Lean and Mean - Tech Learning

Lean and Mean

Keep your PC running smoothly with these tips. Just like an automobile, your computer can slow down and perform sluggishly. Some basic servicing and a periodic tune up can help keep it in better shape. Here are some tips for regular computer maintenance. Empty the Trash/Recycle bin This can free up space, though
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Keep your PC running smoothly with these tips.

Just like an automobile, your computer can slow down and perform sluggishly. Some basic servicing and a periodic tune up can help keep it in better shape. Here are some tips for regular computer maintenance.

Empty the Trash/Recycle bin

This can free up space, though note that deleting a file does not actually eliminate it from your computer completely. Computer thieves could theoretically recover this "deleted" information. Consider software applications such as Sure Delete and Digital File Shredder for permanent removal of trash files.

Clear the Internet cache

As you visit Web sites, your browser saves copies of pages in an area called the cache. This can help speed up future reloading of pages by accessing parts of them from the cache. As you can imagine, the cache can quickly load up with unnecessary files. Periodically clearing it can serve you well. It is sometimes recommended to clear the cache monthly; the method to do so depends on your browser.

Clear the Web history

This is another place where old data is stored. The history is exactly that—a listing of the pages you have visited. Your browser can be set to only keep a certain number of days of history. You can always manually delete the history, in a manner similar to clearing the cache.

Delete temporary files

Programs frequently create temporary files as they run; when you quit the program, these temp files are supposed to be deleted by the program. However, some programs "behave badly" and do not do so. On a PC, you can use the included Disk Cleanup program to delete them.


Always have an antivirus program running, and make sure its antivirus definition file is up to date. That's the file containing the information the program uses to detect and clean viruses; as new viruses hit the Internet, your antivirus software producer updates the file and users can download it. Your antivirus program can be set to do this automatically on a periodic basis. Some popular antivirus programs include Symantec AntiVirus and McAfee VirusScan; HouseCall and Panda ActiveScan can be run online for a free scan.


When you save a file on your computer, it is likely that it will be split up and stored in various sections of your hard drive. That's because after you have been saving and deleting files for a while, available space on the drive will be in various places. Over time, you may see a loss of speed as you open and close files. Defragmentation moves the files around to make them contiguous and help solve the problem. Windows XP has a built-in defragging program which performs this task; some third-party defraggers include Norton SystemWorks and Diskeeper.

Spyware and adware

Wikipedia defines spyware as "computer software that collects personal information about users without their informed consent". Spyware can have criminal intent, such as accessing your usernames and passwords or simply be used to target advertising to you. In either case, if you don't want it you need to use a program such as Ad-Aware or Spybot Search & Destroy. These and similar programs keep extensive databases of spyware and adware and can clean them from your system. Run one on a regular basis.

Registry cleaners

The registry on a Windows computer stores a wide variety of configuration settings for your computer. As you install and uninstall software, entries are made to and deleted from the registry. But, as we know from earlier in this article, some software has been known to behave badly—if it does not uninstall properly, it can leave entries in the registry. After a while, this can cause your computer to start and run slowly and be less reliable and stable. Some popular registry cleaners include Registry Mechanic, Registry Cleaner, and JV16 PowerTools.

For more tips about getting your computer running faster and more efficiently, go to www.techlearning.com/lean&mean for an expanded version of this column. Happy computing!

Jeffrey Branzburg is a contributing editor and columnist for T&L.

Other Maintenance Tasks

  • Make sure your system is set to automatically update operating system updates using the Windows Update function. That way bug fixes are sent to you as you work.
  • The more programs you have set up to start automatically when you turn on your computer, the more time it will take to start up. Look in the preferences of programs that start up automatically and turn off this feature if you don't need it always available. Many programs turn this feature on as part of the installation process, so there may be programs starting up that you are unaware of. The task bar of a PC shows icons for such programs; right click them to change options.
  • Sometimes it is recommended to keep at least 25 percent of your hard drive empty (for programs to store temporary files and perform other tasks). If your hard drive is way over 75 percent full, consider uninstalling programs you rarely use and moving seldom used files to another hard drive, CDs, or flash drives.
  • Minimize your multitasking. It's great that you can run many program simultaneously, but this can slow down (or even crash) your computer. Only keep open the programs you are currently using.
  • Restart your computer occasionally. Some people (myself included) tend to leave computers on for days at a time. Restarting it can clear out system memory. —JB



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