Exchange streaming media files are supposed to be self-maintaining, but success depends on the Server version, Exchange version, and the backup system (which may or may not successfully mark files for deletion after they’ve been committed to the database and the database has been backed up).
Excess temp files take up disc space. But they’re like the laundry – you can never be rid of them. If you cleaned up every unnecessary temp file, more would appear instantly. Getting rid of *all* temp files is a futile effort. As a result, option three (clean them aggressively) is not worth the effort.
Too many temp files can eat up a lot of disc space. This affects performance and could eventually shut down your computer. To be honest, the only time I’ve actually seen this happen is with Exchange temp files. And back in the days of 2000 and 2003, I saw this more than once. So option one – ignore it – is also not an option.
We’re left with option two. But option two has a very broad range of options.
I recommend that you do a general clean-up on machines from time to time. This includes servers and workstations. Two great opportunities are when you’re cleaning up after a virus or when a client complains that their machine is slow.
I do *not* recommend that you do a regular (e.g., monthly) clean-up. This activity can take 15-30 minutes per machine and is 98% preventive maintenance. It will certainly speed up a machine and prevent problems, but if you put this much time into every machine every month, you will have a hard time staying profitable.
That means you should clean up a machine when it seems necessary or when there’s an opportunity that is convenient while doing another task on that machine.
Here are a few things to put on your standard “PC Clean-Up Process” for client machines:
Temporary Internet Files
For each browser,
– Delete Cookies
– Delete Temporary Internet Files
– In older Internet Explorer, make the file usage small: like 50 MB or 100 MB. If this is huge (1,000 Mb), it just takes more time to go get a page
Temporary Files and Folders
Note: Don’t waste a second trying to delete temp files that don’t delete easily the first time. They might be locked by a program or limited by permissions. Don’t fret it. Remember: Aggressive clean is not worth the effort.
Delete Acrobat temp files in:
Acrobat can create up to 65,535 temporary files (0 KB each) named “Acr0000” through “AcrFFFF”. Acrobat uses a 16 bit counter for the temporary file names and that this counter overflows, which causes the application to hang.
Manage Restore Points
Databases and Line of Business Applications
Manage Restore Points
Empty Recycle Bin
Of course you need to determine the best cleanup process for your clients and the machines you manage. And don’t forget – you need to do enough cleanup to keep machines from getting bogged down, but not so much that you’re spending so much time on the task that you become unprofitable.
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About this Series
SOP Friday – or Standard Operating System Friday – is a series dedicated to helping small computer consulting firms develop the right processes and procedures to create a successful and profitable consulting business.
Find out more about the series, and view the complete “table of contents” for SOP Friday at SmallBizThoughts.com.
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Next week’s topic: Casual Fridays (and Dress Codes Generally)
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All material Copyright (c) 2006-2012 Karl W. Palachuk unless otherwise noted.