Home Office: Drive Clogged? Dump the Duplicates
It's late summer--heck, it's practically fall. Many of you are back from vacation, and work is still the farthest thing from your mind. (Well, good for you; I'm still going full steam.) So I thought it might be a good time to do some dusting and cleaning, and maybe a little maintenance on your PC.
Help, My Drive's Cluttered
I'm not running out of room on my system; each of my two drives has about 25 percent free space. Yet I feel compelled to keep them free of debris. I can only blame my obsessive compulsive nature, a behavior that doesn't seem to apply to the garage or my office.
My main production drive, the one I keep all my important stuff on, is 80GB--not extraordinarily big. My second drive is even smaller, a mere 50GB. (I use this one as a spot to immediately back up critical data and to temporarily store files like the videos I examine for "Dig This.") It's remarkable how many duplicate and unnecessary files I've accumulated on these drives, and I need to get rid of them to free up room. If you're still cooking on a 20GB drive--or like my brother-in-law, even smaller--your collection of duplicates really needs to be pared down.
BTW, the kind of files I'm talking about are copies of copies. For instance, I'm forever squirreling away videos for user group presentations. But because I'm absentminded (my wife says I don't pay attention), I'll stick a copy of the same video in more than one folder. For example, take "405: the Movie," a 10MB file. I've found this file in four different directories on my hard drive: \upcoming user groups, \Pasadena UG, \hold for later, and \PIBMUG\Movies.
Dig This: Have you ever thought about putting a diaper on a parrot? How about using a body squeegee instead of a towel? You'll find these, and other remarkable feats of imagination, in Delphion's Gallery of Obscure Patents. [Thanks, Carl.]
Dig This, Too: Wait, you thought the patents in Delphion's Gallery were silly? Check this out: Microsoft's received a patent for a "method and apparatus for transmitting power and data using the human body. See "Microsoft Patents Body-As-Network." The folks at Microsoft have also been busy patenting the double-click.
Dump the Dupes
To date, there are at least 40,000 programs to find duplicates on your PC. I rounded up a few and Max Green, our downloads guy, popped them all into one convenient location on the PC World site.
Unfortunately, while they all have trial versions, all of them will cost you.
I think free, while a little more work, is better. Here's a method that won't cost you a dime: Rod Ream, a super computer consultant and drinking buddy of mine, suggests the cheapest way to find duplicates on your hard drive is with Windows' built-in Find feature.
Start by opening Windows Explorer and using the F3 key to launch the Search window. The trick, Rod says, is to use wild cards to enter the type of files you want to check for.
What, you don't know about wild cards? Briefly, an asterisk takes the place of all the characters before or after the period in a file name. To understand wild cards, here's a simple example. If you type dizzyvideo.mpg in the search field, the results will show all files with the name "dizzyvideo.mpg." But try searching on *.mpg and you'll end up with every file on your drive that ends in ".mpg". Make sense?
Conversely, a search on dizzy*.* will get you "dizzydean.jpg," dizzyeditors.doc," and "dizzyvideo.mpg." Get the idea? This works on lots of dialog boxes too.
You can also search on mpg without an asterisk. You'll see the files on your drive ending in "mpg"--but you'll also see files such as "MSHTMPGR.DEP" because it contains "mpg," something you might not want.
Rod also said you can search on multiple file types by inserting a semicolon between the file names, for example: *.mov; *.avi; *.mpg.
When your search is complete, click on "Name" at the top of the File Name column to sort the list by name; alternatively, click on "Size." If you're not happy with the selection of Menu bars--the titles at the top of the column--or their order, you can change them. Hold your left mouse button down while pressing Shift and sliding the Title to the left or right. Cool, no? You can also add or remove Titles with a right-click, then select or deselect items.
One Other Cool Tool
While digging around our site for utilities that'd handle duplicates, I found Picasa--a free and sophisticated yet easy-to-use program to organize digital photos. After scanning my drive, I used Picasa to easily find and delete duplicate photos. The program also has limited, but useful, photo editing tools; there's also a no-brainer feature for e-mailing photos.
If you're running Windows XP, you don't need to worry as much about system resources as you do in Windows ME and 98. So there's no harm in allowing Picasa to reside in the Systray to help you detect and download photos from your digital camera.
BTW, the program used to cost $30. Since it was purchased by Google, though, it's a spyware-free freebie. Read about it in "Google Gives Away Digital Photo App."
And yes, Picasa's become a permanent resident on my PC.
Dig This: The story is, this truck was overloaded with fourteen workers and traveling too fast on a gravel road. The driver lost control after almost being hit by a logging truck, went between the concrete deflector and the guard rail, and came to a skidding stop in this death-defying position.