Decluttering: First Your Desk, Then Your Desktop

Decluttering: First Your Desk, Then Your Desktop

Jeff Heaton
Jan 31, 2012

With just a month or so left of winter, we've been cleaning and decluttering the home. But don't forget after you clean your desk, your hard disk could use a little love too. So to inspire you (and us) to attempt the dreaded task of decluttering the computer, we've assembled a selection of solutions to get the job done as quickly and easily as possible.

1. Detect
First you have to know the nature of the beast, what you're up against really. There are plenty of programs to look into the innards of your hard drive, but some do it more effectively than others. Here are our favorites:

Daisy Disk (Mac | $9.95)
One of the prettiest visualization programs we've seen, Daisy Disk enables the user to make a sunburst map of all their hard drive space. We like how it makes us want to tweak our hard drive for the visual effect. Users probably want to download the program from the Daisy Disk website instead of the app store as some features had to be removed to fit App Store policy.

WinDirStat (Windows | Free)
While not nearly as pretty as Daisy Disk, WinDirStat is just as useful and free. The program displays file trees as squares relative to their size against other files. It also provides a way to clean up files, though perhaps not as well as our other suggested ways.

2. Declutter

Onyx (Mac | Free)
One of our favorite Mac programs in general, Onyx has a ton of uses and here that use is cleaning up your stuff. From checking the status of your hard drive to emptying caches and running clean up scripts, Onyx is a simplified swiss army knife for complicated Mac tasks. While we have seen a variety of options with similar features and enjoyed coverage of a few things that Onyx doesn't have (try CleanMyMac if you don't like Onyx), we keep coming back to it for it's price and efficiency.

CCleaner (Windows | Free)
In many ways the equivalent of Onyx for Windows, CCleaner cleans all the tidbits programs like to leave on your computer from cookies to cached crap. It's also got some potentially risky but very useful goodies like a registry scrubber. We like the clean interface and the spot on amount of features.

3. Destroy
Of course for most files you can just drag them to the trash and let your drive write over the file in the future. But if you've got confidential files, or just a heavy desire to see a particular collection of bits burn, there are a couple programs that we use to obliterate those dusty documents.

Shredit X (Mac | $29.95)
When you send a file to the trash it usually doesn't mean the file is gone, just marked to be written over by some new stuff. Shredit X actually writes over the file in your hard drive as 0s and 1s, meaning it's truly gone. And if you're just looking to remove those pesky program files we like App Cleaner for its price (free) and ease of use.

File Shredder (Windows | Free)
Not the most creative name for a program but it does exactly what it says. We like File Shredder for its shredding options, giving the user the ability to make multiple passes over the same data and really scoring it into the hard disk. It comes with 5 different algorithms of varying intensity that get the job done for our needs.

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(Top Image: Flickr user Stuart Bryant under Creative Commons, Screenshots by Jeff Heaton)

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