Before you remove old files by deleting them and then emptying the Recycle Bin, consider this: if you delete the files, you will lose access to them forever. That may be your goal now, but what about later? What happens when you discover you deleted an important file and now you must spend hours or days recreating it.
How I Once Deleted The Wrong File
From 2001 to 2005, I kept all of my accounting data in a single file created by my accounting program. One day I was cleaning my computer and I saw a directory with a whole bunch of old files, so I deleted all of them. About a week later, when I opened my accounting program, it said it couldn’t find my file. I discovered it was one of the files I had deleted.
It took me nearly two weeks of part-time work to recreate my accounting data from my old records and, even then, I permanently lost data about cash transactions which I completely forgot about. That taught me the value of both keeping good backups and only removing old files the safe way.
If You Keep Good Backups
If you keep good backups, you can safely remove old files any time you want because you know you can always get them back later. But that only applies if you keep really good secure backups—the kind that last forever.
I tend to keep semi-permanent backups. That means my backups only go back about a year. If I delete a file today, I can still get it back for about a year; after that it’s gone forever.
The Safe Way To Remove Old Files
If you have semi-permanent backups like me or you have no backups, then you should probably use the safe way to remove old files. It’s a simple technique: instead of deleting old files, you just move them into a new directory. Many people want to know what files are safe to delete and it is still important to know that, but here is a fresh way to backup your files without getting rid of them for good.
For example, lets say you have a bunch of old files from a research project. You don’t think you’ll ever need these files again, but instead of deleting them, you create a new directory called “old_files” and move all of the research project files into that directory.
Now, if you later decide you do need one of those files, you can move it out of the old_files directory to a better place. Or, if some months from now, you need to remove old files to get more disk drive space, you can start deleting files from old_files because you know you haven’t used any of those files in a long time, so you probably don’t need them.
Moving files to a new folder makes cleaning safer, but it also speeds up cleaning because you don’t have to think too hard about removing old files. You just move them to the old_files folder and forget about them—until you need them again. It’s a safe and simple way to remove old files.