Spring Clean Your PC

April 2, 2014

Spring is when we reboot our life cycles, paring down and cleaning up our lives in anticipation of bigger, better things to come with warmer weather – and there’s no better time to do the same thing for PCs and laptops.


To get your system running at optimum levels you need to shed all the unnecessary programs that have built up over the months and are now slowing them down. Follow this guide to cleaning our your system for a fresh start.

  1. Get rid of programs you don’t use: First, you want to get rid of programs that on our system but don’t actually use. To sort your programs in a Mac, go to Applications and sort by the date to see what you haven’t been using. On a PC, go to the Control Panel, click on Programs and Features, then sort by the install date. You’ll see the most recently installed programs and be able to choose which ones you rarely use and get rid of ones you don’t need.
  2. Update the programs you do use: For security and functionality purposes, you always want to be running the most recent versions of all of your programs, including your browsers and operating system. Some programs update automatically, but for those that don’t, update them now. This should include your antivirus software.
    To get your system running at optimum levels you need to shed all the unnecessary programs that have built up over the months and are now slowing them down.
  3. Clean your desktop: Your desktop gets cluttered up over time from downloads, but you should have very few programs that permanently live there – the more that are there, the higher the burden on your system. Look at your desktop and pare down to the bare essentials; get rid of the things you don’t need, or place documents and other applications into appropriate folders elsewhere in your system.
  4. Minimize Startup programs: There’s a good chance your system runs more programs when it powers on than are needed, and the more programs the system initiates when turned on, the longer the startup process takes. On a PC, type ‘msconfig’ into the search bar under Start, then click on the startup tab in the dialogue box that appears, then select non-essential, cumbersome programs. On a Mac, go to System Preferences, then Users & Groups; select your username, then the Login Items tab and go from there. On both systems, if you don’t know what the program is is, don’t deselect it – it could be vital. But programs like Dropbox or Spotify don’t need to run until directly called upon, so you should uncheck things like that.
  5. Clean up your browsers: Next up is deleting the download history, cache and cookies from your web browser. Know that this could mean you will lose your stored login information, though some browsers allow you to delete around that. Still, this is a good time to start with a clean slate and wipe everything off. In Firefox, you’ll click on the dropdown tab, then click on history, then Clear recent history. A dialogue box will open giving you the different options for what to clear and what not as well as a dropdown bar with options to delete this data from anywhere between the last hour, all the way to ‘Everything.’ Pick ‘Everything.’ The steps in other browsers follow similar basic steps.
  6. Defragment your hard drive: This utility on Windows-based systems increases your system’s speed and efficiency. In Windows 8 you can find it by searching ‘defrag’ under Files; users with older systems should go to ‘Program Files,’ then ‘Accessories,’ then ‘System Tools,’ and will find it there. Note that running the Disk Defragmenter takes a long time and makes your system unusable, so you should do it before you go to sleep. The iOS equivalent of is to run the Disk Utility application.
  7. Back your files up: Using an external hard drive or cloud storage, backup files you can’t afford to lose. For the truly sensitive stuff, back it up on an external hard drive that you use only for file backups and don’t connect to a system otherwise. If you haven’t, set up automated backups and get in the habit of manually backing up your most sensitive information.
  8. Pick new passwords: As long as you’re enhancing your security, pick some new passwords. You should do this from time to time anyhow, but no better time than right now. The longer you make them the better, and they should include numerals and non-alphanumeric symbols and should not be or contain words that can be found in a dictionary.
  9. Literally clean your computer: It gets dirty over time, so get rid of the dust and crumbs and grease and general nastiness that builds up over the months. A compressed air canister and a monitor-appropriate cloth will be essential tools.