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Originally published February 19, 2015 at 5:40 PM | Page modified February 22, 2015 at 11:24 AM

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What to do when Windows software hogs the hard drive

If your operating system is working properly now, it’s safe to delete the old directories.


Special to The Seattle Times

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Q. I have an Acer Iconia 10 Windows 7 tablet, a few years old, with a detachable keyboard. The hard drive is almost full, though I have no music, video or data of any kind on it. The drive is 29 gigabytes and the largest folder on it is the Windows folder, which is about 16 gigabytes. So over half the drive is Windows software? Is this a normal size? Is the drive just too small? Or is there something else on the drive I can’t see or get rid of?

— Phil Luecke, Bellevue

A. Yes, Windows 7 requires about 16 gigabytes.

In addition to the files you can see on the drive, Windows also creates a “paging file” that it uses to save data to when you have more applications and data loaded than can fit into memory. While Windows automatically controls how large this file is, the initial minimum size of the paging file is equal to the amount of RAM on the computer, and the maximum file size is equal to three times the amount of system memory.

Another common space hog is backup files from Windows upgrades. Look for directories labeled “Windows.old.” If your operating system is working properly now, it’s safe to delete the old directories.

Finally, you may want to try a diagnostic tool to look at what is occupying your drive’s space. You can find several programs, many of which are free, here on the howtogeek.com website.

I also recommend that you run the Disk Cleanup utility, if you haven’t already done so. From the Start button menu, choose All Programs, then Accessories, System Tools, and finally Disk Cleanup.

Q. I just got a Samsung Galaxy 2 Tablet. Would you advise that I install anti-virus software on the tablet? If so, is it safe to install the PC version of free Avast or free Malwarebytes? Or can you recommend free anti-virus software tailored for tablets? And do you have any cautions about using such software on a tablet or is it just like using them on a PC?

— Rob

A. I recommend anti-virus and anti-malware software for all devices — including smartphones — that are connected to the Internet. As for which versions of anti-virus and anti-malware software are compatible for your device, it’s more a matter of the operating system the device runs than it is of its form factor. In any case, you can quickly check software for compatibility with your device by going to the vendor’s website.

One potential snag with smartphones — including tablets that use cell service — is that service providers often put software on the devices that is not compatible with other certain other programs. You may find, for example, that Avast installs fine on a Samsung Galaxy 2 from one service provider and not from another. In some cases, users are able to unlock, or “root” devices to allow software to run on the dive. Browsing the Internet, I’ve seen that some Galaxy 2 owners report having to root their tablets to install Avast.

Q. Do you think there is a market for someone with a little knowledge in connecting a PC to a TV, setting up Bluray/DVD players, Roku and troubleshooting Wi-Fi issues to help home users? Could someone earn $50,000 a year or more doing this kind of work?

— Mark Burch

A. Figure half that salary or less, I’m afraid. The skills you describe are a subset of what the Geek Squad requires in hires. And their average pay is $13 per hour, which works to about $27,000 a year for a full-time employee. If you want to make $50,000 a year or more, I’d recommend that you acquire the skills to become a programmer, a certified network engineer, a cybersecurity specialist or the like.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by email to pmarshall@seattletimes.com or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111.



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