Computer Clean Up Options – Picking The Right Software For The Job

by Rod Dunne on August 16, 2010

in Articles, Performance

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This article takes a look at simple computer clean up activities and tools that help fix computer disk space issues. In addition, it covers how to wipe a computer clean of all personal data when giving away your computer.

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Computer Clean Up Software & Tasks – Freeing Up Disk Space

The following tasks should be run on a monthly/quarterly basis in order to clear your hard drive of temporary files, redundant information and unused programs.

Running the tasks should speed up computer performance by allowing the paging file to expand. You will experience slow computer issues if the drive exceeds 95% full capacity and it is best practice to keep over 10% of disk space free for the paging file.

Tasks:

  • Open ‘Add/Remove Programs’ in the Control Panel and remove any applications you no longer need.
  • Delete files you downloaded but no longer require, or could easily find again online (e.g. torrents, podcasts).
  • Move bulky personal files to a backup location. Personal photos and music could easily be stored on CD/DVD. Always make two backup copies of personal files, and check that the backups can be read, prior to removing the originals from the disk. It is worth using a backup application (e.g. Final Sync) to copy/synchronize files between multiple pieces of hardware (laptop <-> external drives <-> USB memory sticks). See our guide to laptop data backup options for more information about doing backups.
  • Clear down temporary files and cached data using Windows own Disk Cleanup utility. You can find this tool by opening the My Computer window, right clicking a hard drive and selecting ‘Properties’. Freeware cleaning tools such as CCleaner can also clear out these temporary files along with browser data.
  • Open the System Configuration program on the startup tab and disable services from being invoked as Windows is booting up. This will speed up computer boot performance and reduce the amount of CPU/RAM used by background tasks. This tool does not appear in the Control Panel; instead go to the Start menu, select the Run program and type in ‘msconfig’).
  • Finally, empty the recycle bin of its contents and defragment the hard drives (using Windows Disk Defragmenter) to optimize file access times. For more information on performance improvements, try our our article: How to speed up my computer through upgrades, maintenance and repairs.

Computer Clean Up Software – Commercial Evidence Erasers

If you are passing on your PC to another person and wish to securely remove all personal documents and data then you need to use evidence eraser software such as Winclear, Remo Drive Wipe or Evidence Nuker.

These tools work by repeatedly overwriting your hard drive memory with blank/random data so that data recovery software cannot read any fragments of data.

It used to be the case that formatting the hard drive would suffice, but this only removes document references from the file allocation table and does not remove data clusters from the hard drive memory. It is these data clusters that recovery software will still be able to read and identify as file fragments.

Formatting the computer is more commonly used nowadays to fix computer issues. Users format the drive then reinstall the operating system in order to start with a fresh installation, without redundant applications and old programs. This can make a slow computer run faster as only the latest application code is installed again and a substantial amount of disk space is cleared. For more information and options, check out our post: Why is my computer running so slow.

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