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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Computer Spring Cleaning

     So, its almost time to do spring cleaning, and that includes your computer.  Now, you've tried to delete image files and old documents, videos you haven't watched in a while, but the computer is still running slow and the system just doesn't seem to have enough room left on the drive.  What do you do now?
     The issue of cleaning up your computer is one that most users find daunting, but like most jobs, just really needs the right tools.  In this case the right tools for the job are a CCleaner, Defraggler, Revo Unistaller, and Soluto anti-frustration software. We will also talk about using WinDirStat, an open source windows program for visualizing the size of files.  WinDirStat is something of a last resort, and I'll explain why.
     The best thing to start with is running a clean up is CCleaner from Piriform.  This little program cleans up problems with your registry and deletes temporary files from system folders.  Run this program from time to time for good maintenance.
     To use it is simple, when you open up CCleaner, it should start in the Cleaner tab, hit the analyze button to see if you really need to run the cleaner, or just hit the button that says Run Cleaner to start clearing out the crap.  Next you'll want to go over to the left side and hit the Registry button, there you'll want to Scan for Issues, and once the computer has scanned, you'll want to fix them.  Just to be cautious, you can save a backup of your registry so that if you somehow end up the one-out-of-a-thousand computer and you screw up your registry, a computer tech can repair your computer in a matter of minutes, not days.
     The next step to cleaning up your computer is de-fragmenting your hard-drive.  (One disclaimer note, skip this step if you own a solid state drive, as it will destroy the file structure on your computer.)  De-fragmentation is an important part to maintaining drive speed on traditional hard drives because of how they function.  The more you save on a hardrive, the more of it fills up, of course, but when you delete things, this leaves spaces.  These spaces make the read time of the drive go up because it has to spend more time searching over the drive.  If you de-fragment it, the computer will condense the files and information down so there are no more spaces.
     Now, for de-fragmenting you can use any program you want, and the built in de-fragment program in windows is fine, but for this article, I'm pointing people to another free program from Piriform software, Defraggler.  I'm using Defraggler because I'm a very visual person, and I like to see whats going on with my computer.  Defraggler shows a pie graph of how much space is being taken up on your computer, and once you've analyzed a drive for de-fragmenting, it tells you what percent of the total drive you have fragmented, and how many files are fragmented, letting you make a more informed decision about how to proceed.  When using Defraggler, you can also choose between a quick de-frag or a full de-frag, which is nice if you do your cleaning often.
     To use Defraggler, just hit the analyze button down on the bottom left, then, when the analyzes is complete, if your drive needs de-fragmentation (usually if there is more than 30% fragmentation), hit the de-fragment button right next to the analyze one.
    So, we have gotten half way through our spring cleaning.  Next you'll need to install Revo Un-Installer, for removing all of that nasty crap ware off of you computer.  I'm not going to be able to explain all of the ins and outs of running Revo, but it is a simple enough program if all you're doing is un-installing crap ware.  Just run the application, and it fills a list of programs registered as installed on the computer, just like windows traditional Remove Programs setup.  just find the programs you know you don't use, and all of those annoying toolbars that are installed in your browser, and begin un-installing.  When you click on one and pick the un-install button up at the top, a new window appears.  This window is part of the reason we're using Revo.  It gives you the option of doing just the built-in un-install, a light, a moderate, or an advanced un-install.  This is the real benefit to Revo.  If you pick anything other than built-in, Revo will track down other registry entries and files the program has left behind, making sure that it is totally removed.
     All that's left with Revo is to follow the prompts.  If it does find additional files or registry entries, just click the box that says select all and remove them.
     And all that is really left to our clean up is the program Soluto.  As Soluto claims, it is anti-frustration software.  All it does is so, once again in a very visual format, all of the programs that automatically boot on your computer.  Using it, you can decrease the boot time of your computer greatly.  I've even been able to knock a whole minute and a half off of one on my machines.
     The first time Soluto runs after installation, it will ask you to restart your computer.  When you do, Soluto scans every process that loads when your computer boots up.  When you finally get back into the operating system, Soluto brings up a menu that allows you flip through the process, which it has in three different groups.  These groups are very self-explanatory, titled No-brainers, Potentially Removable, and Not Removable with Soluto (yet...).  The ones in the No-brainers sections are really what you are concerned with, and unless you really use those applications a lot and like them auto-loading, then just set them to remove from boot, or pause.  You can cherry pick through the ones listed in the section Potentially Removable, and remove any you are confident are not needed in your boot.  Soluto also gathers data from other users and suggests which actions you might follow based on the actions of other users that have the same applications installed.  In the Potentially Removable I suggest following those suggestions, at least if you are unsure about turning one off.  Looking up at the top of the Soluto program window, you can see how much time you've cut off of your boot, and how many programs you've removed or paused.

Soluto - Anti Frustration Software from Soluto on Vimeo.

     That does it for our spring cleaning, and now for the bonus.  If you find that you still are having problems with a slow hard drive, (not a solid state drive), and you need to cut out more files, you can use WinDirStat to find out where the big ones are.  Just install it and run it, and in the program screen is a visualization of the size of your files set up as squares and rectangles.  The largest ones are the largest size files on your computer, and I'm sure I don't have to describe this part any further, you get the point.  But a word of caution, WinDirStat shows you literally all of the files on your computer, essential system files or otherwise, so delete a large file only if you really know what it is.  With out fail, the system pagefile is one of the biggest, and you definitely don't want to delete that one.
     So there you have it.  Good luck and happy cleaning.  And as always, catch you on the flip side.