There are many companies and programs promising to clean and speed up your PC, for a modest price of course. Many of these applications will run your computer through an initial “diagnostic” which generally shows thousands of errors. These are usually not errors at all, but every individual instance of things like temporary files and cookies (which hardly have an effect on your computer’s speed anyways). This is a scare tactic to make you believe there are things severely wrong with your computer that you must pay them money to fix.
While these programs may do everything they claim, the functions that they use to clean and speed up your computer are already built into your operating system. Why throw your money away for products you already own?
Now that we know what to avoid, these steps will take you through the same process the paid PC cleanup/speed-up applications will do, for free! And a bonus is every utility on here can be set to run on a schedule, so you’ll be saving both money and time.
1. DISK CLEANUP
Run the Disk Cleanup tool included with Windows. This can most easily be found on Windows Vista and up by typing “Disk Cleanup” into your Start menu search bar. For older versions of Windows, from the Start menu point to All Programs->Accessories->System Tools and select Disk Cleanup.
Alternatively, simply find and right-click on the drive you want to clean up in My Computer, and select the option in the drop-down menu for Disk Cleanup. It’s focused on freeing up space on your hard drive, but it will also delete old temporary files and other useless things. You can even schedule a Disk Cleanup to clean your computer automatically.
2. CLEAR YOUR BROWSER HISTORY
While you shouldn’t expect a huge performance jump, clearing your browser history regularly or setting your browser to automatically clear its history when you close it can help speeds.
3. RUN DISK DEFRAGMENTER (BUT NOT ON SOLID STATE DRIVES)
As stated on Microsoft’s website, “Fragmentation makes your hard disk do extra work that can slow down your computer. Removable storage devices such as USB flash drives can also become fragmented. Disk Defragmenter rearranges fragmented data so your disks and drives can work more efficiently.” It speeds up access and write time by consolidating data that has become scattered naturally throughout the hard disk over time, and reducing the distance the head has to travel over the disk platter.
Solid state drives (SSD) do not require defragmentation because they read and write data differently than hard disk drives. There are no moving parts in a solid state drive and data is written in a scattered fashion across its storage cells. There is no head to reduce travel time for, and additionally, SSD cells have a limited amount of writes before they become error-prone or unusable, so fragmenting would actually do more harm than good.
Newer versions of Windows will let you analyze a disk first to see its level of fragmentation. Users all have their own preferences, but many say they will run Disk Defragmenter if the level of fragmentation is above 10%. Run it too often, and you won’t notice much of a difference.
4. RUN CCLEANER (OR A SIMILAR PROGRAM)
CCleaner is a great, trusted utility that cleans areas of your computer Disk Cleanup may not hit. Using this program you can also save some time clearing your browser history manually, CCleaner will do it for you in all browsers that you use. Its most used utility is its registry cleaner, which will remove unused and old registry entries that could be hindering performance. It is lightweight and can be set to run on a schedule, making cleanup even easier for you.
CCleaner can be downloaded here.
Another great “toolbox” program is Iobit’s Advanced SystemCare. There is a free and a paid version if you really like what you see and want access to some additional features (but the free version will do just fine for most users).
Advanced SystemCare can be downloaded here.
Check out our article on How to Maintain and Extend the Life of Your Computer for even more PC maintenance tips!