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What are Temporary Files

Manali Oak May 13, 2019
To know what are temporary files and how they are created, read on. Also find where they are located and how to delete them.
Do files with an extension, '.tmp' clutter your computer memory? Have you often been advised to clear the temporary files for increased browser performance? That means you have some experience working with temporary files!

What are They?

When a computer program is unable to allocate sufficient memory for its tasks or when a program has to work on data larger than the address space provided by the system architecture, temporary files are created. Their creation by a computer program may also be the result of some form of inter-process communication.
They may be created as backups. Applications like Microsoft Office create a temporary version of a file that is being worked on. If the program crashes or the computer shuts down, the temporary file can be of use as the recently saved version of the file. If the program closes normally, the temporary file is deleted.

Where are They Located?

Typically, they are located in the temporary directory /tmp on Unix machines. On Windows machines, they are located on %TEMP%.

Their Deletion

Temporary files can be removed manually by going to their location and deleting them. One can search for .tmp files on a computer and delete them. The other option is to go to Start, Run, type in %temp%, thus landing in the location of temporary files and deleting them. As a part of the reboot process of a computer, temporary files are deleted.
In case one is unable to delete a certain temporary file, it indicates that a program using that temporary file is running in the background. In that case, all programs need to be closed before the temporary files can be deleted.

Temporary Internet Files

The Internet browser cache consists of temporary Internet files. The files that are downloaded with web pages are stored as temporary Internet files. Thereby, a cache of the web pages visited, is created on the computer hard disk. They remain there until the user deletes them manually.
A browser creates temporary Internet files to store web site data for the web pages visited. When web page files are sent to the browser, they are stored so that they can be retrieved the next time that web page is visited.
The next time the same web page is visited, the data is taken from the temporary file. This helps the browser display web pages faster. They are stored in the Temporary Internet Files directory and comprise java scripts, style sheets, cookies, etc.

Their Deletion

Temporary Internet files are removed as a part of the Disk Cleanup process. The Internet options of browsers allow users to change/adjust browser settings such that temporary Internet files are deleted each time the browser is closed.
To delete temporary Internet files in Chrome, one needs to open Settings, click the Show Advanced Settings option, and under the Privacy tab, click Clear Browsing Data. Under the Clear Browsing Data window, check the temporary files you want to delete, select the Beginning of time dropbox, and finally, Clear Browsing Data.
In Microsoft Edge, you need to navigate to the Settings tab, Clear browsing history, and then select the temporary files you want to delete. In Firefox, you need to navigate to Preferences and click the Privacy&Security tab. Under the Cookies and Site Data title, Clear Data.
These files give rise to Internet privacy issues, as it is due to these files that the pages visited by a user remain available to the other users using the same local computer for Internet access. They also consume a fair amount computer memory.
However, these files can be useful in certain ways. Cached websites are available offline, thanks to temporary Internet files. These files help a computer maintain records of the websites visited.