Clean Up - Make Your Computer Once Again Like New
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Clean Up - Make Your Computer Once Again Like New
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  Here I will walk you through step-by-step in cleaning out every area, the things that are bogging down your computer. To assist you, I have been liberal with screenshots which you can click to enlarge any of them. The example I am using is in Windows XP Pro. However the steps in Vista are pretty much the same, bar a few minor differences. I will try and point those differences out as we go. Before we get started, let's look at a few statistics our computer gives us to see where we are at, so we can see how we've improved later.


  Let's start by seeing what type of system you have. Either on the desktop, or in the start menu, find "My Computer". Right click on it and select properties. Under the general tab, like the picture below. It should give you some information like what Operating System you're running, who the computer is registered to, etc. What we want to know is what type of computer you have. It should list what type of processor, and what I want you to remember even more, how much RAM you have. In my case it's 3GB. (Listed here as 2.99GB)




   Next, let's see how much of that RAM is currently being used up by the various programs you have running on your computer, both in the foreground, and the background. On your keyboard, press Control + Alt + Delete at the same time. This should bring up Windows Task Manager as pictured below. The tab we are interested in is the "Performance" Tab, go ahead and click on it so it looks like the picture below.



  In the upper portion you will see CPU Usage, this should be relatively low unless you are actively using programs in a way that they currently are performing calculations. Even now with mine open I have several programs running such as Photoshop which is pretty resource intensive, but not on the CPU, not until I go to save a picture or the like. If you notice you are not actively doing anything on the computer, and your CPU usage is high, then a program or even a virus is actively running, and for whatever the reason, has the need to be actively crunching calculations. The lower half is PF Usage, which stands for Page File Usage. Briefly, a page file is overflow from the RAM to the hard drive. (In my case my Page File Usage is 724MB). The number I want to focus on however is in the boxes below under "Physical Memory (K)". Notice I currently have a total of 3136552 Kb of RAM, or roughly 3GB of RAM, and I have 2.27GB available still meaning I'm using roughly .7GB, or 700MB. Take a look at your numbers here, and even record them, at the end of this exercise we will revisit this, and hopefully see a considerable drop in PF Usage, and a gain in available physical memory.


  One more thing we want to record is how much free space you have available on your active operating system hard drive. (On almost all computers that's your (C:) Drive). So open up My Computer which may be located on your desktop or in your start menu, and right click on your (C:) Hard drive and then click properties. It should bring up a window like this:



  Take note of not just the pie chart, but look at the numbers listed under Used, and Free space. In my case I'm using 248 GB, and I have 251 GB Free. Ignore the numbers on the far right as they are approximates and don't give us an accurate count.



  So let's start. First, we will start at the heart of it. Removing unwanted and unused programs. Locate the "Add or Remove Programs" tool inside your control panel. In Windows Vista it is called "Program Manager". If you have alot of programs, or it's been awhile since you've cleaned out your computer, it may take awhile for the list of programs to be populated.



  You would be surprised at how little of these programs need to be in this list, in fact on many computers this list can be blank and still run fully functional. However on some computers, drivers required to properly operate your hardware may also show up on this list. That said, you can actually be quite liberal in removing programs. Take a look at what you have here on the list, and if you recognize the program as something that is not needed, then right click on it, and click uninstall. If there is a program in question, look it up online, and when in doubt, leave it. Because later, even though a program remains installed, we will show you how to prevent it from unnecessarily using up system resources. And with hard drives having the capacity they do these days, leaving a program installed will not likely use up space that is crucial for you to save. Once you have ciphered through and removed as many programs as you wanted to safely, it's best to reboot your computer. Many programs may even prompt you to restart your computer after you uninstall them.


  Now we will go on to disarming the programs that remain. You will be amazed at just how much the programs you have installed are overtaking, and with some, overwhelming your computer. Here we get a little more technical, but don't worry, we'll make it easy on you. Go to your start menu, and click on Run. Here type in "msconfig" and click OK. That should bring a window up like the one below.



  From here, click on the "Startup" tab. Here, as in the picture below, you will see a list of programs, all with boxes next to them, and likely all those boxes are checked. Every box checked indicates a program that will launch in the background every time you start up your computer, whether you want it to or not. Right away you may notice in my picture that some of those boxes are unchecked, that's what we are going to do next.



  Take a look at the programs you have listed, except a few that may be linked to drivers and such, 90% of these can be unchecked. When you uncheck them, you are telling your computer to skip over loading that program on startup. If for some reason you uncheck a program that maybe you shouldn't have, you can repeat the steps to get back in here and simply add a checkbox next to it. From experience I know that the top 4 programs on my list are drivers, and are essential to proper function of some of my hardware. But as you can see on my list I have a scroll bar, and everything after ctfmon is unchecked indicating that I have quite the list of stuff I have unchecked and that no longer runs when I start my computer. If you go down the list, you will likely recognize some of them. Feel free to remove them at will. If you don't recognize the name, notice the next column labeled "Command" has the path where the file is located on the hard drive. You might want to expand this column in order to see the whole path. Looking at this command path may give you insight as to what the program is. The third column is registery entries, this isn't an area we need to worry about. The best way to find out what a program is if you don't know is to type it in a search engine such as Google exactly as you see it. You will find many sites that will tell you what the program is, and if it's safe to disable it. Some I would recommend are,,, and I have the advantage here as I have looked at these lists, and the websites I just mentioned and have memorized more of the common ones. But don't be afraid to take your time, and if you want, remove one or two at a time and reboot your computer each time. If something appears to not be working correctly, go back in and re-check the ones you unchecked. Once your done in here, click OK and reboot. Once your computer boots back up there will be a message saying the System Configuration Utility was used, check the box that says don't show this again, and go about your business.


  Once you feel comfortable that everything is going slick so far, it's time to update some drivers. You've heard me mentioned these a couple times so far, drivers are defined as software that interfaces between the hardware and operating system allowing the hardware to function properly. Now if your technologically minded you may want to take this even farther than we are here, as we are going to simply allow windows update to search for them for us, and install new drivers along with updating our computer. Both which will help the efficient, smooth running of our systems. Many of you have automatic updates on, what you don't know is that automatic updates by default only install critical updates, ones that may jeapordise the safety of your machine. Things like drivers aren't considered a security risk if you don't update them. So we need to make windows update work for us. First, we need to open it up, Go to Start, and navigate your programs until you find "Windows Update", go ahead and click on it. Now if you haven't updated in a while you may have to install some patches to the windows update client. However, pay attention and at one point, like the picture below, it will give you the option to choose Express, or Custom updates.



  Click on Custom, here we will find additional updates that aren't installed with automatic updates. One you click Custom, it will search your computer, then bring up a list similar to the one I have below. On the left hand side notice I have High Priority, Software, Optional, and Hardware, Optional listed.



  If you click on "Hardware, Optional" it will give you a list of drivers, like I have below, that are newer than the ones it scanned on your computer. Also take notice that the boxes next to them aren't checked. That is because by default windows update doesn't install these updates.



  Let's go ahead and check them all so we make sure we get our updated drivers. Now since we are here let's get any High Priority updates that may be listed. You also may want to take a look at what's available under "Software, Optional" to see if there is anything in there you may want. I won't go into detail on that section as nothing there is pertinent to the efficient running of your computer. Once you're done shopping for updates, click the purple "Review and install updates" link. This will show you all the updates you had checked, and if it meets your approval go ahead and click the "Install Updates" button. This process will take a bit depending on how many updates you have, let it run it's course and at the end it will likely tell you that you need to restart your computer. Go ahead and do that.


  Next we are going to remove countless useless files that have built up in various areas of your hard drive over time. This is quite important as your hard drive has to index all those files when searching for other ones. This will not only speed up your computer in general, but will also speed up your web surfing. We can do this manually, however thanks to a little built in Microsoft program, we can let it do the work for us. That said, there are some files and areas of the hard drive that have to be touched up manually, but for this exercise we are going to use Microsoft's "Disk Cleanup" program. In both Windows XP, and Windows Vista, you will need to navigate your Start Menu, and find the program called "Disk Cleanup", it is generally listed under "System Tools". Click on it, if you have multiple hard drives, it may ask you which drive to cleanup. We will choose the Operating System hard drive which on almost all computers is the (C:) Drive. Once the drive is selected, Disk Cleanup will scan your computer like in the picture below for any and all useless files that have scattered themselves across your computer.



  Once it's done scanning you will get a report of what Disk Cleanup found to be useless files on your computer. Notice in my picture below that it estimates that it cleanup 65GB worth of data! (If it can free up that much, imagine how much I'm using). Even I'm amazed that it found so much. That said I'm not going to clean up everything, but only the areas where these wasted files are slowing the performance of my computer. So let's make sure the following is checked.


  • Downloaded Program Files
  • Temporary Internet Files
  • Offline Webpages
  • Microsoft Error Reporting Temporary Files
  • Recycle Bin
  • Temporary Remote Desktop Files
  • Setup Log Files
  • Temporary Files
  • WebClient/Publisher Temporary Files



  Once you've selected the ones you wish to clean out, click ok. Disk Cleanup will do it's thing (which may take awhile depending on how many files it's clearing out).



  Now that we've removed or relocated alot of data, it's crucial that we defrag the hard drive. Disk Defragmenter is a program that has been built into Microsoft's operating systems for quite some time now. How it operates is that it basically takes all the data on your hard drive that's scattered about and lines it all up in order, and organizes it. This allows for more usable free space, and all your files are indexed in order which means the hard drive won't spend as much time seeking the files out each time you or your programs need to access them. So let's open Disk Defragmenter. For that we need to re-navigate our start menu and find "Disk Defragmenter". (It's usually found under "System Tools"). Once you locate it, click on it. It should open up a window like the one below. Here you have two options. You can either analyze your hard drive, which lets you know the amount of fragmentation your hard drive has, and if it reaches a certain percent, it will recommend defragmenting. Or you can skip the analysis, and start the defragmenting no matter what percentage it's at. I recommend the latter as it's always a good thing to do. Depending on your fragment counts, this may take some time. I also recommend doing it to any other hard drives that may be installed in your machine.



  The things we've gone over so far are things that would be labeled as advanced maintenance. However, slowdowns can be caused by things that go beyond maintenance to the realm of repairs. Things like viruses and spyware, missing system files, conflicting hardware, damaged computer components. Even a buildup of dust inside the computer case can hinder the performance of your computer. These things can get quite in depth, and are best left for professionals. But as far as maintenance goes, that's about it. Let's take a look at how your computer has improved. (You may have already noticed it having sped up as you completed some of these steps). Let's reopen Windows Task Manager by pressing Control + Alt + Delete simultaneously. Let's go back to the performance tab. Take a look at where your stats are now compared to where they were in step 1 of this exercise. Look at both the PF Usage which should be lower, and also take a look at your available physical memory. That number should have increased. Depending on your situation you may have even noticed a decline in CPU usage. Also go back into My Computer and right click on your (C:) hard drive and click on properties. Compare the results you have now, with the results you got back at the beginning in step 2. You should notice more free space than you had initially.


  I hope this has been useful to you. This entails most of the maintenance part of our cleanup services, and I believe for many this will be all they need to do to restore their computer to being like new. For those who need further help, we recommend making an appointment with us, or another I.T. professional to have a more in-depth cleaning that can also include repairs, or even upgrades if needed.



Helpful Tips

Did you know that building your own computer - or having one built for you - can allow you to have top brand parts in a quality built machine while saving money compared to the cost of a computer from most major manufactures such as Dell or Hewlett Packard?