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Temporary File Definition

Posted on 1998-09-08
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Last Modified: 2010-04-26
Can some body please give me a good definition of a temporary file.

Thanks

Greg
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Question by:gregwasley
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sclitheroe earned 200 total points
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A temporary file is a file created by an application running on your computer to store temporary information.  A few examples of why programs create temporary files:

1. When there isn't enough RAM to hold all the information the program needs.  The application can put some of the data into a temporary file until it needs it, to make room for other data.  Windows itself does this (called Virtual Memory), as do many other advanced operating systems.

2. Programs such as Microsoft Word create temporary files as a backup mechanism.  While you are editing a document, Word will keep a temporary copy of your document in a separate file, in case the program crashes or there is a power failure before you save your changes.  As you work on the document, Word will periodically save the document to the temporary file.  That way, you won't lose your changes if something unfortunate happens.

3. Sorting or converting a file.  Often, programs will use a temporary file when sorting data or converting a file format to another.  They will read data from one file, write it to the temporary file, then at the end either rename or delete the temporary file.

Often, if programs aren't exited from normally (eg. You turn the computer off before shuting down all your applications), temporary files can be left lying around.  If you don't have any programs running, you can usually safely delete these "orphaned" temporary files.

To find out where temporary files are being stored on your computer (if you are running DOS or Windows), you can go to a DOS prompt and type "set" without the quotes.  This will show you a list of environment variables.  Look for ones named TMP or TEMP; they show what directory temporary files will be created in.
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