It’s one of the most annoying Windows maintenance problems. The more you use your PC, the more your hard drive will become cluttered with all kinds of junk: leftover “temporary” files, various application caches, remnants of supposedly uninstalled programs and a whole lot more.
Of course if you’ve got hundreds of gigabytes of free space remaining then this may not seem to matter very much. But it will still have an effect. Excessive hard drive clutter can slow down file searches, antivirus scans, defrags, maybe even browsing in Explorer — so cleaning up your system occasionally is a very good idea.
And that’s where FULL-DISKfighter, the latest tool from the people behind the popular SPAMfighter junk mail filter, comes in, with its promise to free up hard drive space and optimize your PC’s performance.
While this sounds great, the idea of paying for a disk cleaning tool probably doesn’t appeal to you very much, especially as there are hundreds of fast, stable, reliable and free alternatives available. And we were skeptical, too. The authors are well aware of this problem, though, and they’ve attempted to address this problem by cramming FULL-DISKfighter with more hard drive maintenance features than any of the free competition (and many of the commercial programs, too). So we decided to give the program a chance, and took it for a spin on a cluttered test PC.
Find Junk Files
The most important function of any disk cleaner is its ability to find files that are safe to delete, and FULL-DISKfighter has a great deal to offer here. The program doesn’t simply check your Windows temporary files, browser cache and the other soft targets, then. It also looks for Windows leftovers, including your update cache and service pack backups. It knows about the history and caches for a host of third-party applications. There’s support for cleaning up several email clients (Thunderbird, Eudora, IncrediMail and more, though notably not recent versions of Outlook, Outlook Express or Windows Mail).
And, usefully, FULL-DISKfighter can even search for redundant files by extension (*.old, *.tmp, *.err and so on). Deleting these can be risky — there’s no guarantee that all *.syd files are useless, say — but it can reveal a lot of junk that you might otherwise miss.
If there’s a problem with all this power it’s that FULL-DISKfighter has some overly aggressive default settings: if you don’t check these then it will delete your Thunderbird Sent Mail, for instance, as well as the contents of your Windows Downloads folder, and any MSI installation files. But if you’re cautious, and pay attention to what it’s doing, then it’s a powerful package.
When we ran CCleaner on our test PC, for instance, with its default settings, the program took 253 seconds to uncover 3.99 GB of recoverable drive space. FULL-DISKfighter, by comparison, took 649 seconds to run, as the search for files by extension took a heavy performance toll (turn this off, or run a Quick Scan, and it’s much faster). It did locate 5.2 GB of general redundant files (not including our Windows Downloads folder), and gave us the opportunity to free up a further 11.0 GB by wiping our restore points, too.
The program could benefit from further customization options, then, like the ability to delete the folders or file types that you specify. But even without this, its extensive support for deleting the leftovers of a wide range of applications could make FULL-DISKfighter a useful addition to your maintenance toolkit.
Duplicate and large files
FULL-DISKfighter’s “Find Junk Files” module is effective, then, but that’s just the start. The program offers two further modules than can also help to free up additional hard drive space.
The “Find Duplicate Files” option will scan the drives you specify to look for duplicate files, for instance. This can be a lengthy process as the program must compare files byte by byte, to ensure they really are identical. You’re able to tell the program to look only for files of a certain type and size, though (MP3?s greater than 1MB, maybe), which makes a real difference to performance.
It could be worth waiting for a full scan, though: this uncovered 503 duplicate files on our test PC, consuming a total of 27.6 GB of hard drive space. Many of these may be necessary, so it’s important to analyze the report properly, a task made more difficult by user interface issues (the report window is small and not resizeable, so often you can’t see the path of a particular file). But with a little effort we managed to free up a further 9GB of drive space.
If you’re not so lucky, though, you can always turn to the “Find Large Files” folder, which works exactly as advertised: scanning for files greater than a particular size (50MB by default, though you can set this to whatever you like). The idea here is simply to highlight videos, archives, ISO files or anything else you might have forgotten: if you spot something you no longer need, select it, click “Clean Now,” and you’ll free up still more valuable hard drive real estate.
Removing all this hard drive clutter is useful, but to get the real performance benefit you’ll want to defragment your hard drive afterwards. And so it’s good to see that FULL-DISKfighter includes its own built-in defrag tool. At least, in theory.
In practice, though, this isn’t quite as useful as it could be, as the program ignores regular defrag standards to go its own way. Analyze your drive, say, and it won’t give you the percentage of fragmented files on your drive, or their number, or which files they are: instead you’ll just read that you have x GB of “unorganized space on your PC.” What does that mean? We’re not sure. There’s no local Help file to tell you, and the online documentation is limited at best.
And if you decide to give the program a chance anyway, then there are no options to configure how the program works. You can click “Organize,” or “Quick Organizer,” to defragment only the most commonly used files, but that’s about it: you have no control over the defrag strategy, and from what we can see, FULL-DISKfighter doesn’t carry out any particularly smart optimization of your file layout, beyond the defrag itself.
The Hard Disk Organizer remains a useful addition to the package, then, and using it will enhance your system’s performance. But we suspect that most people will be better off using a specialist defrag tool, instead.
FULL-DISKfighter does have its share of frustrations and omissions. You need to be able to resize its windows, for instance, especially when they’re displaying detailed reports. It should be more configurable, so you can have the program delete all the *.JUNK files on your PC, say, if that works for you. And even though it’s very easy to use, there really ought to be a Help file to answer whatever questions you might have.
Elsewhere, though, there’s no doubt that the program excels where it matters, with wide support for cleaning up all kinds of hard drive junk. This also increases the chance of deleting something important, but as long as you monitor FULL-DISKfighter carefully then you should be able to safely free up a great deal of hard drive space. And so if that matters to you then it’s definitely worth taking FULL-DISKfighter for a trial run, just to see how it fares on your system.
Platforms: Windows 2000, XP, Vista or 7 (both 32 and 64-bit versions)