Tools & Tips

Spring Clean Your System: Part One

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Regularly cleaning your computer’s hard drive, removing unwanted and outdated files, is an important computer maintenance task that can be easily overlooked but that is quick to do and has lots of benefits in terms of security and the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 out the junk files. In this post we’ll be using CCleaner, which is a free application you find online.

Install and Run CCleaner

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.

Run CCleaner on Windows and your 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.

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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%).

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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.

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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.

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That’s it! We’re halfway there. Now to clean up the registry.

Run CCleaner on the Registry

Click on the Registry tab from the left menu.

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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.

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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.

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Navigate to or create the folder where you wish to save your registry file backup, then click Save.

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At the next popup window, click Fix Issues (to go through every issue one at a time) or click Fix All Selected Issues (recommended.)

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CCleaner will start to go through the list of issues and will show this screen when it has finished.

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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. 

A full PC clean, at your home, on up to three computers, will cost 100 euros. Call today to arrange a time!

Download Links

CCleaner  https://www.ccleaner.com/ccleaner/download


Why are we doing this? Read Spring Clean Your System Series: Introduction to find out.

Image credit: iStock.com/valio84sl

Tools & Tips, Tutorials

Spring Clean Your System Series: Introduction

Spring is in the air – at last! With the increasing light, we naturally start to clear out all those dusty corners and give our homes and gardens a good tidy up, ready for the year ahead. But what about your technology?

If, like me, you use your computer for work and also have a number of other devices you use, such as a table or iPad, the chances are you have a lot of files to organise. Whether that’s photos, e-mail or documents, just like your regular paper-based filing pile, a lot of clutter can build up over time if you don’t stay on top of it. And that’s just the stuff you see.

Whenever we use technology lots of files are used behind the scenes and these also mount up over time; things like temp (temporary) files, cookies from websites we visit, and a legion of other one-time and short-time-use files. All this invisible clutter stays on your system and over time slows it down, which is why it’s worth removing it. And what better time than Spring, since that’s when we get busy tidying generally.

Now all you need is a few specialist (free) tools and the know-how. What better way to start the week than with decluttered and organised computer! To help you with this I’ve put together a series of posts that will take you through the various ways you can tidying up and also get organised.

What’s Covered

First we’ll look at ways to declutter all those invisible files using some free software designed just for that purpose.

Then we’ll look at decluttering our files and applications.

And finally, once we’ve cleaned up our act, we’ll make sure we’ve got everything backed up, either to The Cloud or to an external disk or drive.

While you’re waiting…

In the meantime, why not get out some screen wipes and give the screen and keyboard a good wipe down. And, if you have a desktop PC or a laptop with a visible vent, it’s a good idea to put the hoover up to the back of the fan vent and suck out the dust especially if you have pets. No, seriously. One of our computers was constantly overheating. When we took the back off to check that all was well with the heat-sink we found, to our surprise, an enormous ball of fluff had collected there. No wonder it wouldn’t work!

Taking that one step further, if you’re confident to open the case on a desktop machine – and can do so without invalidating any warranties – it’s well worth giving your computer’s insides a good freshen up. Just open it up and give all the dusty looking bits a blast of air from an air canister such as this one on Amazon*. No more fluff – and no more whirring fan.

Although the focus of this will be on Windows systems, many of the techniques and tips will also be relevant for Mac users. Where there are differences, I’ll provide separate info in later posts.

Credits: main image copyright iStock.com/valio84sl


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