How to Remove Junk Files From Windows 10

Learn what to keep and what to remove — and why

Man sweeping floor with broom

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The longer you use your computer, the more it accumulates files that you likely do not need. Cleaning out those junk files can improve speed and performance. But how do you know what is trash and what is treasure?

Learn how to remove junk files from Windows 10 and keep your hard drive clean without harming your PC.

The Benefits of Removing Junk Files From Your Computer

Leaving files and programs on your computer that you don't need wastes precious space. It makes your machine work harder than it needs to. It can also slow down your computer, as it has to dig and sift through these files to find what it needs or use resources to update applications you no longer use.

Before You Begin

System Restore is a Windows tool that essentially allows you to take your computer back in time. If you should inadvertently delete a file that you still need, performing System Restore could save you.

Before you start taking out the trash on your Windows 10 PC, make sure that System Restore is enabled. Follow up by creating a system restore point that you could revert your system to in case you accidentally delete something important.

  1. Enter control panel in the Search box and select Control Panel app in the search results.

    Searching for the Control Panel App in Windows 10.
  2. Select System and Security and then select System if your Control Panel window is in Category view. Select System if your Control Panel window is in Icon view.

    The control panel in Windows 10.
  3. Select System Protection in the left pane. The System Properties window will open.

    System protection
  4. Make sure Protection is set to On for the System drive. If not, select the drive and then select Configure.

    System properties in Windows 10.
  5. Select Turn on system protection and then select Apply.

    System protection in Windows 10.
  6. Select Create next to Create a restore point right now for the drives that have system protection turned on.

    Configuring a restore point in Windows 10.
  7. Type a word or phrase to describe the restore point. The date and time will be added automatically.

    Naming the restore point in Windows 10.
  8. Select Create. When the process is complete, a message stating The restore point was created successfully will appear.

    Confirmation of a successful restore point in Windows 10.
  9. Select Close. You can restore your system to the current settings in the future, if need be.

Managing the Recycle Bin

The Recycle Bin will store deleted files. If you decide you need one back, it's easy to go in and restore it. However, as space fills up, Windows 10 will begin to permanently get rid of those files, beginning with the oldest ones first.

If you are certain you don't need any of the files currently in the Recycle Bin, you can empty it to make room for more.

  1. Press Win + D or select the space at the very right end of the taskbar to access the desktop.

  2. Right-click the Recycle Bin.

    Right-click context menu of the recycle bin in Windows 10.
  3. Select Empty Recycle Bin.

    Selecting to empty the recycle bin in Windows 10.
  4. Select Yes to confirm that you want to permanently delete the items.

    Confirming the deletion of files in the recycle bin in Windows 10.

Trashing Temporary Files

Temp files are also junk that you can clean off your computer. You can use a Windows 10 setting to automatically get rid of temporary files for you.

  1. Go to Start > Settings > System.

    Windows settings in Windows 10.
  2. Select Storage in the left pane.

    Windows 10 Storage
  3. Turn on the toggle switch under Storage.

    The Storage settings in Windows 10.
  4. Select Configure Storage Sense or run it now.

    Selecting to configure storage sense in Windows 10.
  5. Under Temporary Files, select Delete temporary files that my apps aren't using.

    Configuring temporary files settings in Windows 10.
  6. Choose a frequency in the drop-down lists under Temporary Files. These allow you to choose how often Windows will delete temp files in your Recycle Bin and your Downloads folder.

    Choosing how many days to delete temp files in Windows 10.
  7. Select Clean Now if you want to delete these temporary files immediately.

    Selecting the clean now option in storage sense.
  8. Exit the Settings window.

The Disk Cleanup Tool

Disk Cleanup is an integrated tool in Windows. Running this tool simplifies the task of getting rid of junk files in Windows 10, such as previous software installations, Recycle Bin contents, temporary files, and thumbnails.

Another feature of Disk Cleanup in Windows 10 is system compression, which compresses files that are not yet compressed, freeing up even more space.

  1. Enter disk cleanup in the Search box.

    Searching for disk cleanup in Windows 10.
  2. Select Disk Cleanup app to open the tool.

  3. Select the drive you want to clean up. In most cases, this will be Windows (C:), which is the default drive selected.

    Disk Cleanup
  4. Select OK.

  5. Wait while Disk Cleanup calculates the amount of space that can be recovered.

  6. Select the checkboxes next to the types of files you want to delete.

    Choose the files you want to delete

    Avoid selecting Windows ESD installation files if they appear in the Files to delete list. These files are required if you should ever need to reset your computer to factory default settings.

  7. Select View Files if you want to see the files in the category you have selected.

    Selecting to view the files to be deleted in Windows 10.
  8. Select OK to delete the junk files.

  9. Select Delete Files to confirm that you want to permanently delete the files. Disk Cleanup will get rid of the files and close when it has completed.

    Confirming the deletion of temp files in Windows 10.

How Often Should You Remove junk Files From Your Computer?

If you use your computer for several hours each day and download dozens of files, you will need to clean out the junk more frequently than someone who only hops on a couple of times each week.

However, if you run Disk Cleanup once a week or twice a month, you can keep those junk files from building up and slowing you down.