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Summer starts today. It’s the longest day of the year and it’s not too late for some last minute spring cleaning. Of course keeping your system clear of junk is always a good idea. However, here’s a quick six step guide to unclutter your system, increase its performance and speed it up.

The image to the left was graciously provided by Roma Flowers via stock.xchng.

1. Unclutter

Remove excess software through >start >control panel >software. If something won’t uninstall because it was never installed properly in the first place, try Microsoft’s Windows Installer CleanUp Utility.

For one, unused software takes up space which you might want to use differently. What you should also keep in mind is that outdated software poses a potential risk, possibly harboring security holes that may serve as entry points for malware.

2. Clean up

Installing and uninstalling software will leave traces. To get rid of the junk, clean the registry and delete all left over files. A great tool for this is CCleaner, which has been mentioned many times at Make Use Of, and which will take care of many more nasty problems.

3. Clear & Compress

One quick and easy step to empty the recycle bin, remove temporary files and compress rarely used files, free space and remove junk!

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– Click [Windows] + [R], the Run dialog box will open.
– Type “Cleanmgr.exe” (without brackets), another dialog box will pop up.
– Select the drive you wish to clean.
– Wait for the application to complete its calculations.
– Select files you wish to clear and actions you wish to take.
– Click >OK to confirm and let it do its job.

4. Control Autostart Programs

Lots of tools insert themselves into the Autostart folder or boot process, but many of them just eat up resources without ever being of any use whatsoever. A free tool which allows you to control which programs run when you’re booting your system is Startup Control Panel.

5. Defrag


Defragmentation is a process which physically reorganizes data written onto a disk. The goal is to not have gaps between pieces of a file, but rather store them contiguously. This is something you best do when you won’t need your machine for a few hours. Overnight is a good idea.

You can defrag your hard drives as follows:

    – Go to >Start >Programs >Accessories >System Tools >Disk Defragmenter
    – The defragmentation window will open.
    – Click >Analyze to see whether a defrag is necessary.
    – Choose the volume you wish to defrag and click >Defragment.

What many people don’t know is that you cannot only defrag hard drives, you can also defrag the registry! For the registry defragmentation however you will need a tool, for example Free Registry Defrag.

MakeUseOf did a good article on Five Free Programs to Defragment your PC Five Free Programs to Defragment your PC Five Free Programs to Defragment your PC Read More . Definitely check it out.

Finally: Speed Logoff

Is your system taking ages to shut down? Chances are it’s waiting for files that seem blocked by a faulty program or driver. It takes ages, i.e. a long internal timeout, until Windows forces the handle to unload. Microsoft provides a tool called User Profile Hive Cleanup Service which can speed up this process.

For more information on how to spruce up an old installation, make it faster and safer, please check out these great Make Use Of articles:

The Cut Out and Keep Guide to Essential Software Programs The Cut Out and Keep Guide to Essential Software Programs The Cut Out and Keep Guide to Essential Software Programs Read More by Mark O’Neill

10 Quick Fixes to Make your Windows Computer Faster 10 Quick Fixes to Make your Windows Computer Faster 10 Quick Fixes to Make your Windows Computer Faster Read More by Shankar Ganesh

Best Programs To Keep Your Computer Secure Best Programs To Keep Your Computer Secure Best Programs To Keep Your Computer Secure Read More by Will Mueller

Needless to say, you should ALWAYS keep virus and malware protection updated, and it’s recommendable to repeat steps 1 through 5 on a more regular basis than just once a year.

What’s your routine? Do you have a more radical attitude and actually enjoy a fresh installation once a year? Please give us your feedback.

  1. jitters
    June 23, 2008 at 10:48 am

    I am paranoid when it comes to computer maintenance, I run my virus and spyware scans religiously! CCleaner is my favourite diskcleaning tool and my drives are kept organized by Diskeeper ( definitely recommend this to anyone who hates defragging cause it takes way too long, the set it and forget it feature works like a charm). I also declutter my stuff every once a while, uninstalling unwanted programs and deleting stuff i dont need cause its very easy to end up filling terrabytes in no time!

  2. Vivie
    June 23, 2008 at 12:57 am

    Wow. Great stuff. I always thought this kind of thing was reserved for the highly technically inclined. Thanks to this website - i'm becoming a techhie demon, and best of all,can make my nerdy brother raise his eyebrows at my newly acquired prowess! :)

    • Tina
      June 23, 2008 at 3:23 am

      Vivie, comments like yours make me happy! :D Thanks for the feedback and I hope it all went smooth and you feel encouraged to take a little more control over your computer. After all, computers are only as smart as the person running them. ;)

  3. Bertus
    June 22, 2008 at 4:18 am

    Great, I'll start right now :)

  4. Lee Mathews
    June 22, 2008 at 7:43 am

    Two I'd add to the mix: Piriform's defraggler.com and glaryutilities.com Glary Utilities Free. Windows defrag is horribly slow most of the time, and you pretty much have to do it in safe mode. Defraggler works well without having to go through that.

    Glary has much of the same functionality as CCleaner with a couple nice bonuses added on, like a basic spyware scan.

    Also, don't forget to dust. If you've got a decent air compressor and a blowgun, use that (we run a 180PSI one at the shop). Canned air just can't cut the mustard by comparison, but careful not to overspin your fans!

    • Tina
      June 23, 2008 at 3:21 am

      You're right Lee, using an extra tool to defrag is a good idea. That's why I linked to the other posts on MUO that do cover Defraggler and many more awesome tools for anyone serious about running a smooth and clean system. Yet, for the very, very basic defragmentation the default Windows tool is better than nothing.
      I had not heard of Glary Utilities Free, got to check it out. Thanks for the hint!

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