January 23, 2013, 11:35 AM — If computer files were physical objects, we probably wouldn't let so much clutter build up in our system folders. At first glance, a file is no more than a single line item in Explorer, making it all too easy to ignore. But files are much bigger and more deep-rooted than that, of course; and whether they happen to be installers and content that we've deliberately downloaded or temporary files created by the various programs we use, they add up.
Manually sorting or deleting hundreds of files is a tedious task, but leaving them where they lie can be even worse: They may contain fragments of personal information or drafts of sensitive business documents. And they may prevent you from using drive space for more important things. To get a quick idea of how bad the problem is on your system, you can try SpaceSniffer or TreeSize Free, two free applications that visually map out hard drive use, and reveal what's occupying all that space.
Then there's the matter of deleting files: When you delete a file, you usually want it gone for good. But the Recycle Bin leaves the file on your drive, where anyone motivated enough to try can easily retrieve it. Fortunately, I've found several free and low-cost tools that can automate file management and securely delete your unwanted files, so you won't ever again have to worry about your downloads and temp files.
DropIt lets you tell files where to go
DropIt is a free, open-source utility that processes collections of files according to rules you define. For example, you might set it loose on your Downloads folder, telling it to sort all of the .jpg and .png files into an images subfolder, but only if they're larger than 30KB (so you don't have to save small images). It could then gather all of the .zip files and put them in another folder, and delete all of the .tmp files. Whatever result you're looking for, you configure a bunch of rules to accomplish it, and DropIt does the rest.
You can use DropIt by dragging and dropping files onto its desktop overlay (hence the name), or you can have DropIt sit in the background and constantly monitor one or more folders for changes. Once you've established a solid set of rules, the latter option offers a distraction-free way to get rid of file clutter--but only after you tweak the way DropIt works. By default, DropIt shows a progress bar whenever it's processing files, and it also prompts you when it stumbles upon a file it doesn't know what to do with.