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10 Ways to Clean Up Your Computer

10 Ways to Clean Up Your Computer

Computer running slow? Clean up your computer and enhance its performance by getting rid of old files, unused programs, and cookies.

Viruses, trojans, and backdoors – oh, my! 1 out of 3 modern computers is infected with something nasty the user isn’t happy about. And loads more are running with a performance that’s way below par. Is that you? Keep reading for your guide to getting your computer right, and clean up your computer!

Check Your Start Programs

All modern operating systems come with a mechanism to launch a list of programs every time the computer reboots. Things like anti-virus applications and emails programs launch this way. However, you can launch ay kind of program, and often there are programs running that you didn’t realize were on. This can have the effect of slowing your machine down by consuming resources like memory and hard drive space. You should check to see what kind of programs are launching on startup and make an intelligent decision about what apps you want to launch on start.

Cleaning the Fan

Some computers have moving parts. If it moves, it will eventually accumulate dust and grime. But how can a regular person clean a complex machine like a computer? The most common item you’ll want to physically clean is the fan. Most computers have small electric fans that blow air over the microcircuitry. The point of this is to remove excess heat from the system. These fans can gather huge amounts of dust. The fan can stop, or a short circuit can occur. Very rarely, dust in a fan can catch fire and destroy the machine. The good news is that it is very easy to clean a computer fan. You’ll need to purchase a bottle of “canned air“. These can be had for only a few dollars at any big box store. They usually have little red extension straws that can be used to maneuver around small places. Be careful with these cans, they are not really “air”. They contain a special gas that is designed to leave no residue on electronics. Additionally, the gas has been filtered so that there are no particles in the can. These “dusters” can be used to clean electronics and optical equipment. Make sure that the area you are cleaning is well ventilated. “Duster” gas can be dangerous if inhaled in concentrated amounts. The key to cleaning a computer fan is to do it pretty regularly so that there isn’t any buildup. Once you get large caked on pieces of dust, they can damage a computer when they break off.

Anti-Virus Programs

Anti-virus software is an integral part of defending your clean PC against outside threats. You should have at least the free version of a professional software suite running. Most retail machines that you can purchase brand new will have anti-virus software built into it. You can use the free trial that comes with any anti-virus packages, and then switch it off. Be sure to remember to call them since most free trails require a credit card to get started. Use any popular commercial anti-virus program.

Cleaning the Screen

Computer screens generate images through the use of pixels. A pixel is a very small dot that lights up at a particular color. By changing the color of the dots in a specific order, the computer can generate an image. In a modern LCD monitor, which is probably what you’re viewing these words on right now, the pixes are made by an intersecting lattice of liquid crystals that are poured between two very thin sheets of plastic. Electric signals pass into the crystal, which activates the individual pixels to make the screen work. Generally, there is no way for dirt to get in between the pixels on a modern monitor. If the casement is cracked or broken, the crystals will break out of their mold, causing a metallic “spilling” that will distort the monitor. If you break an LCD screen like this, it’s toast. You’re now in the market for a new monitor or laptop because a broken LCD is usually not fixable. You can tell is an LCD screen is cracked because the crystal mess will still be visible when you turn the power off on the machine. Be aware, there are some joke screensavers out there that look like a broken screen. Make sure someone isn’t playing a prank on you before you throw your machine out. Do NOT use alcohol-based cleaners or glass cleaners on a computer screen. Chemicals can eat away at the coatings on the screen and destroy them. Use a microfiber cloth. Microfiber is a type of synthetic material that has many small fibers in it. The fibers are thin and flexible. It easily picks up small particles but won’t scratch the plastic or glass layers. Use two clothes, one that is slightly damp and one that is completely dry. Make small circles with the damp cloth, then dry it with the dry one. Don’t use too much pressure on the screen.

Defragging Your Hard Drive

Depending on what type of operating system you have, you may want to defrag your hard drive. A hard drive is a spinning magnetic platter. As the hard drive writes information on the spinning platter, it is often scattered around the disk physically into many different places. Defragging programs, take the physically separated pieces of information, and rearranges them sequentially on the hard drive. This has the effect of speeding up the “read” operation. Therefore, once you defrag a hard drive, it will generally operate in a more efficient and speedy manner. On a Windows machine, simply click the start menu, and then type disk defragmenter. This utility comes pre-installed with all windows distributions. Mac OS and Linux also have defragmenting programs available.

Browsing Activity

As you browse through the internet, you tend to pick up small bits of junk like lint that can seem to slow down your computer. There are several routine things you can do, to speed up your browsing experience. Most modern browsers operate in about the same way and have the same features.

History

There is no such thing as privacy on the internet. What you look at and what you download is detectable by someone somewhere, even if you clean your PC. However, you may not want to have your browsing history kept on a particular machine. Once in a while, consider clearing out your browser history. Depending on what type of browser you are using, there should be an option somewhere in the utilities, to delete your browsing history. once you delete this information, it will be removed from your personal machine, however, your internet service provider will still know what sites you’ve visited. Additionally, the browser maker will often track what sites you visit. You can turn this feature off on most modern browsers. For instance, on the Google Chrome browser, there is the “Incognito” mode. Microsoft Edge and the Firefox browser also have a similar mode.

Browser Extensions

Web browsers are complex software applications that are designed to interact with many different types of servers on the internet. By standardizing the basic protocols like HTTPS and FTP, generic browsers can access many different types of webs sites and files. However, they can’t do everything out of the box. That’s where browser “extensions” come in. Browser extensions are third-party software packages that run within a browser to add functionality. There are browser extensions that do just about everything you can think of. From loading special programs like PDF files to running games or graphics applications. A rule to how to clean PCs is to make sure you know what the extension is before you deactivate it. This is all great, but you may not even be aware that you have extensions running on your system. You can accumulate a bunch of them on your system . Then all of a sudden your machine is going slow. The first thing to do is to check what browser extensions are actually running. This is usually found in the settings tab of your browser. Pressing alt-f on all modern browsers will bring up the system settings tabs. Be careful when removing browser extensions. It will reduce the functionality of your machine in ways related to the extension. For instance, if you have a browser extension that allows you to print to your business office printer, removing the extension will remove the functionality from the machine.

Clear Caches

A “cache” is a place where a treasure is stored for later use. A squirrel caches nuts in a hole in a tree when it’s getting ready for the winter. A computer caches information as it’s coming or going until it is ready to be processed or used. A web browser caches image, video and sound files as you browse the internet. For instance at the top of this web page is a title bar and an image. If you navigate to another page on this website, your browser will not have to download the logo again, because it will be stored in your browser’s cache. This is all well and good, but there are two problems with this system. The first problem is that your cache represents a sort of browser history that you may not be aware of. If you navigate to a porn site on your work computer, for instance, you may find porn images in your cache even if out clears your browser history. Your manager is not amused. The real problem with caches is that if you don’t set them correctly, they may grow in size until your entire computer is stuffed with when browsing images! Go to your browser’s settings, and set your cache at around 10% of your hard drive’s entire capacity. If you have a 100GB hard drive, set your cache at 10GB.

Get Rid of Bloat Ware

“Bloatware” is a kind of garbage that isn’t exactly garbage. It’s software that you don’t want but was installed by the manufacturer at the time of the computer’s production. It’s hard to tell what constitutes bloatware because one man’s bloatware is another man’s essential software. You can start by looking up what the software on your system does. By searching on the internet you can find out the purpose of the software you have. Chances are, you have something that is mostly designed to sell you something you don’t need. The term “bloatware” usually refers specifically to the software that comes pre-installed on your machine. When you turn it on for the first time, you’ll get all kinds of offers and deals you can sign up for. If anything gives you an option to “do this later” or “skip this step” take it!

How NOT to Clean Up Computer

These are all pretty good tips, but there is an important tip about how NOT to do it. Whatever you do, don’t get spear phished! Spear phishing a technique that criminal hackers use to steal information from unsuspecting computer users. The first thing to understand is that a website cannot generally access your computer. So when you see a web page that tells you “Your computer is running slow”, that is a lie! They are just trying to get you to download a software bomb. You generally should not download anti-virus software or PC cleanup software over the internet. These products are sold retail at chain stores. Called OEM software [Original Equipment Manufacturer], you can trust these physical products are what they say they are. It’s a trick! Don’t download programs from the internet onto your computer unless you know where it is coming from. If you have any don’t it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Clean Up Your Computer

You need to clean up your computer once in a while to keep it running the right way. Regular maintenance, both physical and on the operating system level will help keep your machine running right. Sometimes though, machines fail, and you need more than regular care to fix things. When you need professional help to fix the problems normal maintenance can’t solve, check out our blog!

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