As referenced in the classic story “The Last Question,” the spread of entropy is slow but inevitable; clean rooms give way to clutter, and order turns into disorder. This applies to the digital world too, where perfectly healthy computers seem to “gunk up” and slow down over time. However, with a little effort on your part, it’s possible to fight the spreading corruption and clean up your systems.
A great starting point is to run an antivirus scan. Though most slowdowns are caused by more innocuous sources, it’s best to rule out the easiest solution first. A scan can be performed in just a couple easy steps. First, open the start menu. If a Windows based operating system, type in “Defender,” and select the first result which should be “Windows Defender Security Center.” Click the “Quick Scan” button, and the scan should start.
Another easy solution, assuming the scan is clean, is to eliminate excess bloatware. Bloatware is software running on your computer that may have come installed on your pre-built computer. Uninstalling these programs frees disk space and has the potential to improve computer performance. To do so, open the start menu. Type in “Add or Remove Programs,” and hit enter to open a list of installed programs. From this list, every app on the computer is displayed, including but not limited to the bloatware. Should any app listed look suspicious, especially if you didn’t intentionally perform the installation, use a search engine like Google to identify the purpose or use of the app. If it doesn’t seem useful or needed, go back to the list, click the app icon, then click the uninstall button. Through this method, there’s minimal risk of removing something important. Windows will protect essential components by graying out the uninstall button.
Additionally, sometimes even desirable software can cause an unnecessary drain on PC resources. Programs, which would be otherwise useful, may be scheduled to automatically open upon startup, thus idling needlessly in RAM and
increasing the time between logon and the use of a functional system. To close startup programs until needed, open Task Manager using the Ctrl+Alt+Delete keyboard function. Then click on the “Startup” tab. Right click each undesired program and click “Disable.”
Finally, a few simple steps can clean and automatically control junk files. Over time, so-called “temporary” files will accumulate until they’re cleaned, potentially reaching dozens of gigabytes in size. The Disk Cleanup utility offers a simple and effective way to rid you of these unwanted files. First, search for “disk cleanup” in the start menu and click “Open.” If you have more than one drive letter, choose the drive to be cleaned. Files to be deleted may include: Temporary Internet Files, Delivery Optimization Files, Recycle Bin, Temporary files, and Thumbnails. Once options have been selected, click “OK.” When the prompt appears, click “Delete Files,” finalizing the procedure. This can be automated using Windows Storage Sense. Simply search for “Storage Sense” in the start menu, select “Storage Settings,” and click the box to enable it.
Together, these built-in tools can vastly improve performance with just a little effort. Notably, some third-party software such as CCleaner claims to streamline the process of PC cleanup. However, as Microsoft notes, these tools can do just as much harm as good. Reckless cleanup, particularly in the Windows registry, can remove components which were actually useful, resulting in a damaged system. Consistent and safe maintenance practices are the most effective way to keep computers running quick and secure.
Author: Grey Ruessler, IT Tech Assistant
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Microsoft. (2018 April 18). Microsoft support policy for the use of registry cleaning utilities. Retrieved from https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/2563254/microsoft-support-policy-for-the-use-of-registry-cleaning-utilities