It is that time of year when thoughts turn to cleaning up the house and garage - and should turn to your computers. Like any tool or appliance, your computer can become cluttered and ned some basic service. Here are a few things you can do to bring it up to par:
1 - Empty the Trash - believe it or not, some folks delete things for years and never empty their trash. Even emptying the trash will not completely remove these files from your computer. If you have something that you really want removed, you may need to consider software appplications for removal (Digital File Shredder, Sure Delete, etc)
2 - Delete temporary files - some programs use temporary files as they run. They are supposed to be automatically deleted when the program quits, but many do not. You can use your Disk Cleanup program on a windows machine (the one most notorious for keeping these pesky files).
Start - All Programs - Assessories - System Tools - Disk Cleanup
3 - Clear your Internet cache and web history - these are the copies of pages your browser saved while you were perusing sites and a listing of the pages that were visited.
Each browser has its own method. The two most common browsers:
Internet Explorer -Tools menu, click Internet Options. The Internet Options box should open to the General tab.
On the General tab, in the Temporary Internet Files section, click the Delete Files button. You can also clear history here.
Firefox - Tools - Options - Privacy At the bottom of the window is a Clear Private Data area - you can setup what to clear and even have it done automatically.
4 - Defrag - Files that are saved to your hard drive are often split up and placed in various sections. So, after you have deleted and stored for a while, it becomes more and more fragmented. Defragmentation will move the files around and make them contiguous.
Windows XP has a built-in program at Start - All Programs - Accessories - System Tools - Disk Defragmenter
5 - Registry cleaning - This is a touchy one. Windows stores many configuration settings in an area called the Registry. Programs being installed and removed should clean the Registry as they come and go. But, as mentioned previously, this often is not the case. These leftovers can cause a computer to slow down and be less stable. You can do this manually, but if not familiar with Windows Registry, you will need 3rd party software. Registry Mechanic, Registry Cleaner etc.
6 - Spyware or Adware - These are ugly software that automatically install themselves on your computer through the internet. They may be trying to steal any stored passwords or other personal information without your consent. They can also cause a lot of those pesty pop-up ads to appear. To remove them, you need a program such as Ad-Aware (http://www.lavasoftusa.com/software/adaware) or Spybot (http://www.safer-networking.org)
I run both of these periodically.
7 - Antivirus - Always have an antivirus program running. If you have one that ran out, either resubscribe or replace it with a free product. AVG from grisoft.com is a possibility.
8 - Automatic update - With all the cyber-threats of today, many software companies allow you to set your programs to automatically update when they release patches or upgrades. Even though this may make your machine start more slowly, it can save you a lot of headaches by keeping everything new and sparkly.
No affiliation with any mentioned products, just some ideas for you to start with. Good luck - your computer will appreciate the efforts.