Clean Up Your Hard Drive
Regularly cleaning your computer’s hard drive, removing unwanted and outdated files, is an important computer maintenance task that can be easily overlooked but that is quick to do and has lots of benefits in terms of security and the smooth-running of your equipment. When we use our computers – writing documents, editing photos, checking our e-mails, browsing the Internet, or whatever – the programmes that we use create and store temporary files that build up unless we manually delete them. Sometimes these introduce security vulnerabilities but more often than not they just fill up the computer and slow it down. They’re a fact of life; the computing equivalent of that fluff ball that always appears in the corner of the room. There are various free tools we can use to remove them, all of them safe and secure. In this post, the first in the Spring Clean Your System series, I guide you step-by-step through the process of cleaning these unused often one-time-use files. We’ll look at two ways to do this. First, using CCleaner, and then using a similar application that is supplied with Windows.
The very first task, if you haven’t already got the program on your computer, is to download and install CCleaner. Once this is done, open the CCleaner application.
When you first open it you will see that there is a list of programs under the Windows tab, a menu on the left hand side, and a Check for Updates link on the bottom right. If this isn’t the first time you’ve used CCleaner, click Check for Updates and update the program before using it, to ensure you have the latest version.
First we’ll run cleaner on our Windows and Applications. When you first open the application, the options that are selected are the recommended defaults for cleaning, so you see things like Internet Cache, Internet History, etc. apps selected. There are also a number of options that aren’t selected and are slightly greyed out underneath those that are checked. I usually check these but whether you do this or not is up to you. I would recommend you leave the as they are and just go ahead with the defaults. This will give you system a good clean but will also keep some of the useful data that is stored, such as Saved Passwords and Autocomplete Forms History, intact. Of course, if you’re happy to delete that information, go ahead and tick those extra boxes.
The same goes for the Applications tab; just leave the defaults as they are unless you want do a very deep clean, which would mean also deleting some potentially useful data, like stored passwords.
To run the application, make sure your Internet browser (Firefox, Chrome, etc.) is closed. If a browser window is open you will get an error when you try to run CCleaner as it won’t be able to clean the files associated with it.
Click the Analyze button. This does a dummy clean, which you can check before doing it for real. With this in progress, the Analyze button changes to a Cancel button and the status bar appears, showing you how much of the clean is complete (in the screenshot below you can see it’s at 35%).
When this is done you’ll get an overview. In the screenshot below you can see the list of programs that have been analyzed and how much data can be deleted in the clean. It’s been a while since I ran this, so you can see I have ~14GB of data to clean!
Also note, that I didn’t take my own advice when running the app, so Google Chrome, which as open at the time, has not been cleaned. I will have to run it again a second time, with the browser closed, to clean that up.
Now click the Run Cleaner button to remove the files from your hard disk.
When the process has finished (you will see a progress bar, as you did when you first analysed the clean) the Cleaning Completed screen, as shown below, is displayed.
That’s it! We’re halfway there. Now to clean up the registry.
Click on the Registry tab from the left menu.
Again, we’ll just use the defaults. This will check the computer registry for errors.
First click the Scan for Issues button. If your system is anything like mine quite a lot of files will come up! These are usually files that are added when a new application is installed or an software update is performed.
At the end of the scan you’ll see a list of issues.
Next click the Fix Selected Issues button to run the program again.
At the prompt, click Yes. CCleaner will run the Registry scan again, this time fixing the issues that have been identified.
Navigate to or create the folder where you wish to save your registry file backup, then click Save.
At the next popup window, click Fix Issues (to go through every issue one at a time) or click Fix All Selected Issues (recommended.)
CCleaner will start to go through the list of issues and will show this screen when it has finished.
At this point you could close CCleaner and move onto the next step, but it’s always useful to run the Registry Cleaning steps again and then again until no files are found. On my system, on this occasion, I ran it a total of four times. The first time it found 991 issues. The second time it found a further 29 issues. The third time, 12 issues. Then we were done – no more registry issues, yay!
Update and Run your Anti-Virus Software
Now, one last job because it’s easily overlooked and now would be a good time to do it: update and run your antivirus software. There are too many packages available for me to be able to document instructions so if you need help specific to your system, want some help go through the steps outlined in this article, or would like me to do all of this for you, in person or remotely, call or email to arrange a personalised session.
Why are we doing this? Read Spring Clean Your System Series: Introduction to find out.
Image credit: iStock.com/valio84sl