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Nobody is perfect. Despite all the advice available online, many of us make silly mistakes. Don’t want to be caught acting like a computer noob? Consult this list of usual slip-ups to avoid.

Using Pre-Installed Free Stuff

Don’t get me wrong. Not all pre-installed applications are bad. But for some you may have no use and others may even turn out to be sub-standard and slow down your computer.

Checking your PC for each item you didn’t ask for will probably take you a while. But, this is the only way to make sure you get rid of everything you don’t want. Thankfully, there are some tools to help you with this process. One of these is PC Decrapifier.

This free application helps you identify unwanted junk. Once you run the wizard it shows you a checklist with recommendations. Tick the programs, icons and start-up items that don’t want and then click the Next button as shown in the screenshot below.

PC-decrapifier

For more information please read Tim’s article on how to remove unwanted crapware How To Remove Unwanted Crapware From Your Brand New Windows 7 System How To Remove Unwanted Crapware From Your Brand New Windows 7 System Read More . How To Remove Unwanted Crapware From Your Brand New Windows 7 System How To Remove Unwanted Crapware From Your Brand New Windows 7 System Read More  I also recommend you check out our Best Windows Software page for a list of useful software.

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Default Installations

Everyone loves free stuff! Unfortunately, free software is often ad-supported and in many cases the installer comes bundled with additional products or ad-ware, which can slow down your computer. Thus, anytime you download a free Windows application, you must do a custom install. With a custom install, you can opt out of crapware, say a browser toolbar or another application.

Ask Search toolbar - home page override - Trillian

Registry Cleaning

It’s a myth; registry cleaning does not speed up your computer Using Registry Cleaner: Does Is It Really Make a Difference? Using Registry Cleaner: Does Is It Really Make a Difference? Advertisements for registry cleaners are all over the Web. There’s an entire industry out there bent on convincing inexperienced computer users that their registry needs fixing, and that, for ten easy payments of $29.95, their... Read More . Unfortunately, the tale that has been spun on the Internet tells a different story. Do not believe the hype. In fact, you may slow down your computer by running a registry cleaner.

Too Much Disk Defragmentation

Windows defragments your drive in the background automatically so most people don’t need to defragment their hard disk manually. You should only defragment your hard drive if it is 5-10% fragmented. And, this is only if it is a magnetic hard drive (HDD).  Solid State Drives (SSD) do not benefit from defragmentation 3 Top Tips To Maintain Performance & Extend The Life Of Your SSD 3 Top Tips To Maintain Performance & Extend The Life Of Your SSD For years, standard hard drives have been the speed limiting factor in overall system responsiveness. While hard drive size, RAM capacity, and CPU speed have grown almost exponentially, the spinning speed of a hard drive,... Read More , you only end up shortening their life span.

windows-disk-defragmenter

Not Restarting The Computer

Anytime you notice your Windows machine behaving weird for no clear reason, first try to reboot Why Does Rebooting Your Computer Fix So Many Issues? Why Does Rebooting Your Computer Fix So Many Issues? "Have you tried rebooting?" It's technical advice that gets thrown around a lot, but there's a reason: it works. Not just for PCs, but a wide range of devices. We explain why. Read More and see if that solves the problem. Rebooting is considered a cure-all of sorts that fixes a ton of problems. A few examples of problems that can be fixed with a simple reboot include; slow running, programs using too much memory, Internet or WiFi connection problems and the Windows blue screen of death.

windows7-reboot

Failure To Back Up Data

There are many reasons for data loss, but some of the most common include: accidental deletion, hard disk damage or failure, viruses, power disruption and improper shutdown.

If you lost your data tomorrow, would you have backup copies of all your important documents? You need a rock solid backup strategy to mitigate the ever-present threat of data loss. There are several ways to backup your data. You can backup to an external hard drive, use a cloud storage service or a network drive. If using Windows 7, you can make use of the backup and restore feature How To Set Up & Use Windows 7 Backup & Restore Feature How To Set Up & Use Windows 7 Backup & Restore Feature It's hardly a secret when I tell you that sooner or later you will need a backup of your personal data. Do you have one right now? What keeps most people from preparing regular backups... Read More while Windows 8 has a built-in time machine backup Did You Know Windows 8 Has a Built-In Time Machine Backup? Did You Know Windows 8 Has a Built-In Time Machine Backup? We sometimes forget with all the focus on Windows 8's new "Modern" interface, but Windows 8 has a variety of great desktop improvements. One of them is File History, a built-in backup feature that functions... Read More .

For more detailed information, please read our PC Backup and Restore guide. Don’t be one of those people who ignore backups until they lose their files. Be proactive and start creating backups today.

computer-backup

Failure to Keep Your Windows OS & Other Essential Software Up-To-Date

Developers roll out new updates for several reasons. The main ones include; rolling out new features, fixing bugs, patching security loopholes and making the system more secure. Failure to update your OS and essential software leaves you vulnerable to security breaches. The best way to ensure you do not forget to update Windows is to turn on automatic updating.

In Windows 7, go to Control Panel > System and Security >Action Center. Under Windows Update, click Change Settings and select the ‘Install updates automatically’ option. In Windows 8, click or tap Settings > PC Settings > Update and Recovery. Under Recommended Updates select the “Give me recommended updates the same way I receive important updates” check box, and click Apply.

windows7-update-settings

Also, schedule your antivirus to check for updates once a day. Virus databases are updated almost daily to immediately address new risks.

Are you guilty of any of these computing sins? Do you know of any other common computer mistakes? Please share your insights with us in the comments below.

Image credit: Backup Key via Shutterstock

  1. Mike
    March 2, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    The only thing I am willingly and constantly avoiding is windows update. This is annoying and I don't think it is of that much help, since there is no such thing as protection online and besides, these updates come with a bunch of things that you may not want or need. Why should I stuff my HDD with a lot of things that I might not need and that I am supposed to believe that I desperately need? So I just stick to updating my antivirus. And it seems to work just fine. In case of emergency there is always live Linux such as Slax or Knoppix or Ubuntu.

  2. dan
    February 27, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    It saddens me to read those comments about other OS when dealing about specific MS issues.
    All OSs have issues. For example absolute neglect from Apple support. I am in my 5th month of trying to fix an Configurator problem and loss of codes for our 40 Pads! Not to mention connectivity problems with our Apple various laptops and the lack of an Explorer/file manager. I spend more time fixing our 15 Apple systems than looking after my two network with 70 odd MS machines, at least this is my experience for all its worth.
    I love various Linux distros, but unfortunately it does not or cannot do simple things (like a TV software like my old Total media 3.5, out of the box) and even common hardware items are not supported.
    MS, with all its many faults, is still a fantastic system.
    So let's concentrate on making it work for us.

  3. A&L
    February 27, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    I've used ccleaner reg cleaner for years and never a problem or slow down
    I run a defrag program every couple months
    Use revo uninstall
    Use malwarebytes
    Use MSE, never had any problems with virus

    First thing i ask people if they're having a problem is:
    'Have you tried forcing and unexpected reboot?' :-)
    usually fixes their problem

    • kihara
      February 28, 2014 at 5:33 am

      Good point on rebooting.

  4. Bud
    February 27, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    "Some of these"are ok for different OS's, but for me using an Apple iMac, I've found that using
    "CleanMyMac" software, does all that I need to do and allows my iMac to hum along quite well !

    Just a personal opinion only and I'm NOT pushing any kind of agenda here, but do notice ALL of the suggestions and advice given for Windows, which in retrospect makes me quite happy that I now use an Apple computer .

    • kihara
      February 28, 2014 at 5:33 am

      Good for you!

  5. Richard Palmer
    February 27, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    Most of these problems can be avoided by switching from Microsoft to Linux.

    • kihara
      February 28, 2014 at 5:09 am

      Good point!

    • eselma
      February 28, 2014 at 11:45 am

      Yes, I had not any of the related problems from 1999 onwards. Exactly the time from when I switched to GNU/Linux. There are several flavours to choose from, even some that mimics Windows.

    • Richard Palmer
      February 28, 2014 at 1:00 pm

      @ eselma
      Yes, it's always baffled me that people continue to slog on with expensive and time consuming MS and Apple systems when the Linux alternatives have become so easy to install and use. There's not enough space here to extol all their virtues.

      For those who wish to try, Distrowatch.com is good for detailed info about the different flavours of GNU/Linux. I've tried most of the more mainstream ones but settled on Xubuntu LTS as my principle system for work and play.

      The Puppy Linux systems are good and easy to use also (particularly for old computers and alongside Windows installations). The full Puppy Linux OS with all the usual software applications weighs in at around 150 Mbytes. With a software package such as Unetbootin one can even install the OS onto a small usb drive and work from that. The system runs from RAM and is hence very fast. Backing up Puppy is astonishingly easy too, see their Website for full info.

    • James B
      February 28, 2014 at 1:14 pm

      Absolutely. And you'll get a whole host of new problems to deal with instead, as well as a complete lack of decent software and the ability to run games. HUZZAH!

    • Richard Palmer
      February 28, 2014 at 1:26 pm

      @ James B
      Well I don't play games on my computer, but check out "Steam OS" for the Linux solution to this.
      I cannot agree about the lack of decent software. My company has been using Linux for the last 10 years doing commercial work in a civil engineering consultancy environment. All our requirements - office suite, pdf editors, tech drawing, planning and project management and much more - have been met in full by the available software.
      I also use Linux also for all my A/V home entertainment. No complaints here.

  6. Burt P
    February 27, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    OS Updates are very important and should be applied when Microsoft deploys them. Today, fear of breaking your system is minimal. Prior to Windows XP, I think that was a real fear. I would concede that even during the early days of Windows XP there were incidents, but in my experience, Windows 7 has not suffered from this. I maintain 20+ Windows 7 & 8 machines and have not had any update that messed up any of these machines. I also use Automatic Updates. So far, Microsoft seems to have improved the quality of their updates.
    One should remember that Windows has to work with a vast variety of hardware and software. If machines have obscure and unusual hardware and software then the chances of encountering problems increase. Poorly coded software can of course cause problems. I would say that machines with "mainstream" hardware and software, updates have been very good. I hope I have not spoken too soon.

  7. James Portelli
    February 27, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    Good article except the "Windows blue screen of death." I haven't met a BSOD for the past 13 years (since Windows switched to NT kernel). I don't know why authors keep on insisting on the "famous" BSOD.

    Anyway the PC restarts on itself when it meets a BSOD, so I don't know how restarting a PC will cure BSOD!!!

    BSOD is a sign of malfunctioning hardware or corrupt video drivers and no amount of restarting will cure it!

    BSODs used to be common in the years pre-NT kernel when users could install unsigned drivers, or build their own PCs with cheap, defective memory modules. NT kernel (Windows 2000, XP onwards) made it more difficult to install unsigned drivers.

    • FlyingAce
      February 27, 2014 at 4:10 pm

      I had a BSOD some time ago, on a laptop running Windows 7... whatever the problem was, it must have sorted itself out when I rebooted the computer, as I've had no issues at all since.

    • James Portelli
      February 27, 2014 at 6:37 pm

      Good for you. My point was...
      BSODs do a memory dump and restart the PC on their own. It's not like you have any other choice but see the PC restart... usually on its own.

      Besides, "Not Restarting The Computer".. I don't agree that you should restart the computer often, especially the latest Windows versions and if you're running on a hard disk. I restart my laptop around once a month. The rest is in sleep mode or hibernate mode. I don't install crappy stuff on it. It runs faster the longer I use it. (8Gb RAM helps - it's called caching). Restarting the PC often will erase this cache and start all over again. It's not good practice especially if PC runs on a slow hard disk.

    • kihara
      February 28, 2014 at 5:32 am

      James, it's like a broad spectrum antibiotic. If that doesn't cure the illness, then you would need further examination and tests.
      The point was not that you should make it a habit to reboot your computer at every opportunity. The point is, when you encounter problems such as the few I mentioned, the initial 'treatment' is rebooting and see if that solves the problem. If it doesn't then you can move on to further diagnosis :)

    • James Portelli
      February 28, 2014 at 1:06 pm

      Well.. fortunately that's not the way we treat patients in medicine Mr. kihara. We avoid antibiotics as much as possible. We only use antibiotics if there is a spreading bacterial infection, especially in susceptible patients (for example in immunocompromised patients). Otherwise we treat the source of infection (foreign body etc.) No, broad spectrum antibiotics are not the first line of treatment in any case. That would be gross negligence and malpractice.

      Agreed that the initial ‘treatment’ is rebooting in some cases, but as explained above the BSOD has nothing to do with this.

  8. dragonmouth
    February 27, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    Not cleaning your Registry is like not cleaning out your Temporary Internet FIles, Cookies and/or Temp files. Garbage is garbage. Windows being Windows, the removal of crapware leaves behind thousands of orphaned Registry Keys.

    • Misha J
      March 1, 2014 at 11:15 am

      People do not realize that all starts in registry, do not they?

      Those advanced users among you guys have to check out how many obsolete software keys are still in your registry.
      Do we need them for some reason?
      No of course! And bunch of shared files and other crap additionally.

      So, use CCleaner regularly or create scheduled task to run it on every boot to clean out Temporary Internet Files, to clean out Cookies intelligently (it is an option within a program), and to clean almost all additional system Temp files.

      Those using it for the first time will be surprised what valuable disk space is occupied with crap - in GBs occasionally! In average, only Chrome leaves about 300 MB on every average use.

      For additional maintenance, my suggestion is Glary Utilities with a bunch of tools for tuning your system to run as fast as newly installed.

      And my last one, CLEAN out your registry regularly to prevent weird and unusual behavior of your systems.

  9. G
    February 27, 2014 at 8:56 am

    The automatic Defraging happens at around 3AM on Wednesdays (by default) and most people have their PCs switched off at that time, so it doesn't run.

    I don't use a backup service, but at least I use the cloud to sync my data.

    Unchecky is a very useful software that assists with installations and not installing/adding crapware.

  10. Charley R
    February 27, 2014 at 5:07 am

    I have to disagree, when uninstalling a program (Norton's for instance, I'm looking at you!) leftover registry keys can absolutely be the cause of wierd and wonderful behaviour, hence the success of Revvo Uninstaller as this will scan and prompt for removal the obscure traces left post uninstallation...

    Add:

    First thing we do for a new PC is a Restore Point.
    Next is to install firefox (open a "My Computer" and type ftp://ftp.mozilla.org -> Firefox -> Releases -> Please "L" on the Keyboard for "Latest" and OS Version (Windows is Win32) and right-click save to folder), this way most client don't ever/even have to launch Internet Explorer, then add extensions: Web of Trust, Adblock Plus, Lazarus, Close tab by double click, Firegestures.

    Fast, secure, easy navigable web browser.

    Ninite for fresh apps install - PDF Printer and Reader, Security Software etc.

    Patchmypc.net to ensure apps are the lasted version.

    • kihara
      February 28, 2014 at 5:14 am

      Registry cleaning is a bad idea. But, if you must, just go with CCleaner. Its free. Forget the hype about registry cleaners and DON'T pay for anything.

  11. Mike
    February 27, 2014 at 2:58 am

    I'm not clear WHY registry cleaning is a bad thing, assuming the analysis (and cleaning) is being performed by a respected quality tool. I scan my registry after most major software installs and uninstalls to detect dangling entries, orphan or erroneous links.

    • Mike Merritt
      February 27, 2014 at 3:49 pm

      Mike: Registry cleaning is NOT a bad thing. The use of inferior quality "Registry Cleaners" and clicking on the "Do all the cleanups without showing me" buttons; is a bad thing. A reputable cleaner and a look at what it's about to do, and creating a "Restore Point" first, will keep things neat and tidy ... Albeit, your computer probably won't run any faster or better afterwards.

    • kihara
      February 28, 2014 at 5:03 am

      Registry cleaning is a bad thing and your computer won't run faster or better. If you follow the link to the more detailed registry cleaning article by Chris Hoffman ...i'm dropping the link here again http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/registry-cleaner-difference/ ...you will realize just how useless registry cleaners are. DON'T use a registry cleaner. EVER.

    • James L
      February 28, 2014 at 2:34 pm

      The article made sense up until it said "never use registry cleaners". Really??? Because I have found that ALWAYS will improve performance on a system. Using a tool like CCleaner cleans up all the stray temp files, and then I run it's registry cleaner. NEVER have I had to use on of it's backup files to restore the registry settings after cleaning them up. registry cleaning is especially useful when cleaning up after removing an application with a poorly-designed or non-existent uninstaller. Defragmenting is critical too. Of course, even more helpful is to boot with a Linux liveCD and cleaning up the stuff you can't remove while MSWin is running. And finish that off by deleting pagefile.sys (and hiberfil.sys, if that exists) and replace them with zero-byte files. Or boot with UBCD-Win, which will let you do all those things *and* defragment the drive before bringing up the installed MSWin environment again.

  12. Adrian
    February 27, 2014 at 2:32 am

    The horror stories I could tell about Windows updates that seriously #$@!ed up comptuers that needed hours of troubleshooting and sometimes a complete re-install to rectify.

    Updates? No thanks. The exceptions are updates that are necessary for a piece of software to run and even so you can download just the ones that you need...not the plethora of ones "recommended" by MS.

    • Steve S
      March 1, 2014 at 11:39 am

      AMEN!! The recent IE 11 "update" wreaked havoc on my machine - and many other's I know.
      The dude at MSN technical support that assisted me with clearing that rubbish intimated that it was indeed becoming a small epidemic.
      Every expert whose advice I respect, including the dude who wrote "Windows 7 for Dummies" recommends NOT to allow Windows to automatically update!

    • Steve S
      March 1, 2014 at 11:40 am

      My comments require no "moderation" (censorship)!

  13. Jean Chicoine
    February 27, 2014 at 2:00 am

    Two years ago I bought a brand new desktop computer. It came with Windows 7 but, hey, it was on celarance and it was a good deal. So, for fun, once back home, I fired it up just to look at what came with the OEM installation. I couldn't believe the stuff that had been added. But no problem, I've been a Linux user for years, so I install Ubuntu, by the same token erasing Windows and the added stuff.
    However, I help many of my acquaintances with their Windows machine, a few of them that I converted to Linux, and I give them basically the same advices as in your article, especially when downloading stuff. Too many people download apps without looking at what's piggybacking on the download and they end up with stuff they have no idea where it's coming from.

    • kihara
      February 28, 2014 at 4:42 am

      Sounds like you are a die-hard Linux fan but I agree, Ubuntu is a pretty good alternative to Windows on many fronts.

  14. Mike Merritt
    February 26, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    Say What ? (re- Registry Cleaning) ... your use of negative/positive sentences makes for great English composition - but poor clarity ...

    So: To Register Clean or not ? That is the question !

    • Justin P
      February 27, 2014 at 12:09 am

      Don't use registry cleaners. Ever.

    • Boss
      February 27, 2014 at 1:22 am

      I fail to see what was unclear. The article said do NOT do it, and that it could CAUSE problems if you do.

    • Schvenn M
      February 27, 2014 at 2:11 am

      Cleaning the Registry may not help, but defragmenting it will.

    • Mike Merritt
      February 27, 2014 at 3:41 pm

      The article says: "It’s a myth; registry cleaning does not speed up your computer."
      So: is the myth that registry cleaning does not speed up ... or is it something unnamed that is a myth ... and the truth is: "Registry cleaning does not ..."
      I stand by the fact that the original article leads to confusion, and I appreciate all the clear statements in the replies above.

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