This article discusses Windows temporary files and is organized into the following two sections:

  • Definition of Windows Temporary Files
  • What to Do with Temporary Files

Definition of Windows Temporary Files

A Windows temporary file is created under the following three circumstances:

Windows Desktop applications, such as Write, and multiple document interface (MDI) applications, such as Excel, create temporary files to handle necessary user editing.

Because a Desktop application cannot have multiple documents open at once, it must immediately create a temporary file that allows you to undo any editing. MDI applications create temporary files only when necessary (for related editing), rather than for every worksheet that is open.

When you run an MS-DOS-based standard application with Windows/286, Windows/286 creates a temporary file (for example, ~PIFCHFA.TMP) so that it can swap to disk to make room for other applications to use memory.

When you print from Windows or any Windows-based application with the spooler enabled, Windows creates temporary files on the hard disk. Windows spools the print job to the temporary file and then sends it to the appropriate printer as a background operation.
Note: Microsoft recommends that you have approximately 2 megabytes (MB) of free disk space available for the creation of temporary files.

What to Do with Temporary Files

A number of files may appear on the hard drive in various directories beginning with a tilde character (~) and ending with a .TMP extension. These may be temporary files created by Windows that remain on the hard drive due to an irregular exit from a Windows session.

Under normal conditions, these files are closed and deleted by Windows when you quit a Windows session. However, if you quit Windows in an irregular way (for example, restarting the computer or turning it off during an active Windows session) the files are not closed or deleted.

The temporary files should be located in a designated subdirectory of their own. If temporary files appear in the root directory, you may have an invalid SET TEMP statement. Check for the following conditions:

Using a text editor, such as Microsoft Windows Notepad, open the AUTOEXEC.BAT file and make sure it includes a valid SET TEMP statement. This statement should be similar to the following:


Note the path that the SET TEMP statement points to and check to ensure that such a subdirectory does exist. If not, create a subdirectory to match the SET TEMP statement.
If the SET TEMP statement is pointing to a RAM drive, make sure the RAM drive is large enough to hold the temporary files being created.
By ensuring that there is a valid SET TEMP statement and a separate subdirectory for temporary files, these files can easily be deleted on a regular basis.

To delete a temporary file, use the following steps:

  • Close Windows.
  • From the MS-DOS command prompt, change to the TEMP directory.
  • Delete any existing .TMP files. Make sure Windows is not running at the time these files are deleted. Some of these .TMP files may be files that Windows is using.

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