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Temporary Files

Operating systems and applications use temporary files to store information which is not needed at this moment and could be retrieved later. Temporary files could store small chunks of information or large data backups.

Below are several examples of when temporary files could be used:

  • Data backup. Store the data in a temporary location and restore it in case computer malfunction or other unexpected event happens. A good example of this are temporary files which Microsoft Office creates when you edit document files. When you open the document file and start editing it with Microsoft Office it will create a backup version of the file content every several seconds. And if Microsoft Office or your computer crashes it will restore the data from this backup file when you launch Microsoft Office again.
  • Store information which doesn’t fit in RAM. If your computer has limited amount of RAM or application needs to process significant amount of information it may store this information in a temporary file instead loading it into RAM. Only small chunks of data will be loaded to RAM and processed there. The rest of the data will be in a temporary file on disk. A good example of this is when you are editing a large video file and want to save your edits to disk. Video editing application won’t try to store your final video file in RAM. Instead it will create a temporary file where it will write you final video frame after frame until processing is done.
  • Store information being downloaded from the internet. When you download a file from the internet you receive chunks of the file sequentially. And if the file is large or internet connect is not stable it is a great idea to store chunks downloaded so far to the temporary file on disk. In case the connection is broken and then resumed it will be possible to restart the download from the same chunk where it stopped.