Guide to Cleaning-Up your Hard Drive (C: drive)

Posted April 6th, 2021 at 4:45 pm.

Please review the following in full before beginning to clean up your hard drive (C: drive). If you have any questions about cleaning up your hard drive, contact the Help Desk ( or x7440).

If you haven’t already, please review the Top 11 Tips for Cleaning-Up Your Files:

Purpose of your Hard Drive (C: drive)

The C: drive, also known as your computer’s hard drive, has the important job of storing your computer’s operating system (Windows, Mac OS, Linux, etc.), as well as applications you use (e.g. Microsoft Office, Adobe, Mozilla Firefox) and files you download from the internet.

What Belongs on the C: drive?

The C: drive is best utilized as a temporary storage location for files you’re currently working on.

Relying on the C: drive for long-term storage is risky. All hard drives will inevitably fail, it’s just a matter of when. Keeping this in mind, backing up important files from your C: drive is a critical step in ensuring the security of your data. See the Cleaning Up Your C: Drive To-do List: section below for backup recommendations.

Also, keeping sensitive data (e.g. credit card numbers, social security numbers, data governed by FERPA) stored on your C: drive increases the risk that it will fall into the wrong hands. In fact, certain types of data are prohibited from being stored on your C: drive according to the College’s Data Handling Policy and Data Handling Storage Guidelines.

Cleaning-Up Your C: Drive To-do List

If you think you’d benefit from a quick brush up on how to use your operating system’s file management tools, see the section titled Tips for Using the Windows and Mac File Management Tools. Below are a few tips for making deleting files more efficient!

1)  Transfer files from the C: Drive that do not belong there or that you’d like to back-up

  • Back-up non-sensitive files by syncing your computer with OneDrive. This allows you to choose a location on your computer that will automatically sync with the cloud whenever changes are made (e.g. if you add, modify, or delete a file in this location on your computer, these changes will also occur within OneDrive in Office 365. The inverse is also true.). Syncing facilitates the efficient transfer of folders and individual files. See this Tech Doc for more information:
  • Transfer school- and work-related files to the H: drive for safe keeping. An alternative to storing school- and work-related files on your C: drive is to store them on the H: drive, part of the College’s network file storage system. The H: drive is available for all community members as a personal, secure storage location. The H: drive should not be used to store files of a per- sonal nature. Learn how to access the H: drive here:

Note: Again, please remain mindful of the Data Handling Policy and Data Handling Storage Guidelines when considering storing files containing sensitive data on any storage medium. Certain types of data are not permitted to be stored on the H: drive.

2)  Clean up your Desktop!

The desktop is a convenient place to put shortcuts to frequently accessed applications and files or to use as a temporary storage location for files you’re currently working on, but it can also quickly turn into a cluttered disaster (similar to a physical desktop!).

With physical files, you might organize papers into folders, then place the folders into a filing cabinet for easy retrieval. With your digital files, consider organizing files into folders in other locations such as the Documents folder on your C: drive, or better yet, on the H: or S: drives, as appropriate. You’ll find that you’ll spend less time straining your eyes to comb through files on your desktop.

3)  Delete files from the C: Drive that do not belong there and/or are unneeded

Note: LITS recommends that all employees follow existing file retention policies for digital files. See the College ’s Record Retention Policy here:

Please consult your supervisor with any questions.

  • Don’t know where to start deleting? Your Downloads folder is an easy target! Chances are you’ve downloaded more than a few files to your computer, and they’re still sitting in the Downloads folder
  • Target the big ones! Delete large files that are of a personal nature or are unnecessary to keep. See this video to learn how to sort files by file size:
  • Uninstall files and programs that you do not use. Most modern computers now have C: drives that hold large quantities of data, though if you’re getting close to using all of that space, your computer may be running at less than optimal speed. Deleting unused programs or files (especially large ones) may increase performance and free up space for more valuable files.
  • Delete files containing sensitive data if you no longer need them OR transfer them to a secure, approved storage location if you do. Many types of sensitive data are not permitted to be stored on the C: drive
  • Consider deleting older versions of files. You may not need to hold onto dozens of revisions
  • Delete duplicate files. No need to keep multiple copies of the same file on one storage location

4)  Other Things to Consider While Cleaning-Up your Files

  • Be consistent about how you name your files, and follow file naming best practices. Naming your files in a consistent manner will improve your ability to efficiently find them later and to understand differences and commonalities among your Following file naming best practices –such as avoiding using special characters (e.g. <, >, : , ?, *) – will prevent various issues. Read more here:
  • Consider how you organize your folders. Does your current folder organization system work for you? How could you better organize your folders to make files easier to locate and less likely to be lost and forgotten? While there isn’t a silver bullet for folder organization, you should base your folder organization around the way you work. For example, creating folders for different months or semesters might make the most sense for your workflow, or creating a folder for each of your projects might improve your organization
  • When considering what action to take with a file, ask yourself the following questions:
    • How often will I need to use this file? If it’s unlikely that you’ll need to use a file on a recurring basis or at all in the near future, consider deleting it, archiving it, or moving it to a new folder on the C: drive for past projects
    • Did I produce this file? This is less applicable to the C: drive than shared network drives, but during your clean-up, you may come across files that someone else had created. If you do, find out if they need the file(s) before taking action
    • Can I access this information somewhere else? If you’re storing data on your C: drive that you can access elsewhere (e.g. BiONic, the College website), consider deleting the file. If the file contains data of a sensitive nature it should not be stored on your C: drive
    • Should this file be archived? Certain types of files are required to be archived. Contact the Help Desk if you have questions

More Tips for Using Windows and Mac File Management Tools

LinkedIn Learning, the College’s online learning tool, has a number of helpful videos focusing on using Windows and Mac File Management Tools (File Explorer and Finder) for tasks related to cleaning-up your files. See below for the links to the courses. You can either view the entire playlist of videos or view individual videos. Clicking on a link will redirect you to the LinkedIn Learning sign in page. Please click the option to sign Read more about LinkedIn Learning here:

Filed under: File Storage Tags: , by Andrew Mantuano

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