We rely on computers for so many daily tasks these days - from banking to managing everything from sensitive business data to personal photos, chatting via IM, video conferencing and even shopping. It’s easy to overlook the fact that a lot of the data on your PC could create all kinds of problems in the wrong hands – especially if you’re using a notebook.
Likewise, there’s a lot to be said for basic file hygiene - not only for the sake of freeing up wasted space, but also to help you find things without having to sift through mountains of useless, badly named folders. With these things in mind, here are a few Windows® tips to help you clean up your computer:
(Note: you may need administrator-level access for some of the tasks below)
1. Disk cleanup tool
Easily the most useful tool on the list, it will help you delete temporary files, clean up downloaded program files and Internet cache files and empty your Recycle Bin. In many cases it may help you to reclaim gigabytes of wasted storage space.
In Windows XP, open My Computer, then right-click on your main drive (usually C:\ drive). Then click Properties. Next click Disk Cleanup to open the tool.
Depending on how cluttered your computer is, the tool may take a few minutes to evaluate what it can do for you. Once it’s loaded you can click through the list of options displayed to see what each one will do for you, and check the operations you want to perform.
(Tip: If you’re using Firefox, you can delete temporary Internet files simply by opening Firefox and clicking the Toolsmenu, and then Delete Private Data)
2. Add or remove programs
If you’ve been using your current Windows XP install for a while now, there’s a good likelihood that you have all kinds of unusual and unnecessary programs installed. These can take up a lot of space, and depending on the program, might even be running processes in the background which are slowing your computer down. To review and remove them, simply click the Start button, Settings, then select Control Panel, and choose Add or Remove Programs.Here you can review the programs installed on your PC and safely remove anything you don’t need anymore. Choose the program you want to remove, hit Remove and they’re gone.
3. Clean up MSN
- Passwords – Don’t like that your computer still has your MSN password floating around on it? Click Start > Run, and type control userpasswords2, then click Enter. Click the Advanced tab, find, Manage Passwords. From here you’ll also have the option to stop the computer from saving your passwords from now on. You can also information about password security here.
- Chat logs – Most instant messenger programs ask you once if you’d like to store logs of your chats, and after that don’t make any further mention of it, quietly keeping a library of every word you type long after you’ve forgotten about choosing to do this. To delete your MSN chat logs, simply open My Documents and delete the files stored in the My Chat Logs folder. (Tip: Holding Shift + Deletewill immediately delete the selected files, bypassing the Recycle Bin)
4. Scan for spyware
Spyware is a very common problem nowadays, and depending on the sophistication of the infections you get, the security and privacy threat can be huge. If your company doesn’t already have strict spyware policies in place, a periodic scan of your computer can save you a lot of hassle and heartache – and sometimes even pick things up that your anti-virus program may have missed. No matter how good your AV program is, multiple layers of protection are never a bad idea.
Windows Defender(which is already installed on Windows Vista) is a very good start. Simply install and follow the prompts to check your system. There are other excellent tools available too, most notably Ad-Awareand Spybot-S&D, both of which offer support in a variety of languages.
5. Get organised!
While it won’t necessarily free up much disk space or offer greater security, the productivity gains from keeping things in order are tremendous. Simply choose categories for everything, and group important files based on criteria that make sense to you (e.g. \Accounts\HP\2007) – it won’t take as long as you think, and may well save you hours in accumulated searches. For most people, a good measure of file hygiene is to count how many random files appear on the desktop.
In most cases, following these few simple steps is an excellent way to reclaim control of your hard drive.