Using Windows Safe Mode to Get Rid of Gunk-Ware

To me, Windows’ Safe Mode is one of the best inventions since sliced bread. I find that most “gunk-ware” (temp files, cache, and even some spyware and malware) can sometimes better be cleaned when the computer is booted into this special diagnostics mode. Since Safe Mode only loads a minimum of prescribed drivers and services, usually you don’t have the problem of trying to delete a file that is “in use” or running as a process (as a lot of malware does in normal mode).

Whenever I encounter a computer that is slow, sluggish, or in need of a good cleaning, the first thing I do is boot into the Safe Mode (Command Prompt) option and start cleaning house. When you do this, it’s a good idea to login as the local administrator account, or an equivalent account, because you’ll need higher privileges to complete some of the actions I’m going to describe. Because it’s difficult to delete some files belonging to the user profile you are currently logged in as, try to login as a user that normally does not log into the machine (you don’t log in normally as the local administrator, right?!) on a routine basis.

As a precautionary note, it’s a good idea to back up your system before executing any of the commands I’m going to discuss, of course. Although you shouldn’t have any ill side effects from any of these methods, I do have to warn you that these are just some of the things I do to clean gunk; try them at your own risk, your mileage may vary, offer not good in all states and countries, and so forth. Having said that, let’s move on.

One logged in, I usually change to the system’s root directory (usually known on the average PC as “C:”) and start there. First, I delete all of the .tmp files that can take up space and hide malware. Run this command at the prompt:

C:> del *.tmp /s /f

The /s switch recurses all subdirectories, and the /f switch forces a delete even if the file is in use (hopefully it won’t be since we’re in safe mode).