What Are TMP Files?

By Amanda Kondolojy

Temporary (TMP) files are a fixture of the modern computing landscape and are used by a variety of programs. By understanding what these files are and how they are used by your favorite programs, you can learn how to deal with them and how they help your computer run faster.

Programs that Use TMP Files

Although you may not see them directly, temporary files are used by many of the programs you use every day. When you use your Internet browser, whether it is Firefox, Internet Explorer or Chrome, sites that you visit frequently are saved as temporary files known collectively as a "cache." Word processors like Microsoft Word and Open Office also use temporary files to save documents for recovery in case of a crash. Even photo software creates temporary files for faster loading of frequently edited photos.


There are two basic functions for temporary files within program parameters. The first is to make the program run faster. By keeping cached versions of frequently visited websites in temporary folders, the Internet can load basic templates and repeated elements much faster than if it were loading the page for the first time. Temporary files also help safeguard important files from being lost due to an unexpected program termination after a system freeze or unanticipated shutdown.

TMP Files on Your Desktop

In addition to temporary files being used with programs, TMP files are also created by your operating system. If you are downloading a large file to your desktop, a temporary file is created to house the data downloaded thus far. This ensures that if the download is interrupted, it can be resumed from where it left off, using the data contained in the temporary file.

Opening TMP Files

If you find a temporary file and click on it, you will not be able to open it. However, if there is something in the temporary file you need to access, there are a number of ways to open it. The best (and generally most successful) way to open a temporary file is to open the program it was created with and then browse for and open the file. If this causes an error and the file is a word-processing file, you can try opening it in Notepad.

When to Clear

Although temporary files generally make programs run faster, if you have too many of them saved on your computer, you may notice a slowdown. To delete temporary Internet files, open your browser, go to the Tools menu and select "Options." If you are using Internet Explorer, Click on "Delete" under "Browsing History." For Firefox, Select "Clear Private Information" under the "Security" tab. To delete all your other program-related temporary files, find the Disk Cleanup utility on your computer (in the Accessories folder under "System Tools"), check the box that says "Temporary Files" and then click "Delete."

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