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When Temporary Files Aren't Temporary

June 24, 1996|RICHARD O'REILLY

Q I have some questions and would appreciate your help.

1. When I am working in Word, the system itself creates files with the extension ".TMP" When I try to delete those files, I can't. How can I delete them?

2. When I am browsing a large database on a Web site, sometimes a message suddenly appears on the screen saying "Overflow" and I am immediately thrown out of the Internet. Am I doing something wrong?

R.K., Glendale, via the Internet


A 1. Many Windows programs create temporary files (they help the program carry out various functions), usually in the C:/TEMP directory made just for that purpose. But they can be placed anywhere. If you could kill such a file while the program was running, your computer would probably crash. Well-behaved programs are supposed to delete temporary files when you exit the program. But that doesn't always happen. Or sometimes they just leave behind a name with 0-byte contents.

The only safe way to delete such files is to exit Windows and do it from MS-DOS, which assures that programs that created temporary files are closed and done with them.

However, don't merely launch MS-DOS from within Windows to do this. Windows 3.1 makes the task easy, because when you exit you are in DOS. But Windows 95 requires a special selection from its "shut down" menu to shut down and restart in MS-DOS.

2. You didn't provide enough information to enable an answer to this one. At a minimum, to seek help for a problem, you need to identify the name of the program you were running; the version, if you can; the operating system, such as Windows 95 or MS-DOS; and the exact wording of the error message. There are several kinds of overflows.

Other details may be helpful, such as how much memory your computer has. The microprocessor and speed, such as Pentium 133 megahertz, and the names of other programs you were running at the time may be important too.

In Windows 95, error messages often have a "details" section that gives a lot of information, virtually none of it intelligible to the typical user.

It might help the program's technical support staff, however. You can copy the details to a file by selecting the text in the error message window with the mouse and hitting Ctrl C to copy it to the clipboard. Then open Notepad (found in Accessories programs) and paste the copied text, and save it and print it.

Richard O'Reilly, The Times' director of computer analysis, will answer questions of broad interest in this column. E-mail questions to, fax to (213) 237-4712, or mail to Answers c/o Richard O'Reilly, Business Editorial, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053.

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