Tech Tips: Should you delete System32 folder & retrieving Facebook data
April 15, 2018
My computer's storage is getting nearly full, and I thought I would clear some space by removing stuff I don't need. I ran across a very large folder named System32 — it's just chock full of stuff that I didn't put there. Can I remove it to regain the space it's consuming?
Should you delete the System32 folder in Windows? Here are two simple answers: a) You shouldn't, and b) You can't.
The System32 folder contains a ton of internal files and programs that Windows needs in order to operate. If you try to delete it, or its contents, you'll get warnings and errors indicating that you can't delete the files.
If you are persistent and override the security settings of the files so you can delete them, you'll watch Windows slowly die as files get deleted. (Think of the scene in the movie "2001" where the computer, HAL, has his memory wiped as he sings "Daisy, Daisy." It's the same thing, really.)
If you really need to clean up some hard drive space, look for videos or large downloads — those are the files that take up a lot of space. Large backups can consume a lot of hard drive space, as well.
Remember that storage space is different from the amount of memory in your computer, and the amount of consumed memory. Running a lot of programs concurrently consumes your RAM (Random Access Memory) but this has nothing to do with your amount of disk-based storage.
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We've mentioned it before but look for the application named WinDirStat on the Web. It's free, and immensely useful for determining what's taking up your hard drive space. You can find it online at WinDirStat.net, and you should check it out if you need to clean up your disk storage.
In any case, don't even think about deleting the System32 folder.
Yes, it's a large folder, but deleting it won't help, and it won't work.
Retrieve Facebook data
I've heard a lot about Facebook and its use (or misuse) of my personal data. I'm a little uncomfortable posting anything, liking anything, or even responding to anything there, because of this data use. What do you recommend we do to safeguard our information?
Clearly, Doug and Ken are not Facebook fans. It's possible/probable that we're too old to really "get" social media, but we try. We really do. And Ken even bought into it for a while and posted a lot of personal stuff on Facebook.
He "liked" a lot of things, posted personal information, enjoyed getting birthday greetings on the special day, posted notices about important life events, and more. But no longer.
As it has become clear that the folks at Facebook have no idea how to control the data that we post online, it's also clear to us that Facebook is not a good place to post personal information.
For example, if some nefarious character was looking for information about you, that person might start by looking at Facebook to retrieve your birthdate; given that information, the crook could start digging into other online records to find important personal information that identifies you.
So what do we suggest? Well, perhaps we're a bit too paranoid, but we'd start by deleting all personal information, such as your birthday, school, work, and marital status. (And yes, we've done this.) Although this action doesn't help with prior data scraping from Facebook, it makes it impossible for future information gathering to happen.
To get start, in a Web browser, head to Facebook.com, and click the little triangle in upper-right corner of the Facebook page. Select Settings. Look for your personal settings to remove all the personal info.
In addition, in the Apps settings, turn off all Websites, Apps, and Games (and don't use them). Yes, we know that farm game was fun, but is it worth distributing even a tiny bit of information to those folks bent on stealing information about you from Facebook?
In the Security and Login section, make sure all information is available only to you, or to friends.
Finally, although it won't help with data breaches, it's useful to know what Facebook "knows" about you.
Under the General settings, select Download a Copy of your Facebook data. You'll get two emails: One to confirm that Facebook is preparing your data, and another to let you know when the download is ready.
In the second email, click the link to download your data. In the downloaded data, click on the index.html file to load it in a browser — this shows what Facebook knows about you.
This information includes anything you've posted online, any photos you have uploaded, and more. If you uploaded a lot of data, the download can be quite large, so be prepared to wait. You may be surprised at how much Facebook has on you.
If you love Facebook, feel free to stay involved. But please, take a moment and clean up your security settings and remove any non-essential information. Do it before the next big data breach.
Doug Behl and Ken Getz spent years answering technical questions in private, and are minimizing the questions by pre-emptively publishing the answers. Hear Doug and Ken's tech tips on KNCO radio weekdays at around 8:21 a.m. and 5:38 p.m.; find full write-ups including links to the products they mention at http://blog.techtipguys.com. Submit your own technical questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.