Keeping your Windows PC up to date and secure is just as important as the regular servicing of your car or motorbike. Like any machine, your computer needs constant care and a regular tune up to keep it in good shape. If you fail to carry out this important task your PC will gradually become slower and start to develop problems.
To keep your computer in good shape you must keep it free of malicious software, viruses and dust. You should also ensure that your PC's hard drive is well maintained to reduce any problems that might arise in the future.
A lot of freely available software can keep your computer perfectly well tuned. Its just a question of knowing what to download and how to make the best use of it.
Over time, your PC builds up a large number of `temporary files` that are never deleted. If left to accumulate, these files can gradually slow down your system.
Spyware and Adware may be hiding on your computer displaying unwanted ads on your PC's screen or recording and transmitting your personal information and the details of all the websites you have visited - and even all the people you have contacted while you were online. A thorough PC tune up will remove all these problems.
A good tune up can also remove hidden Internet temporary files, miscellaneous cookies, indexes, rogue registry entries and your 'personal' history files to ensure your privacy is well protected.
Before you start any tune up procedure make sure there's an up to date anti-virus program installed.
Check that virus definition downloads are set to auto and that the latest definitions are installed.
If there is no anti virus software installed and the PC is not heavily used, install a free antivirus program from my preferred list.
1. Physically clean the desktop computer by removing the cover and using a pressurised air duster, or even a very low powered hoover, to blow away any accumulated dust. Make sure all the dust is removed and make sure all the cooling fans are working, as dust can hinder these as well.
Its not so easy to clean a laptop internally so the best advice is to use the vacuum and carefully hoover around the underside and top side of the laptop.
For a thorough clean see my article cleaning your computer, computer components and peripherals.
3. Perform a full system wide virus scan.
4. If your PC runs the Windows XP Operating System install Microsoft Windows Defender for real time spyware/adware removal and protection.
Windows Defender is pre-installed in Windows Vista and Windows 7 and Windows 8, but you need to make sure its turned on.
5. Clean Windows Files and the Windows Registry.
A highly rated software tool for cleaning Windows files and the Registry is CCleaner. This free program scans your PC for many types of Windows files and extensions and also the Registry for unwanted, corrupt paths and gives you the option to make a backup before cleaning begins.
6. Uninstall any known adware or spyware by using any one or more of the following programs.
The above programs will find most of the rubbish that resides on your PC's hard drive.
My personal preference is the free version of Malwarebytes Anti Malware coupled with CCleaner from section 5. These two programs are run daily before my PC is shut down and have certainly kept my Windows 7 PC nice and responsive.
7. Remove any programs that start up automatically but have no right or reason to. Use msconfig to check these.
To find out how to do this read my article - Use MSCONFIG to speed up your PC.
8. Check your PC's hard drive for errors using Chkdsk.
Chkdsk inspects the physical structure of your Hard Drive to make sure that it is healthy. It can then repair any drive problems that it finds, related to bad sectors, lost clusters, cross-linked files and directory errors.
Once an error occurs it can develop to create more errors, so regularly running Chkdsk should be made part of your routine PC maintenance.
9. Make sure you uninstall any unwanted programs and games using Programs and Features. Just use the search programs and files box and type Programs and Features. The link for Programs and Features appears under the Control Panel link at the top of the search results.
10. Defragment the hard drive to realign the files for better performance, especially if there is no software on your PC that can do this worthwhile job in the background. Defragmentation is generally needed for Windows XP, but Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 rarely need this this kind of attention. However perhaps every 9 months or so just type Defrag into the search programs and files box and select Disk Defragmenter from the top of the resulting list.
Once Disk Defragmenter is open click on your C drive (or any other drive you want to check) and then click Analyze Disk. This will tell you how fragmented your disk is. If this figure is above 10% you should defragment the disk by clicking on the Defragment disk button.
NOTE: Never defrag a Solid State Drive (SSD)
You may be surprised at how fast your computer runs after being properly tuned up and as you see from this article you can do most of this yourself, using a few software programs that are free to download.
I also recommend that you do a full tune up by following this full tune up procedure every six months or so. This will keep a PC running smoothly and help to prevent any future problems.
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