Patrick Kamotho - A Human and Environmental Campaigner Rights Advocate.
Community Advocacy on Environmental and Social Justice
Saturday, 31 March 2012
How to Speed Up, Clean Up, and Revive Your Windows PC
Flowers are blooming and birds are chirping, which means it's time to start your yearly spring cleaning extravaganza. While you're emptying your closets, decluttering, and getting rid of the bloat in your life, why not do the same for your computer? Here are some simple, easy to follow tips to give your trusted Windows PC a little spring cleaning of its own.
Clean Up Your Hardware
We'll start with the outside of your machine, since you probably have all those cleaning products out for your household cleaning anyway (right? right?). Turn it off, unplug everything, and find an open area where you can easily reach everything. Whether you have a laptop or a desktop, your main priority is probably going to be the keyboard and mouse or trackpad. Luckily, you canclean them pretty easily with just a few household objects. If they're looking a little greasy, you can always clean them up with a Mr. Clean magic eraser, too.
Alright, so you've plugged your machine back in at your pristine workspace, and now it's time to get down to the good stuff: software. Before you do anything else, head to Windows Update and make sure all your software is up to date—drivers, service packs, security updates, and so on. Unlike our Mac guide, I don't recommend you upgrade to Windows 7 if you aren't already on it. WithWindows 8 on its way for an October release, upgrading to Windows 7 now just seems like a waste of money. If you're on 7, great—you're running the best version of Windows yet—but if you're on XP or Vista, hold off for just a few months. Even though Windows 8's metro interface isn't that great, it contains a number of other improvements (like speed increases) that are worth waiting for.
If you're starting to run out of space on your drive, it's time to take a really good look at what might be causing it. That means ditching Windows' built-in Disk Cleanup app (which is fine, but probably won't net you a ton of space savings) and check out something like WinDirStat or Disk Space Fan. They'll show you exactly what's taking up so much space on your machine, organized by folder, file type, and more. Armed with that information, you can start deleting stuff you don't need and getting some of that disk space back. For more information, check out our feature on how to analyze, clean out, and free space on your hard drive.
Now it's time to really dig in and start cleaning up the cruft that can slow down your machine. If you don't already have the fantastic CCleaner maintenance tool, download it now and run through its cleaning process. This should clean up some of those extra caches, temporary files, log files, and other things strewn about your system. While you're at it, set it to run on a schedule so you don't have to worry about it ever again.
Apart from that, the only maintenance you need to do (besides the other things mentioned in this post) is keep your antivirus program turned on and up to date. We recommend Microsoft Security Essentials: It's good at killing viruses, and dead simple to use. Most users shouldn't have to do much more than this—Windows 7 users don't need to defragment, clean their registry, mess with Windows prefetching, or do anything else you've been told to do over the years. Check out our guide to Windows maintenance for more info.
Lastly, it's time to back up your newly cleaned PC. Hopefully, you had a backup system in place before this whole thing, but if not, we recommend setting up a bulletproof, offsite backup system with CrashPlan. Once you set it up, you never really have to think about it again. Alternatively, you can always just back up to an external drive using the built-in Windows Backup—I personally use this toback up to my NAS—but we'd still recommend backing up your super important files to something like Dropbox, since this won't protect you from things like fires, earthquakes, drive failures, or anything else that could destroy your backup.
It's worth mentioning, since it's such a popular option, that some people just prefer to reinstall Windows every once in a while to keep everything running smoothly. This is totally fine—I do it myself, in fact, just because I'm a bit OCD that way—but youreally don't have to. As long as you take care of your computer, it should run just as quickly, smoothly, and cleanly as a freshly minted installation.
That's all there is to it. Windows doesn't need quite as much maintenance as it did in the old days, but there will always be a few things you can do from time to time to keep it clean and fast. Have any spring cleaning tips we left out? Share them with us in the comments.