What are temporary files and what does your computer make or use them for?
Temporary files, which are also known as temp files, are files created by various programs on your computer, primarily for the purpose of backing up information. A variety of different programs will create temporary files, including Microsoft Office, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, Bit torrent programs, various computer games, and numerous mail clients, productivity suites, and music and video players. Depending on the program and your user settings, many temporary versions of files may be created to help recover data in the event of a crash.
Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and other components of the Office suite are well known examples of programs that will save temporary versions of your documents every few minutes for as long as you have your original files open. This way, if you forget to save the file while you are working and you suffer an unexpected crash of the program or an unexpected power loss, the computer will already have made and recently saved a temporary version of the file you had open. This way, when you restart the program or your computer, the file can come back up and offer you the choice of saving or deleting it, potentially saving you hours of work that would otherwise be lost. In most cases, temporary files will be deleted automatically when a program is closed without problems, but if your program quits suddenly or you force close it or your computer loses power, the temporary files present may not be deleted.
There are also temporary files that are not deleted by design when you correctly quit programs. This is because some errors in the programming of software might lead to temporary files not being disposed of properly when applications are closed. Such files can build up over time on your hard drive without your knowledge. Additionally, web browsers such as Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome will create temporary internet files that are used to store user information, such as passwords, cookies, images, videos, and documents from web pages that were recently visited, and the browsing history of the user.
Temp files take up space, but are there types of temporary files you should not delete?
Most temporary files take up small amounts of space on your computer, but over time, if they accumulate, it can account for several hundred megabytes of space that could be put to better use by programs and documents you regularly use. As a result, it is a good idea to delete temporary files on your computer from time to time. However, although most temporary files can and should be deleted without any concern, there are still some kinds of temporary files you should not delete, such as those in your office suites or those that you rely on for frequent backups. You should also not delete temporary files related to settings in your web browser that you do not want to change, as it can be time consuming to reset them.