Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Lots of files on your computer is not going to slow it down. There are several other factors to look at that may be causing your performance issues.

I have many pictures and videos stored in the My Pictures section of my computer and my computer's gotten pretty slow. I believe that the photos are the problem. I guess even if I do not have My Pictures open, they are still using up space making my computer run slow.

I have Windows XP, IE8 and I'm running Microsoft Security Essentials plus Spybot, they never show any viruses. I guess if I took all of my pictures out of my computer would it run faster even if I'm not using them? Also, what happens to all of my deleted files such as browsing history? Even though I delete them nightly do they still keep piling up taking up space in my computer and slowing it down? Wouldn't our computers finally become unusable even though we delete all of our files and cookies, etc.? Is there anything we can do about that?

In this excerpt from Answercast #27, I look at a common misconception – that a lot of files on your computer will slow it down.

Pictures slowing you down

So, there's a big misconception in the question here. Having files on your computer that you do not use, such as your pictures, or your browser cache, or your history, or whatever, does not slow your computer down.

  • Files that are not being used do not slow your machine down.

What slows your machine down are things like:

  • Too much software that's running

  • Hard disk problems (in other words, an error or bad sector on your hard drive can cause it to appear slow)

  • Not having enough RAM in your computer can definitely make it run more slowly (and that's in companion with that concept of trying to run too much software on your machine at once.)

Removing pictures

The fundamental question that you're asking here is, "Will having too many pictures on your machine slow it down?"

  • No, not at all.

Put as many pictures as you want in your machine. There is no reason to worry that the number of files on your machine will slow it down. If your machine is slowing down, it's slowing down for other reasons.

Next from Answercast #27 – How do I make checkboxes work on the web?

Article C5477 - June 17, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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5 Comments
Mike
June 18, 2012 2:24 AM

The only way having many pictures on your computer can slow it down is if you have them all in one folder and Explorer tries to generate thumbnails for all of them at once, as I believe was the case in older versions of Windows. This would be a noticeable effect with folders that contain literally thousands of pictures, so it's not too common, but nonetheless possible. Of course this only occurs when you navigate to the folder; it does not slow down your computer during the startup, for instance.
Fortunately this seems to no longer be the case in Windows 7, where the thumbnails are loaded/generated as you scroll.

Gord Campbell
June 19, 2012 12:54 PM

A minor quibble: if you copy (backup) a folder with a huge number of files, it will go slowly. If a folder contains 10,000 files, adding one more takes "a long time" in computer terms. Much better to have 20 folders with 500 files in each.

Ron Hill
June 19, 2012 7:01 PM

If hard drive gets over full, pc will slow. Needs free space. Move pics etc to cd, dvd, ext. drive, or delete the clunkers. I was forced to reinstall OS this week for local senior (I support seniors in town) when restore points filled drive. Never did find cause. Possible virus?
Way beyond 12%. I normally reset limit under 2 Gb.
This was like 50 Gb out of 80. Thank you Leo, Best wishes to all, Ron_H

Thomas
June 19, 2012 11:09 PM

I don't rember who wrote this, but it was sent to me.
When you save documents, files, videos etc. to your desktop or any other Sub User Folder, you will actually contribute to your computers slow demise. Windows index the content in these folders, keeping most of it in RAM – no wonder things seem slow, huh?!
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First thing you should try is: Delete. Delete or Move everything that you really don’t need to store in your User Folder (documents, pictures, music etc.) to another disk or folder. This spring cleaning should reduce the toll on your system considerably. Remember keeping your User Folder to a minimum, not exceeding 3 GB will keep your computer run smoothly longer. Moving without remapping will let Windows work without the knowledge of where those documents are stored, thereby saving memory.
I am always hearing something different.

Mark J
June 20, 2012 12:52 AM

@Tom
I believe what you are saying is repeating the misconception that this article is refuting. Having many files on your User Folder will in no way slow your system down. The only problem that can arise from too many files is if your hard drive may fill up and there is not enough space for the page file temporary files.

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