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6 ways to find and get rid of unnecessary files on your PC or Mac

Imagine you’re dashing through the woods in a marathon and suddenly fall into a pool of mud. You’re straining your legs as fast as possible, but the dirt clinging to you makes your footsteps heavy and slow. That’s what your computer goes through when it’s clogged full of unnecessary files.

Junk files can pile up over time until they’re the digital equivalent of a mud pit, slowing your system’s processes to a slog. Every once in a while, you need to hunt down the useless files gumming up the works. This effort can speed up your computer and even improve its overall performance.

Tap or click here for one quick tip to speed up your PC or Mac. If that doesn’t solve the problem, no worries — we put together six tricks you can use to fix the fluff and focus only on what your computer needs to run smoothly. We’ll give you multiple problem-solving strategies to clear your computer of all that metaphorical mud.

This tip is brought to you by our sponsor, Dell. Read to the end to see how Dell can help you find the right tech for free. No one likes wasting money!

So, what are unnecessary files?

It’s an umbrella term for all the gunk you don’t need. For instance, old files you no longer use as well as duplicates.

Another source of clutter comes from temporary files your system uses to store data while running programs. They’re also helpful when creating permanent files.

For example, say you’re saving an important document in Microsoft Word, but something goes awry with the program. You don’t have to worry because your computer saved a temporary file as a backup. They can be helpful in case of emergency, but they can build up to a significant chunk of space you don’t need over time.

Here are six ways to clean out your Mac or PC.

1. Use native software

In other words, use the program that naturally comes with your Mac or PC. They’re tailored to your device’s requirements, making them the optimal software. If you download extraneous programs all willy-nilly, you’re likely using something with more features than you need.

Got a PC? Use the Disk Cleanup tool

One of the best ways to clean Windows files and folders is through Disk Cleanup. Instead of manually deleting things, this tool automates the process. (Plus, it eliminates the possibility of human error, such as deleting files you need.)

Open it by searching Disk Cleanup in the Start menu. Then, select a drive, choose to scan it and hit Clean up system files.

When you see this pop-up, you’re in the right place.

You can also turn on Storage Sense

It’s a feature on Windows 10 that monitors your device and automatically frees up space. If it sees your computer is low on space, Storage Sense will delete junk files (like those temporary files we talked about earlier). It will also clear out items in the Recycle Bin.

Do this to turn it on:

  1. First, open Settings
  2. Then, select System
  3. From there, click on Storage
  4. Lastly, turn on the Storage Sense toggle switch
Your screen will look something like this.

For Mac users: Use Reduce Clutter

Optimize your storage by automatically identifying files you don’t need. Head to the Review Files button and then select the file category you want to clean out (like Music, Messages, Documents and so on). Then, delete whatever you don’t want.

You can also use the Optimized Storage features

This built-in feature lets you store your files in iCloud, thus making them available whenever needed.

To check it out, do this:

  1. Open the Apple menu
  2. Select About This Mac
  3. Click Storage
  4. Click the Manage button

Now, you’re at the Storage Management window. It will look like this:

Try this next step if you still want to clean out the clutter.

KIM’S SECRET TIPS: 10 Mac settings you should be using

2. Delete users no longer sharing the device

Maybe you’ve let your friends log into your laptop when they forgot theirs at home. Perhaps you used to share with former roommates or family members who have since moved out.

Either way, each user has their own files, sign-in info, desktop settings and more. Of course, that takes up some space on your computer. So if you’re not sharing your computer with that person anymore, you should remove their account. Here’s how to get the job done.

Delete users no longer sharing your PC

  1. First, find the Start menu and hit Settings
  2. From there, select Accounts
  3. Hit Family & other users
  4. Select the user and click Remove. Now, their sign-in info is no longer on your PC

What if you’re an Apple user? Do this.

Remove unwanted accounts on Mac

First, you’ll need administrative access. Follow these steps:

  1. Under the Apple menu, hit System Preferences
  2. Click Users & Groups
  3. Select the user or group you want to delete
  4. Next, hit the Remove button, which looks like a minus sign
  5. You’ll probably also want to remove their home folder from the computer, so click on Delete the home folder
  6. To finalize it, select Delete User

The next tip is surprisingly simple.

3. Empty the files you’ve thrown away

This one might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s surprisingly easy to forget, especially if you don’t have a schedule. Make sure you empty the Recycle Bin on your PC and the Trash Can on your Mac.

Windows users: Tap or click here for a step-by-step guide to automatically emptying your recycle bin. It’s a pretty lengthy process, but luckily, Mac users have an easier time getting the job done.

To empty your Trash Can:

  1. Go to the top toolbar and select Finder
  2. From there, hit Preferences
  3. Under the new window, select Advanced
  4. Then, pick the option that says Remove items from the Trash after 30 days

Now, macOS will automatically delete anything you throw in the Trash Can after a month. Pretty nifty, right?

WATCH OUT FOR THIS: A PC virus is now attacking Macs – Here’s what to look for

4. Manually delete your temporary files

We broke down what this means earlier on. Now, here’s how to hunt them down and cull them.

PC users, do this

On the Start menu, click Settings. Then, click System. From there, tap on Storage.

Your screen will look something like this:

You’ll see the Trash Can icon next to Temporary files. Click on that and clear out everything you don’t need.

Got a Mac? We’ve got your back

Follow these steps to remove your temporary files manually:

  1. First, head to the top toolbar and tap Finder
  2. Then, select Go
  3. On the drop-down list, hit Go to folder
  4. In the search box, enter the command ~/Library/Caches
  5. Next, tap Go. A new window will pop up, revealing your Mac’s cached files
  6. When you see this, tap Edit
  7. Then, hit Select all
  8. Click File.
  9. Then, click Move to trash (Note: You’ll have to enter your Mac’s password to do this)

Need some extra help? It’s time to move out of native apps. Give this a try.

5. Try third-party options like CCleaner

Over at Komando HQ, we often recommend CCleaner. It’s so easy to use, and it gets a lot of work done. First, you can select the areas it should clean. Then, hit Analyze to see how much storage space you’ll get once that space is cleaned up. If it looks good, you can hit Run Cleaner to sweep away the files permanently.

Not only does it clean your computer, but it also can find and fix registry errors. You can also use its Tools function to uninstall unneeded programs, browser plug-ins and more. Overall, it’s a helpful way to delete any clutter you no longer need.

RELATED: 7 useful tools for a quick and easy digital spring cleaning

Look under the column “CCleaner Free” and select the green Download button if you want the free version. It will automatically download.

Open the file and follow the installation instructions. Just keep an eye out and deselect the checkmarks for third-party add-ons you don’t want.

6. Move not so unnecessary files to another drive

So far, we’ve talked about how to clear out files you definitely don’t need. But if you’re not so sure about certain files, you might think, “Well, what if I want to use that later?” In that case, don’t go the nuclear route.

Instead, you can use an external SSD.

Another option you have is to use a high-capacity USB flash drive.

Turn to cloud-based backups

Every once in a while, the computer you rely on can fail you. No, it’s not the hardware or the software — it’s malicious viruses or even ransomware that takes over your system.

Imagine a hacker gaining access to your computer and denying you access to your data until you pay a hefty fee. Don’t leave your computer unprotected. Defend your data with our sponsor, IDrive.

Save a whopping 90% when you sign up at and use the promo code “Kim” at checkout.

Run a small business? Dell is here to help

When you run a business, finding the right tech is vital. You don’t want to waste money on tools that won’t get the job done. Don’t just guess and hope it all works out.

The pros at Dell Small Business can help. Chat, call or email an advisor and get free, helpful advice to help you find the right solutions. That’s right. It really is free. You don’t have to buy a thing. You can just get smart, reliable help to choose the right tools for your company.

Ready to get started? Call a Dell Technologies Advisor to help you find the right tech for your business needs at 877-ASK-DELL or

By clicking our links, you’re supporting our research. As an Amazon Associate, we earn a small commission from qualifying purchases. Recommendations are not part of any business incentives.

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