It's not unusual to find more than 2,000 fonts on a personal computer. This can slow down your computer when it starts up and can make it sluggish every time you access a font in one of your programs.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


How to clean out unwanted fonts on a Windows PC or Apple Mac

March 4, 2012

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2012, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2012, The Post-Standard

I've written often about the need to clean out your PC or Mac to keep it running right. But I've neglected another cause of slowdowns -- font overload.

Having hundreds of fonts, the files that create various letter shapes, is no problem. But many PC and Mac users have far more. It's not unusual to find more than 2,000 fonts on a personal computer, most of them totally unnecessary. This can slow down your computer when it starts up and can make it sluggish every time you access a font in one of your programs. Excess fonts also take up valuable space.

How do all those fonts get there?

Some fonts are required. Windows and the Mac need 200 or more fonts for what's called "the system" -- for menus and notices on the screen, that sort of thing -- and for the Web browser, which needs them for symbols, odd characters and common foreign languages.

The other fonts -- hundreds and hundreds of them -- come from installations of Microsoft Office and desktop publishing software, from programs such as greeting card makers and, of course, from games. (In my experience, installing a half-dozen games can balloon your fonts by several hundred.)

Unfortunately, both Windows and Macs usually "forget" to remove these extra fonts when you get rid of the offending programs. So -- you guessed it -- in the age of amazing automation, when your phone can find a pizza place and your car can tell you it's time for an oil change, you have to clean up after your guests. You have to pare down these extra fonts yourself.

Before I tell you how, let me give you a very short lecture: (italic) Don't remove the system fonts. (end italic) You'll find a list of system fonts and other do-not-touch fonts at the end of this column.

In Windows 7 and Windows Vista, open the Control Panel and type FONTS into the "Search Control Panel" form at the upper right. Click once on the "Fonts" label in the search results.

The window that opens is, to me, totally useless. But if you single click on a font, you can then choose "Preview" in the menu to view the font at various sizes -- very helpful.

You can hide (in Windows 7) or delete (in Win 7 and Vista) fonts from the menu. "Hide" doesn't help much, because Windows isn't hiding the font from programs that need it, just from you. "Delete" does just what it says, so make sure you have a current backup of your entire drive if you make a mistake.

In Windows XP, open the Control Panel and click "Appearance and Themes," then choose "Fonts." You can delete fonts by selecting them and choosing "Delete."

On a recent Mac, use Spotlight (the spyglass icon) to locate and run Font Book. In the list of fonts, select any and choose "Disable" from a right click. (All Mac mice have right clicks, even if you don't see a right mouse button -- the right button is there, just hidden. But if that's confusing, hold down Control and do a normal click.) You don't need to delete fonts on a Mac; disabling them is much safer.

Windows system fonts that should not be deleted:

(Some fonts on this list might not be on your computer or might be hidden from your view to start with.)

Arial (TrueType)
Arial Bold (TrueType)
Arial Bold Italic (TrueType)
Arial Italic (TrueType)
Courier 10,12,15 (VGA res)
Courier New (TrueType)
Courier New Bold (TrueType)
Courier New Bold Italic (TrueType)
Courier New Italic (TrueType)
Modern (Plotter)
MS Sans Serif 8,10,12,14,18,24 (VGA res)
MS Serif 8,10,12,14,18,24 (VGA res)
Roman (Plotter)
Script (Plotter)
Small fonts (VGA res)
Symbol (TrueType)
Symbol 8,10,12,14,18,24 (VGA res)
Times New Roman (TrueType) -
Times New Roman Bold (TrueType)
Times New Roman Bold Italic (TrueType)
Times New Roman Italic (TrueType)
Wingdings (TrueType)
Any font with a red A for its icon.
Any font that begins with the letters MS.

*Marlett is a hidden system file and it will not show up in a search, however, it may show up in your program font lists.

Mac system fonts that should not be deleted:

There is no need for a list. Font Book won't let you delete or disable any system fonts.