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But what if you don’t want to wipe your computer clean? If this is the case, you’ll need to use a few specific utilities if you’d like to clean up your computer to return it to a near-new state. This method isn’t always quicker than reinstalling Windows, but it’s often preferable if you don’t want to worry about losing files or you don’t have a Windows install disc handy. Let’s take a look at what you’ll need to finish the job.
Use Windows Backup and Restore
Recent versions of Windows, including Windows Vista and 7, include a Backup and Restore feature in the control panel. This feature lets you restore your computer to a previous state by using the Open System Restore option, which begins a simple process that basically rewinds your computer to an earlier state.
This is easy, but there is one critical issue – you actually need a restore point to restore from! It’s not uncommon for a computer to ship with one already configured, but if you or the manufacturer didn’t already do this, you’ll have to use the steps below.
Uninstall Unwanted Programs
The gradual accumulation of software on a computer often results in reduced performance, and uninstalling the programs that did not come with your PC often improve performance – or at least free up some hard drive space. Starting with the uninstallation of unwanted programs is recommended.
Most programs can be uninstalled using the Programs and Features tool in the Windows control panel, but some may be stubborn and refuse to uninstall correctly. I suggest using Revo Uninstaller, or a similar program, to take care of programs that refuse to leave quietly.
Clean Up The Windows Registry
Once you uninstall a program, it’s gone, right? Actually, that’s not always the case. Windows includes a database known as the registry that includes information about programs installed, and while uninstalling a program is theoretically meant to remove the program’s registry entries, that doesn’t always happen. A bloated registry can sometimes reduce performance, so it’s a good idea to try and make it like new.
There are a lot of registry cleaning tools, but Wise Registry Cleaner is the option that receives our top recommendation. Whatever tool you use, remember to create a Windows backup (remember the Backup and Restore feature) because there is always a very, very slight risk of registry damage, which can cripple your computer.
Disable Startup Programs
Even after you have uninstalled unwanted programs, you may still have some issues with slow boot times if you have too many programs trying to run when your computer starts.
To disable some programs, go to the Windows Search bar and then type in “msconfig.” Navigate to the Startup tab and review the programs listed. These are the programs that load when your computer boots. You can disable specific programs by de-selecting their checkbox and then clicking OK.
If you find that you’ve disabled a program that is truly useful, you can always return to msconfig and enable the program again.
Restore Windows Defaults
Over time, you may make changes to a number of critical Windows features. It is difficult to cover every single feature in Windows that can be restored to default settings, but here are some that are commonly changed and easily restored. Note that the below instructions are for computers using Windows 7.
Restore Browser Defaults
If you’re using Internet Explorer, you can use the Internet Options menu in the Windows Control Panel. There are Default buttons in the Security, Privacy, Programs and Advanced tabs. Google Chrome and Firefox have similar buttons in their respective Options menus.
Restore Firewall Defaults
The Windows Firewall options can be found in the Windows Control Panel. There is a Restore Firewall Defaults option on the left hand options menu. Note that you may not want to restore this to default if you’ve made specific changes to the firewall’s rules.
The Folders Options window can be accessed from the Windows Control Panel. The Restore Defaults option is in the lower right hand corner.
Right-click on Libraries icon and then click Restore Default Libraries. You can find the Libraries icon in the left-hand frame of Windows Explorer.
Restore Your Media Player
Most media players have an option that will let you dismantle your current media library and rebuild it from scratch. This isn’t a bad idea if your media files have turned into a mess.
The Start Menu can be returned to its default settings by right-clicking on Start (or the Start Icon), entering the Properties window, and then clicking the Customize button. The Use Default Settings button will appear at the bottom of the Customize Start Menu window.
Right-click the Taskbar, then click on Properties. Strangely, there is no default button. The default settings are as follows; all options under Taskbar Appearance unchecked, Taskbar location set to Bottom, Taskbar buttons set to Always combine, hide labels.
Remove Old Devices And Printers
The Devices and Printers section of the Windows Control Panel is the place to go if you need to remove peripheral hardware that is no longer in use. This usually doesn’t have an impact on performance, but has other benefits – for example, removing several old printers can making printing more intuitive.
Following these steps should restore your computer to a near-new state. This is not as complete as reinstalling Windows, and this process is not recommended if you’re trying to restore your computer after a malware attack. If you’re simply trying to speed up your computer, reduce clutter, or wipe it clean for a new user, the steps above should prove sufficient.