Blacksmiths toolsHalf the job of an IT blacksmith involves knowing your tools, but there’s a wrinkle that real blacksmiths rarely encounter: IT blacksmiths’ tools can become obsolete and disappear. I’ve never heard of a hammer being declared incompatible with the new 64-bit horseshoes so you have to find a new one. On the other hand, I hardly ever burn myself on molten metal, so I guess we’re even.

It so happened that I was in Cygnet with my family, visiting friends, when I got a call from a client needing my help right there on the main street. I took my leave and popped around to see what I could do. It was the usual story: Leslie’s computer was running slowly, spitting out lots of error messages, generally behaving like a three-bob watch. I was clever: the first thing I did was check the size of drive C: to see if it was nearing capacity. Was it ever! Total size of disk: 960 gigabytes. Total usage: 953 gigabytes. Free space: bugger all.

OK, I told myself, this is going to be a quickie. I did all the basic stuff: emptied the Recycle Bin, cleared redundant stuff out of the Downloads folder, deleted unnecessary Windows Update files, cleared out Windows Temp, ran the System Cleanup tool. Then I checked the results. Total size of disk: 960 gigabytes. Total usage: 947 gigabytes. Free space: still bugger all.

Interesting! How did a computer manage to be so full? I assumed it was videos and photos. I had a look. Total number of photos: 17, mostly of Leslie’s dog Tiger. Total number of videos: one, of Tiger, thirty two seconds long, cute but not huge (a bit like Tiger). That wasn’t it!

I asked Leslie if she was much of a game player. She admitted to a fondness for Candy Crush Saga, but that’s not a problem.  As for your World Of Minecrafts and Grand Theft Halos, she was innocent of even knowing their names.

So what else could be taking up the space?

Here’s where knowing your tools comes in handy.  I bring with me everywhere I go a thumb drive (also called a memory stick, USB, flash drive, dongle or a billion other names) with important software on it. I call it my Doctor’s Bag, though maybe Blacksmith’s Box would be a less confusing name now I think of it.  On it I have an ancient copy of a program called SpaceMonger.  SpaceMonger is still around, now sold by a company called Stardock, but the older version has the advantage that it’s free for casual use and can be run off a thumb drive, whereas the more recent editions, one of which I have happily paid for, need to be installed to run.  As you can see from the picture here, SpaceMonger shows a map of every file on your disk, colour coded so you can tell them apart, sized proportionate to their size on the disk.

I ran SpaceMonger on Leslie’s computer, and it told me something unexpected: Google Earth was taking up about 90% of the space on the disk with its temporary files.  A little googling revealed the truth: a bug in that particular version caused the program to keep reloading map files that it already had. Every ten seconds for some weeks, Google was discovering life on Earth all over again, and storing it on Leslie’s computer.

The same page that explained the problem gave the solution: delete a certain folder, then uninstall Google Earth and download the new, fixed edition. This I did, and then I checked the disk one last time.  It told me: Total size of disk: 960 gigabytes. Total usage: 62 gigabytes. Free space: 898 gigabytes.

Ah, much better! I took my Doctor’s BagBlacksmith’s Box and its clever tool, and bade Leslie and Tiger farewell. Leslie was pleased, and swore she’d pass my cards on to all her friends. And who knows? Perhaps she did, because I’ve spent a lot of time in Cygnet over the intervening years. And I always bring my tools with me, because you know what? I’m not a complete IT numpty. I am an IT blacksmith!