Cleaning up your computer is the only thing you can do every day to maintain free disk space and free up valuable system resources. Also, the actual physical cleaning, just like cleaning, will allow your computer to literally breathe easier and in turn extend the life of your system.
In this tutorial, we’ll start by focusing on the simplest steps you can take to get immediate results. These steps require no prior training or knowledge, and in fact, as a Windows user, you should or may already be familiar with many of them.
In the first section, we’ll delve into cleaning up your system, including routing all those pesky startup items, deleting temporary files, and deleting old, unused apps. From there, we move on to disk maintenance. This task has become much easier in recent versions of Windows, but understanding your options is still important.
Finally, as we mentioned earlier, there’s dust, like literally removing hair and dirt from your computer’s interior. We want to emphasize how much more efficiently a computer dissipates heat and cools its internal components if they are not covered in thick fur.
Disabling Startup Items
One of the best ways to offload your computer and quickly free up resources is to disable items that automatically start when Windows boots. Not only do these startup items gobble up system resources like little vampires, but they often make your computer take longer to boot.
The old way of dealing with startup items is to use the System Configuration (‘SysConfig’) utility in Windows 7. Launch the Run window by typing WIN + R followed by ‘msconfig’.
In the System Configuration utility, select the Startup tab. You want to exercise some caution here. While you won’t break your system by disabling everything, you can disable some really useful programs like Dropbox.
There isn’t much to explore in the previous screenshot because it was done in a virtual machine with minimal software installed. In any case, to disable the program from starting automatically, uncheck the box next to it and restart the system.
Let’s look at our Windows 8.x installation to see a more useful example. If you try to use «Sysconfig» in Windows 8.x, it will simply redirect you to «Task Manager», which is easier to access by going directly to it from the taskbar:
Or just press «WIN» and type «task» and it should appear as the top search result:
It’s worth noting that you can also use the CTRL + SHIFT + ESC key combination to bring up the task manager without clicking anywhere.
When «Task Manager» opens, go to the «Startup» tab and look at the full heaviness of your computer. You can see startup items, their status, and the impact they have on your system. You can sort them, of course, by clicking on the headings. In the following screenshot, we are sorted by Launch Impact.
If you’re not sure what and what for, you can right-click on any item and select «Search the Web» to find out exactly what something is and what it does.
According to Microsoft, the impact depends on how much CPU and disk space occurs at startup:
- High return — applications using more than 1 second of CPU time or more than 3 MB of disk I/O at startup
- Average impact — applications that use 300ms — 1000ms of CPU time or 300KB — 3MB disk I/O
- Low impact — applications that use less than 300 ms of CPU time and less than 300 KB of disk I/O
One second may not seem like much, but keep in mind that the above screenshot shows a system that does not have many components installed. Imagine a system with many other things in the startup procedure. If you have a dozen high impact startup items in addition to other medium and low impact items, all of which require CPU time and disk I/O, the startup time increases proportionately.
Microsoft breaks down boot apps and provides guidance on how to deal with several categories of boot apps, including utilities that sync your PC or for backup and restore, update tools, notifications, and more.
It’s safe to say that in any case, you can disable most if not all startup items and it won’t negatively impact your system. However, as we mentioned earlier, if you disable everything, you may lose functionality that you would otherwise like. In the case above, if we disable «Dropbox», it will no longer auto-start and sync changes. Instead, we would have to start it manually, so we could leave it enabled.
Disk Cleanup is a very simple tool that allows you to quickly remove things like temporary and cache files to free up space on your hard drive(s).
In Windows 7, you can open it from Start -> All Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools.
In Windows 8.x, you have several options. The easiest way is to press the «WIN» key, type «disk cleanup», and then select «Free up disk space by deleting unnecessary files.»
When Disk Cleanup starts, if you have more than one drive installed, you first need to select the one you want to clean up. Here, in our example, we select the system drive (C:).
The Disk Cleanup tool will let you scroll and see what is taking up space. You can read a short description of what you want to remove. You can also view the files at any time by clicking the «View Files» button, or if you have administrative access, you can click «Clean up system files» and the Disk Cleanup tool will restart in administrator mode.
Notice that in the following screenshot, we have restarted in administrative cleanup mode and Disk Cleanup has found another 500MB of free space to free up (Windows Update files). This will give us 455 MB versus 90 MB in non-admin mode.
Also note that in admin mode you get another tab called «Advanced Options» which gives us additional ways to free up valuable disk space. Of particular note is the «System Restore and Shadow Copies» option, which removes all but the most recent «System Restore» dots. If you’ve been using your computer for a while and never cleared your restore points, this option can sometimes free up gigabytes of space without negatively impacting your computer — assuming everything is running smoothly at the moment, so any recent changes should be rolled back.
Also note the Programs and Features cleanup button. If you click this button, the Programs and Features control panel will open, allowing you to uninstall unnecessary and unused applications, which we will now discuss in the next section.
Uninstall apps and free up disk space
Let’s say you disabled something in your startup items, but then you realize that you are not actually using this program. In that case, why not just remove it? Thus, you not only remove the startup item, but also the entire unnecessary application, while freeing up disk space.
In Windows 7 and Windows 8.x, uninstalling an application is done by opening the Programs and Features Control Panel. In Windows 7, open the Control Panel from the Start menu.
In Windows 8.x, you can access the Programs and Features control panel directly by right-clicking the Start button and selecting it from the context menu.
Once you open the Programs and Features control panel, you can click on the app you want to uninstall.
In the example above, we can see that from the previous section, Google Drive has a big impact on startup, and since we’re using Dropbox as our primary cloud service, we can simply remove the drive and use it whenever we need to through the web interface.
How you approach this is entirely up to you. You may decide you want to just disable the launcher or remove the entire shebang. However, there is an even easier way to do all of this.
CCleaner is a free program from Piriform software that does all the work of cleaning up your computer. Make sure you download the Slim version of the installer, which does not include toolbars or other software. Yes, it’s ironic that a program called Crap Cleaner actually distributes more software by default, but as long as you don’t download the wrong version, you’ll be fine. Other than that, it’s a good piece of software.
When you launch CCleaner for the first time, the «Cleaner» screen opens, which allows you to clean up your system such as browser cache files, recently used items, as well as clean up «application-specific» objects such as cache and log files. ,
When you click «Analyze», all materials that can be deleted will appear on the screen. If you don’t want to delete something, you can uncheck it. Otherwise, click Run Cleaner to clean up the system. In this example, when we clicked on the cleaner, we were able to clear about 4 gigabytes of disk space!
What we’re really interested in is the «Tools» features, specifically «Uninstall» and «Startup». In the Uninstall panel, you can generally bypass the Programs and Features control panel and uninstall all components. Just click on the item you want to remove and click «Start Remove» to begin the removal process.
Moving on to the «Startup» tools, we see that we have the same options as in «Sysconfig» and «Task Manager». You can disable/enable everything by selecting an item or items (hold down the «CTRL» button to select multiple items), then click «Disable».
Although this method is not as informative as Task Manager with its «startup effect», it is just as effective and brings everything together in one place. If you want a more detailed overview of CCleaner’s features, we highly recommend that you check out this article.
Disk maintenance is kind of wrong. You don’t really need to «maintain» anything, and in fact your computer will likely do a lot of things automatically to keep your drives running optimally. However, we believe that you should learn how drives work and what you can do to extend their life.
SSD vs HDD
There are two types of hard drives in computers today: SSD and HDD. An SSD or Solid State Drive is a kind of container filled with flash memory. It is essentially RAM, but unlike RAM, the content on an SSD retains its content after the power is turned off.
Hard drives, on the other hand, are made up of rapidly spinning platters that store all the data on your computer. For searching and retrieving data, a hard drive has heads that read the surface of those hard drives, just like you would go to the stacks in a library and retrieve a book or books from your shelves.
SSDs, because they are very similar to RAM, are superior to old-school spinning hard drives because they are consistently faster in getting and receiving data. In other words, when you load an application from an SSD, you don’t have to wait for the supervisor to find and read the spinning platter data, it’s only there and the only delay you might experience is the time it takes for the SSD to read it. content and save it to your computer’s memory.
Do you need to defrag?
When it comes to hard drives, over time the books you take off the shelf are replaced by other books, and all the books you want to put back in the stacks are stuck where there is room. So, instead of storing all your data in contiguous chunks, it ends up being distributed or «fragmented». Over time, getting the data becomes more and more laborious as the hard drive has to read part of it from one area on the platter. (s) and another part of it somewhere else.