Optimizing Your Computer: Software Picks to get Your Windows PC Running Like New Again

by Brett Schultz

FSJ’s student tech expert explores software choices to optimize your PC. These tips will increase your computer’s efficiency for those midterms and the rest of the semester.

If you have not read my article on removing viruses and malware with free software, head on over to that article here because this article is not going to cover antivirus and antimalware software. For those of you who now have virus and malware-free computers and would like to get even more performance out of your PC, then this article is for you.

Uninstall those darn browser extensions and toolbars

Many people are running unnecessary web browser extensions and search toolbars such as Yahoo, Google, Bing, and other less-popular toolbars. You do not need any toolbar to be able to complete searches. For some odd reason, people think that the more you have installed must mean the more ways you can access the internet. No, your internet will still be connected to your computer thanks to your browser. Not only do extensions and toolbars take up screen space, but also hog up your system resources. Your browser could load itself and web pages much faster if you get rid of those. Because there are so many browsers and extensions, I’d head over to the help desk and ask them to clean up your browsers for you, unless you are familiar this process.

CCleaner

Ah, cookie cleaner. A piece of software that the cookie monster would hate. Well, not quite. CCleaner removes the browser tracking cookies that your computer builds up from visiting web pages. Because of the modern styles of coding web pages, many pages’ force computers to download browsing cookies that save sections of the page and other metadata to make it load faster and more efficient. While you may wonder if cookies are bad, well, most aren’t. However, some sites you only visit once and you forget it. Now all those cookies are doing is taking up space on your hard drive. It’s not a lot, but if you have never cleaned them before, it could be significant and be a source of a slower PC.

Not only does CCleaner clear browser cookies, but it removes the full browser cache of passwords and history. A warning: if you clicked “Remember me” for logins – it may wipe them out and you must login in with the full username and password again! (Technically, this isn’t secure… but who’s watching?) Another thing that CCleaner can do is fix Windows Registry errors. The Registry is the coding of the operating system with settings for everything. It’s so large, it is bound to have errors and irrelevant stuff floating on it. Because your operating system is the registry, fixing broken settings will make your machine much, much faster. CCleaner will ask you to back up the registry, you can just skip this step and go straight to “Fix All Issues.”

CCleaner is free, and you can download it here

Disk Cleanup

Windows Disk Cleanup is a built-in utility that removes cache (temporary files) from your machine’s connected storage drives that may build up over time, much like Internet cookies do. Just type “disk cleanup” in Cortana or the start menu search and hit enter. A small window will ask what drive you would like to clean. Start with the C drive, and press okay. It will calculate how much space can be freed up, and then open a menu with some options that look like this:

disk cleanup

Click all the marks including the “Recycle Bin” (if you would like to empty it, but be sure there is nothing in it you want). Then click “OK” and not “Clean up system files.” After you click okay, Disk Cleanup utility will remove the cache which will speed up your machine.

Disk Defragmenter

Another Windows integrated piece of software is Disk Defragmenter. This program will defragment and optimize all of your storage drives. This will not work for Solid State (SSD) drives, so be aware this is only for physical platter hard disk drives. What this program does is takes all the data that is spread out over the drive and allocates it all into one spot. When data is saved, it is spread in sections over the entire drive. This is not the most efficient way to save data, it should all be in one place – and this program will literally re-organize your drive’s data. It may take some time, but the results are impressive.

Just search “Defragment” in Cortana or the Start menu search bar and hit enter. A menu will appear with all connected drives, like this:

defragment

“Optimization not available” applies to SSD drives or thumb drives, where this process is irrelevant because SSD technology automatically stores data in the same place. Still, you can click the first drive, hold the Shift key, and click the last drive and then release the shift key. Click “Optimize” to start the defragmentation process. First, all the drives will be analyzed and then optimized. If you would have clicked “Analyze” it would not have moved on to the “Optimize” process, which is the important step.

Go ahead and schedule optimizations on a weekly basis if your machine does not already have this setting enabled. It is highly recommended that you do this frequently because keeping your data organized on your drives not only improves performance but also increases the life of your hard drives because they can operate more efficiently when optimized.

Checking for storage drive errors

While defragmentation will reorganize the data on the drive for more efficient access, it does not check for any drive errors. These errors are any sections or spots on the drive that have lost data or are unusable. Over time, there is a possibility that data becomes corrupt or is missing, or an area on the hard drive is just plain messed up. You can fix this error (and prevent a future catastrophic failure) by running yet another free Windows utility.

To run Error Checking, navigate to file explorer and right click on your C drive.

error

Click “Properties”

Properties

Now, move to the “Tools” tab and click “Check” in Error Checking. This will run the utility and scan and fix the drive’s errors. You must right click each connected drive and run it, as this utility does not do all the connected drives at once.

Nine times out of ten, the Windows utility can fix all the errors and restore your drive to 100% usable space. If it doesn’t, AVG makes free TuneUp software integrated with their free antivirus software that I discussed in my antivirus article, which you can find at the top of the page.

By regularly running these software picks and utilities, you are sure to see some better PC performance as well as longevity. If you have any questions or have future article recommendations, please email fsj@racc.edu



Categories: Technology

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