Too Many Temporary Files

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated October 1, 2022)
This tip applies to Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


When you use Word, you may have noticed that it creates many temporary files as the program is running. Word does this as a document management scheme—to help improve speed and versatility while editing a document. These files are saved in several different places on your hard drive. The most common place is in the folder where the original document is located.

Some people mistakenly think you can change where Word stores temporary files. If you look at the File Locations tab of the Options dialog box, you can see that there are no settings for temporary files, other than AutoRecover files. (These are not, technically, temporary files. Word creates many more temporary files than just AutoRecover files.) All the other temporary files created by Word are either placed in the system temporary directory (set by the Windows TEMP system environment) or in the folder where the original document (the one related to the temporary files) is located.

When you use the Open dialog box to look for a document, you may see two types of temporary files in a directory. The first uses the same document name as an open document, has a dollar sign as the first character, and uses the DOC file name extension. Word uses this temporary file, again, for document management. The other type of temporary file uses a seemingly random file name with an extension of TMP. These files are created for a wide variety of reasons and purposes, so a large number of them can appear very quickly.

It should be noted that you will only see the TMP temporary files if you have the Files of Type setting in the Open dialog box set to All Files. If you find the TMP files distracting (most people do), you should set the Files of Type setting to a different file type. The TMP files are no longer displayed, and you can more easily focus on the files you need to work with. If you cannot do this (for instance, you routinely work with files that have a different file extension than DOC), then there is no way around wading through the TMP files in your directory.

Theoretically, Word is supposed to delete all of its temporary files when you exit the program. Long-time Word users know that this is not always the case. It is very possible to have TMP files left strewn about your hard drive. Once you have exited Word, it is perfectly OK to delete these files. Typically they are left if Word hangs, if you exit the program abnormally, or if you left a large number of items in the Clipboard when you ended the program.

For more information on how Word uses temporary files, refer to this Knowledge Base article:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/211632

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1389) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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