Spring Cleaning My PC in January

By Timothy R. Butler | Posted at 6:01 AM

So, I have been cleaning my hard drive – a little spring-cleaning one might say. Admittedly, it is a bit early to say spring cleaning, but what else can I say? I could say that I am trying to get a good start to a New Year’s resolution, but that would mean I had actually resolved to clean my hard disk. Ok, so I will just admit it: the drive was growing full and I decided to clean it before the computer simply refused to do anything more. Two hundred and fifty gigabytes goes quickly these days.

Two hundred and fifty gigabytes. My hard disk is not even the largest out there these days, but it weighs in at a whopping 2,133 times larger than my first “IBM compatible” PC’s hard disk back in 1993. That drive filled up quickly, but somehow I doubt that I would have believed then that a drive 2,133 times larger would fill up quickly too. Of course, the big change that has made such “huge” drives extremely easy to fill are the revolutions in multimedia – photography, video and music – that eat up space much quicker than almost anything the average user was doing with a computer a decade or two ago.

I sort through a “pile” of documents sitting on my virtual desktop and the difference between the real desktop and this virtual one illuminates another reason filling drives is so tempting and easy: the lack of physical space requirements (or at least substantial ones). If I save a copy of Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica on my computer’s desktop, I may have altered a small bit of my hard disk’s surface, but from my user end perspective, I can still see my monitor just fine. Conversely, if I purchased a copy of Aquinas’s work in book form and stacked it on my physical desktop, I would not be able to see my flat panel. That I can acquire a copy of large works (often for free no less) and place them on my computer’s desktop without them getting in the way makes it almost too easy; on days such as today it seems like it was too easy anyway, for this ease of adding files to my desktop leaves me with a mess, and I am tired of desktop cleaning.

Nevertheless, as I dig through the pile and carefully place the files into my folder structure’s sections organized by type and date, it is hard not to be overwhelmed with just how amazing it is to live in the information age. I can find any digital document I have created in years, and with the advent easy-to-use desktop search tools such as Apple’s Spotlight, I can find the files quickly too.

Each one of some 23,000 e-mail messages I have written since the turn of the millennium are indexed directly in Apple’s Mail.app for easy access, for example. The better part of 30,000 photos I have taken in the last few years are also rapidly available and searchable by any of a number of attributes. My video projects may have outgrown my hard disk, but even those unwieldy files can be dealt with by pushing them off onto a fairly speedy external hard disk I have for just such a purpose.

Although it might be said I am merely stating the obvious – it is not a particularly new revelation that huge storage drives allow amazing archival possibilities – but it is these times when suddenly the vast storehouses actually do not seem so vast anymore that the truly amazing possibilities come back into focus. The boxes tower over my virtual head now, but having cleared some space to step back and look at them, I now find myself even more amazed at all of the useful data stored than the not small wonder I had previously granted to the starkly empty drive I have now filled. It is good drives are so easy to fill.

Timothy R. Butler is Editor-in-Chief of Open for Business. You can reach him at tbutler@ofb.biz.