I have a ritual that I perform usually twice a year, once in June and again in December just before the holidays, in which I give my computer systems a good cleaning inside and out. For those of you who use a desktop system it requires pulling off the case cover and cleaning out the gunk, grime and dust bunnies that seems to adhere to all the parts. A can of canned air should do the trick for you. Make sure you get the power supply also. For us laptop users the cleaning is a bit more tricky. So take a look at an article that Fred Langa wrote a few years ago, which covered laptop overheating, but explains how to clean a laptop.

Now to clean off some of the gunk from our hard disks, which applies to both desktop and laptop systems.

Windows comes with a utility called Disk Cleanup which is located in the Accessories – System Tools folder. The software will remove some of the common junk which Microsoft explains here and does an OK job. I normally use a little more aggressive program called CCleaner which is a freebie and can be downloaded from here. One warning about CCleaner: If you use the default settings, all of your saved passwords via cookies will be gone as well. As stated, this is aggressive. So read the mini-tutorial before proceeding.

Anti-Virus, Spyware, Malware and other security programs. Do you have the latest versions? How about drivers? Software updates? Filehippo does a fairly good job finding program updates for you and is available for downloading here. Check the OEM sites for your updated drivers. Don’t forget to make sure you use Windows update as well.

Unwanted programs clogging the system are a waste of hard disk space. If you have programs that you haven’t used for a year or more, uninstall them. BUT, uninstall programs one at a time and reboot. This way you will be able to determine if there are any problems and which program you took off that caused the problem. Programs can be uninstalled from either the Add/Remove icon back in Control Panel or by using the Uninstall option that may have come with your software.

Also for the adventurous, you can trim down the amount of programs that start up by using the MSCONFIG command from the RUN command line. You may wish to seek expert help before tackling this procedure. Another option to to use Mike Lin’s Startup Monitor found here.

Finally, to round out everything, you may wish to defrag your hard disk. Microsoft explains three ways on how to do this using XP, and they are explained here.

These are just the basics of a semi-annual cleanup. There are more aggressive tools available but for the majority of folks, the cleanup I described should work just fine. If you are an expert user, then I am sure you have your favorite software so please leave a comment about what you use.

[tags]cleanup, system, tools, basics[/tags]