Flowers are blooming and birds are chirping all across East Tennessee, which means it’s time to start your yearly spring cleaning extravaganza. While you’re emptying your closets, decluttering, and getting rid of the bloat in your life, why not do the same for your computer? Here are some steps we take at Ctrl Alt Repair to give your trusted computer a little spring cleaning of its own.
Clean Up Your Hardware
We’ll start with the outside of your machine. Turn it off, unplug everything, and find an open area where you can easily reach everything. Whether you have a laptop or a desktop, your main priority is probably going to be the keyboard and mouse or trackpad. Luckily, you can clean them pretty easily with just a few household objects. If they’re looking a little greasy, you can always clean them up with a Mr. Clean magic eraser, too.
We’ll also want to get inside your computer’s case and clean any dust out of the fans to keep everything running cool and quiet. We’ve shown you how to do this on a desktop before, and all you need is a little compressed air to do a pretty thorough job. Laptops, unfortunately, usually require a lot more work. You’ll have to refer to your computer’s instruction manual for more information on how to take it apart.
Tame Your Cable Clutter
As we head back to your desk to replace your newly-cleaned computer, we’ll take some time to organize your cables first. We’ve do this a number of ways, from simple cable shortening techniques to full workspace solutions. I can personally vouch for both the rain gutter method and the IKEA Signum cable manager, though you can experiment with your workspace to see what works best. If you’re using a laptop, slapping a couple binder clips on your desk is just about the greatest way to save them from falling on the floor whenever you go mobile, too.
Get Up to Date
Alright, we’ve plugged your machine back in at your pristine workspace, and now it’s time to get down to the good stuff: software. Before we do anything else, lets head to Windows Update and make sure all your software is up to date—drivers, service packs, security updates, and so on. If you’re still on Windows 7, it might be a good time to consider an upgrade. Windows 8 has been out for awhile now, and it’s really not as bad as everyone says it is—in fact, it’s pretty great. It’s faster, more secure, and has a number of useful new features. Even though Windows 8’s metro interface isn’t that great, you can easily get rid of it and make it more like Windows 7 in all the annoying spots, while keeping the great features Windows 8 brings to the table.
Uninstall Unnecessary Apps
If you’ve followed our advice about being conservative with the apps you install, you shouldn’t have too many unnecessary ones floating around—but no matter how careful you are, it’s bound to happen. Skip Windows’ built-in Add/Remove Programs dialog and use something like Revo Uninstaller for quicker, more thorough uninstallations. This is also a great time to de-crapify your printer or scanner setup, as it undoubtedly contributes a few unnecessary apps to your hard drive.
We might also want to take a look at your startup items in ‘msconfig’ and uncheck options you don’t need. This’ll decrease your computer’s boot time significantly, not to mention free up a few resources. If you’re having trouble deciding what to disable, we highly recommend checking out previously mentioned Soluto, which will help guide you through the process.
Reclaim Hard Drive Space
If you’re starting to run out of space on your drive, it’s time to take a really good look at what might be causing it. That means ditching Windows’ built-in Disk Cleanup app (which is fine, but probably won’t net you a ton of space savings) and check out something like WinDirStat or Disk Space Fan. They’ll show you exactly what’s taking up so much space on your machine, organized by folder, file type, and more. Armed with that information, you can start deleting stuff you don’t need and getting some of that disk space back. For more information, check out our feature on how to analyze, clean out, and free space on your hard drive.
Do Some Maintenance and Optimize Your System
Now it’s time to really dig in and start cleaning up the cruft that can slow down your machine. We’ll clean up some of those extra caches, temporary files, log files, and other things strewn about your system.
Apart from that, the only maintenance we need to do (besides the other things mentioned in this post) is keep your antivirus program turned on and up to date, defragment, clean the registry, mess with Windows prefetching, or do anything else we’ve been told to do over the years. Check out our guide to computer maintenance for more info.
Back Up Your Refreshed PC
Lastly, it’s time to back up your newly cleaned PC. Hopefully, you had a backup system in place before this whole thing, but if not, we recommend setting up a bulletproof, offsite backup system. Once you set it up, you never really have to think about it again. Alternatively, you can always just back up to an external drive using the built-in Windows Backup — I personally use this to back up to my NAS — but we’d still recommend backing up your super important files to something like Dropbox, iCloud, OneDrive, etc.. Since this won’t protect you from things like fires, earthquakes, drive failures, or anything else that could destroy your backup.
..And if your Computer is to far gone: Do a Clean Install
It’s worth mentioning, since it’s such a popular option, that some people just prefer to reinstall Windows every once in a while to keep everything running smoothly. This is totally fine — I do it myself, in fact, just because I’m a bit OCD that way — but you really don’t have to. As long as you take care of your computer, it should run just as quickly, smoothly, and cleanly as a freshly minted installation.
If you do want to do a clean install, then I highly recommend lets us do a clean install without losing your files, settings and tweaks. It’ll make the whole process a lot easier. We can also customize your Windows installation creating the OS of your dreams by removing unnecessary Windows components, adding service packs to your installer, and even automatically installing all your favorite apps in one fell swoop.