Spring Cleaning for Your Computer

Like any other complex machine, computers need maintenance and attention from time to time. If you're like most owners, then you probably haven't paid much attention to the upkeep of your system. With that in mind, here are some tips for a good spring computer cleaning.

Hard-Disk Maintenance

Everything unique to your computer is stored on your hard drive. If it becomes to disorganized or overloaded, then your entire system will run slower and crash more often; and you may lose some very valuable data.

  1. Windows comes with two utilities, "Scandisk" and "Defrag" which help monitor, detect and correct serious problems with your hard disk.

The most convenient way to access these utilities is to do the following:

  1. Double click the "My Computer" icon on your desktop.
  2. Right mouse click on the hard disk of your choice - usually disk "C"
  3. Select "Properties" from the drop down menu.

Once you've done this, you are presented with a pie-chart detailing your disk usage. You should also see a button for "Disk Cleanup" that will identify old and temporary files that can most likely be removed from your system. After scanning, this utility will present you with a list of removal options.

If you're nearing your hard drive's storage limit, you can also select the "compress drive to save disk space" option to make the most of the storage space that you do have.

Finally, if you then select the "Tools" folder tab from the top of the dialog box, you are presented with the option to check for errors (scandisk), and to de-fragment your drive, which organizes your information for greater speed and efficiency.

2) It's also a good idea to clear your computer's Recycle Bin from time to time. This is where Windows saves deleted files, allowing you to retrieve those you've accidentally deleted. After time, this folder can take up quite a bit of space. If you right-click the Recycle Bin icon on your desktop you'll see a menu option to "empty" and that will do the trick. Additionally, you can select the Recycle Bin for cleaning from the Disk Cleanup utility mentioned above.

However, you might want to open the Recycle Bin manually instead, where you can review its contents and sort by file date, file type and the date you deleted the file. By doing so, you can manually choose which files to remove, such as those older than 30 days, just graphic files, or whatever else you choose. While this approach takes more effort than simply emptying the entire folder, it provides a greater level of control and protection against removing files that you may eventually want to restore.

Removing Programs

Windows XP users can effectively remove software that they are no longer using by opening the Control Panel and then choosing Add/Remove programs. Once your system has retrieved a list of software that has been installed, you can use the drop-down list on the top right-hand side of the screen to sort programs by either how frequently the programs are used, or by the last date they were accessed.

If you have had your computer for any period of time, you will no doubt find programs (often demo software) that you've either forgotten about, or have never used at all.

As every program not only consumers hard drive space, but also portions of your system's management resources, removing unnecessary software can make a noticeable difference in your computer's performance.

However, automatic software removal processes often do not delete all traces of the program. After uninstalling a program, and then rebooting, use Windows Explorer to manually navigate to your Program Files directory. You can look here for sub-directories (folders) that were used by software you uninstalled, but that might not have been properly removed. These can usually be deleted manually, but make sure that you've properly identified unnecessary directories, and do this after you've cleaned your Recycle Bin. That way, if you make a mistake, you can always restore files and folders that might still be needed by your system.

Another folder on your system that not only consumes hard drive space, but also affects system performance is the accumulation of a large number of fonts.

Many programs load new fonts to your computer when installed, but often leave them on your computer even after uninstalling the initial program.

To see how many fonts you have collected on your computer, open the "Control Panel" and then choose "Fonts" from the list of options.

If you have more than a hundred or so, then you may very well see your system's performance improve by getting rid of some of them.

Simply double-click any font title to view it, and if you don't think you'll really need it, delete it. It will go to the Recycle Bin where it can be retrieved later if you find a program on your computer that relies on that particular font.

NOTE: Only consider removing fonts where the icon displays a blue "TT" for TrueType. If the icon next to the font is a red "A" or if it says it's a "system" font, then leave it alone as it's probably needed by your system.

Also, if you do have a large number, then I'd suggest only deleting a few (ten to twenty) at a time. That way, if the next time you start your computer and find that it really did need one of these, you can quickly figure out which one and then restore it from your Recycle Bin.

Finally, if you're uncomfortable or unsure about making modifications to your system, then don't!

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Copyrighted with all rights reserved by Stephen M. Canale