TMP files: what is the deal with temporary files?

Temporary files, also referred to as TMP files, are automatically created and deleted from a computer. They store data temporarily which means they need less memory and thus improve the performance of a computer. But when too many of them are automatically stored and left behind, they can rapidly fill up your computer’s disk space. Thus, it’s important to delete these files manually and perform a thorough clean-up of your computer’s temporary memory. So, what do temporary files do, and when do they become a problem?

What is a TMP file?

Temporary files are automatically created by computer programs or by an operating system. They can be recognised by the extension .tmp. Usually, they are stored for as long as they are needed. Once the program has been closed or the system is shut down, all the used TMP files are deleted.

Let’s look at an example. When you open a Word document and type something into it, a temporary file is automatically created to auto-save your text. This process happens in the background without the user being aware or notified that a backup copy was made. Once you manually save your document and close it, the temporary file will be deleted because it is no longer needed.

However, it is not uncommon for some of these files not to be deleted automatically. Generally, that’s not an issue. Yet, over time, a lot of temporary files can build up and this can take up disk space. As a consequence, you may notice performance issues. To prevent this from happening, you can manually delete any unneeded TMP files and clean up your computer.

Note

If for some reason you need to access and view the contents of a TMP file, you can do so by simply opening a temporary file.

The purpose of temporary files

The main purpose of creating temporary files is to free up memory on your computer. By caching data, memory can be used elsewhere. Temporary files also help to prevent data loss. For example, Microsoft Word ensures that a document can be restored from a TMP file in case of a crash or an expected power cut. In addition, temporary files facilitate data exchange between different programs.


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