So your computer’s been kicking around a few years. Still working fine, not quite time for an upgrade yet… but you suddenly find you’re running out of space. What to do? Buy an even bigger external hard drive? Delete the ten thousand holiday snaps you’ve always meant to get printed but haven’t found the time to even look through yet? Or, heaven forbid, start culling your precious stash of (legally obtained) TV shows, movies and music?

Hold your horses! There may be other items clogging up your computer, items that you may not even realise are there. Here are three simple ways to free up space on Windows computers.

1. Clear out your recycle bin

empty recycle bin

I’m going to start with the obvious – right-click on your Recycle Bin icon on your desktop and click “Empty Recycle Bin”. Everything you delete goes in here, and isn’t actually removed from your computer until you empty the bin. So while you may have deleted hundreds of files, they’re still taking up space on your computer! Do note, however, that once you clear your recycle bin, those files aren’t coming back–unless, of course, you’re willing to pay professionals hundreds of dollars to try and retrieve your data.

2. Use Disk Cleanup to remove install files and other temporary files

Disk cleanup

When Windows updates your computer, it tends to leave a lot of junk behind. In fact, quite a few programs tend to leave a lot of junk behind. The simplest way to fix this is to use Disk Cleanup. I’ve managed to delete up to 3 or 4 gigabytes of files in one go simply by using this program. You can find detailed, step-by-step instructions from Microsoft here (select your version of Windows in the top right). I would highly recommend also following the instructions to clean up system files, because that’s where you’ll clear out the remnants of Windows Update installation files, which can get pretty big!

You can also use other respected cleaning software to clear out additional files. CCleaner is my go-to software in this case.

3. If you never hibernate your computer, turn off that option

This mainly applies to Windows 7 users, as hibernate is turned off by default in Windows 8 and 8.1. But in Windows 7, the hibernate feature is generally enabled by default. This feature can take up anywhere from 3 to 16 gigabytes, depending on your computer. That’s a lot of space if you never even use that feature!

If you’re not familiar with the command window (the what now?), Microsoft has a simple script you can download and run to disable hibernation – and one to enable it again, if you find you suddenly miss it.
Featured image: Bart Willemstein
What other methods do you use to keep your computer’s space free? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Google Maps has always been a great tool for getting directions and looking up places you’re about to visit. But did you know that it can do a lot more? Here are three of its lesser-known features that you might find useful in your everyday life.

#1 Get directions for public transport

Screenshot 2014-05-19 15.05.53

For many major cities around Australia and the world, Google Maps can provide public transport directions. (Melbourne is the only capital city still not on board – sorry Melbournians!)

It’s as simple as going to the site, typing in “<Place A> to <Place B>” and selecting the little train symbol just above the list of directions. Google Maps not only provides the name of the train line or the bus number, it also tells you what time it arrives at your stop.
Note: Only useful if your public transport actually follows the schedule!

I especially love this feature when I’m overseas and have no clue what bus goes where, or which stop to get off. It really helps when I can’t read the language.

It can also provide walking and cycling directions, and local flights. You can find the full list of cities where public transport is covered here.

#2 See real-time traffic conditions

Screenshot 2014-05-19 15.36.06

If you’re driving, you can zoom in on the map and see the traffic conditions on your route. Blue means conditions are as normal, yellow means mild congestion, red means congestion, and dark red means you’d better have some good music on your stereo because you’re going to be there a while.

You can also search for traffic near a place by simply typing “traffic near <place name>”. In this case, free-flowing traffic is green instead of blue. It’s very useful when you want to know what traffic is like along your usual routes, so you can detour if necessary.

#3 Explore an area

Screenshot 2014-05-19 15.51.53

You can choose a city you’ll be visiting (or even your own, if you’re so inclined!) and click on the little photo and arrow icon on the bottom right corner of Google Maps. It’s just below the “+” and “-” buttons for zooming in and out.

This pops up a strip along the bottom of your page which lists many popular sights in the area. You can click on them to see photos of each attraction, and it even draws a line to show the exact location on the main map. It’s a great way to plan a trip, and get an idea of what you want to see. Or for those who can’t afford to travel, it’s also a great way to have a mini-holiday from the comfort of your own home!

What Google Maps features do you like to use, or find particularly useful? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!