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For things like dealing with skype and pulseaudio problems, I'm routinely advised by various internet sources to delete my foldername folders in my user's home directory (such as .pulse .skype). It does generally seem to work. What is this actually doing, and why am I advised to do it?

Also, if this does fix programs, why aren't they set to delete their own folders there? What are these for when they work?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Well, typically, those folders contain program's user-specific settings. I.e. those settings that are set on a user-by-user basis. For example, in Skype that would be your personal account, notification, audio/video settings etc. Unfortunately, this is often the case that some of the settings get messed up and it is quite hard to figure out what exactly is wrong. In that case it may be advised to just delete the whole folder to bring it back to the initial state.

There are also other typical folders containing you program P settings, such as ~/.P, ~/.config/P, ~/.gnome2/P, ~/.gconf/apps/P etc. It all depends on where a particular program stores its settings. When you remove a corresponding folder all the settings for the program are gone.

Now, I believe, this also answers the question why the programs do not do that by themselves.

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There directories contain any personal configurations that you have done to these applications.

Deleting them also deletes any miss-configurations. When an application finds its configuration folder missing, it will typically regenerate a standard configuration that works.

Deleting these configurations every time is not desirable, because they you will always loose any custom configurations that you may have done.

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