Temporary Internet Files: safe to delete?

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Phyllis R. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I have just completed a 'disk cleanup' on my computer. When the disk cleanup finished, it said I could free up more space on my C drive if I deleted my Temporary Internet Files. Is this a safe procedure, and do you recommend it? Every once in a while I clean out my Temporary Internet Files and web site history, but was curious of your opinion. Thanks for any help you can provide. "

My response:

Before answering that question, it's important to understand the role of Temporary Internet Files before you go and delete them ;-).

In short: Temporary Internet Files are downloaded onto your computer whenever a web site is accessed through your web browser. For example, if the web site consists of pictures, those pictures are downloaded and stored on your computer. Similarly, if the web site contains text, the text is downloaded and saved to your computer.

The function of Temporary Internet Files are to act as an Internet 'cache'. So, for example: when a web site is referenced, your browser will first check to see if the web site files ("Temporary Internet Files") exist on your computer -- locally -- before attempting to download them remotely. Obviously, it is much quicker to access something locally than by remote destination. To put it another way: the web site would appear to load faster if the majority of its web files were cached on your system (via Temporary Internet Files).

Considering that each web site could have hundreds -- or even thousands -- of individual Temporary Internet Files saved to your computer, the downside is that you will lose hard drive space. Having said that: if you constantly delete your Temporary Internet Files strictly 'out of habit', you'll not only save space, but you'll also severely fragment your hard drive. This is especially true if you have more than ample space to store your Temporary Internet Files (and deleting the files is therefore not necessary).

Side note: As I have discussed in the Gazette a few times before, a single file can span across multiple areas on a hard disk drive. If the file is fragmented, the hard drive heads must move back and forth to read or write each portion of the file. This is also referred to as hard drive latency or access time. As files are deleted [old Temporary Internet Files] and new ones are added [newer Temporary Internet Files], the "free space" on the drive starts to resemble that of Swiss Cheese. Defragging, on the other hand, puts related files in a close proximity so that when they are accessed, the drive head efficiently moves (at best) in 1 direction, rather than sporadically. The drive arm is referred to as the "boom", and a move in one direction of the boom is referred to as a "sweep" (as depicted here).

So, to answer your question --

Yes, you can clean up the Temporary Internet Files, Cookies, and Web Site History: but I recommend doing this *only* if hard drive space is an issue. And of course, I also recommend that you defrag your hard drive after every cleaning.

RE: An Alternative to Cleaning Temporary Internet Files

If hard drive space is critical, you might want to run an all-around system cleaning utility like WinOptimizer 9, rather than hap-hazardly removing your Temporary Internet Files. WinOptimizer Platinum Suite not only gives your web browser a thorough cleaning, it also checks your entire system for duplicate files, generic junk files, and can even fine tune your Internet connection! WinOptimizer 9 comes highly recommended; you can click to read an in-depth review on our web site:

WinOptimizer 9

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