What are temporary files?

Temporary files, often known as foo files, are created by your operating system when you are running or completing a task on the computer. Temporary files are needed when you are using programs or applications, as this is when additional storage must be created to accommodate extra memory and existing file usage.

Often, temporary files are created when you are running computer programs which consume large amounts of data. For instance, if you are using graphics, video or media editing software, your computer will create temporary files to store and save information as you go along. Not only does this help the software to perform at a high level, but it helps with the recovery process should your system shut down or close unexpectedly. This also applies to programs such as Microsoft Word or PowerPoint. You may notice that when using these applications, your work will be saved every couple of minutes. If you were to close the program down and immediately reopen it, you would have the option to restore your work. This is the work of temporary files.

So in this instance, temporary files can be very useful.

Now, they are supposed to delete themselves once the task or program you have been working on is completed. This is because they have been made redundant by a manual save or exit, which has created a permanent file. However, they do not always delete themselves and therefore take up storage on your disk space and in turn, slow down your computer.

In order to delete the build up of temporary files, you need to locate the appropriate folder. If you are a Windows 8.1 user or later, right-click and choose Run. In the resultant window, type the following command: %temp% to bring up a list of your temporary files. From here, you can select all of the files you wish to delete. If you’re presented with a File in Use warning, simply tap ‘Skip’.

If you are using a Mac, simply press Shift+CMD+G and enter ~/Library/Caches when it asks which folder you would like to go to. From here, you can select all the files within the cache folder (Ctrl+A) and drag them into the trash.

While sometimes you can find temporary files and try to load them to recover lost work, it is not always possible. That’s why you should always save your work often, and also consider backing-up important work, documents and files too.

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