You don’t have to be a tech junkie to know that there are simple (and free!) ways to keep your computer running like new. And if you’re like a lot of computer owners out there, your machine could use some help. Regular maintenance on your computer is far too often neglected and as a result, it can become slow and unstable (I.E. system crashes, freezing, etc.). But not to worry, restoring your computer’s health is easy, and won’t cost you a dime. Here are five easy steps to cleaning your computer – and keeping it that way.
#1: Malware. Probably the biggest and most common cause of system slowdown is malware – viruses or spyware that install themselves onto your computer through the internet. Typically, malware is designed to cause harm to your computer, or steal your information and report it over the internet. This is especially dangerous to you if you do online banking or buying and selling. Too many computer users have malware on their computer, and don’t even know it! There are two programs you must have on your computer in order to effectively protect yourself from malware. The first is a firewall. A firewall blocks unauthorized access to your computer and protects it from malicious attacks. The second program you need is an anti-virus. The anti-virus scans the files on your computer and finds any malware on your system, then removes it. If your computer is running slowly or acting erratically, there some great free tools available. Malwarebytes is an excellent anti-malware program that will clean your system of harmful software. Always have a good, up-to-date firewall, like Commodo firewall, protecting your system. And lastly, you need an active anti-virus running. I use Avast! anti-virus. One thing to keep in mind with anti-virus and firewall software: never have more than one of each. This can do some serious damage because they will conflict with each other. One firewall and one anti-virus, kept up-to-date, is all you need.
#2: Disk Cleanup. Another big cause of slowness is a buildup of old, unnecessary files. A key to keeping your system running smoothly is by keeping it free of clutter and buildup of junk. Over time, files in your recycle bin and files from the internet, called cookies and temporary internet files, get stored away and build up, slowing your computer down. Windows makes it easy to clean out these unneeded files by using the “Disk Cleanup” utility, which is already on your computer. To find out how to use this tool, visit Microsoft’s website and search the keywords “disk cleanup”. To maintain your computer’s performance, run disk cleanup every few months. And don’t forget to periodically empty your recycle bin!
#3: Unused/unwanted programs. Another culprit in system laggage is a large amount of unused or unwanted programs running, which consumes system resources and causes it to slow down. Many programs are set to automatically start up when you turn your computer on, which can make it take a long time to get your system going. To fix this, go to the “add or remove programs” area in Windows, and uninstall any programs you know you don’t want. When you’re done with that, you’ll want to restart the computer, and run Windows’ “MSconfig” utility. Do this by clicking “Start” then “Run…” and in the command box, type “msconfig” without the quotations. When the MSconfig box pops up, click the “Startup” tab, and uncheck any programs you know you don’t need running (like instant messenger programs) until you start them yourself. Performing these steps will make a big difference in your computer’s performance.
#4: Registry. Your system’s registry is the backbone of your system, it forms the true directory that all programs have to follow. Registry keys can become corrupt or missing over time, as well as the building up of keys that are no longer necessary. This is a big source of system instability and lag. In order to keep your registry clean, you need to download a special program called a registry cleaner that keeps everything in good working order. A good free registry cleaner is CCleaner.
#5: Avoid scams. There are lots of scams out there on the internet. One of the most common I’ve seen is the fake anti-virus, otherwise known as scareware. The list of scareware and rogue security software out there is shockingly long. Typically they appear in the form of pop-up or other ad on the internet, disguised to look like a legitimate Windows window. It claims to have found vulnerabilities or issues in your system, and scares you into thinking you need their software to fix it. When a person falls for it and installs the fake anti-virus, it causes harm to your computer and is difficult to get rid of. In addition to scareware there are plenty of other scams, prankware, and malicious links and ads out there. Always be aware and pay attention when clicking on links, visiting websites, or downloading, as many things can easily be disguised on the internet.