Personal Finance 

How to Optimize Your Computer

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Cat at a ComputerThe Consumerist did a great job exposing Best Buy’s Optimization services scam last week but the real gem, besides having another reason not to buy computers there, was in the end where they listed free tools you could use to optimize your computer.

First, before you download or run any tools, use the ones that come free with Windows – Disk Defragmenter, Disk Cleanup, etc. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to bring in the big guns… all of which are free.


CCleaner is a very powerful free tool that offers one click cleanup of all browser data (temporary files, surfing history, cookies, download history, etc.) as well as, and this is where I think it really excels, a registry cleaner and third-party app cleaner. It’s great you can remove all those garbage registry entries and artifacts without having to enter your registry manually (and potentially mucking something up).

PC Decrapifier

PC Decrapifier is an app I didn’t know about until the Consumerist article but it lets you delete all the garbage new computers come with. All those trials and shareware packages you won’t possibly use, all can be removed with a click of the button. It maintains a centralized database of “craplets” and the app is free. I thought it was funny that the advertisement that appears when you visit the site is from Geek Squad/Best Buy. This beats going into Add/Remove Programs in Windows and removing things manually.

Spybot Search & Destroy

I run Spybot all the time. When you start using it, you’ll be amazed at how many websites drop cookies (basically all of them, including Bargaineering) and this will let you clean up a lot of that junk. More importantly, it will find and remove spyware like toolbars and hidden extensions to your browser.

Free AVG

AVG Free is a free anti-virus anti-spyware application that, at a minimum, everyone should have installed on their computer. If you have Norton or some other anti-virus application, you won’t need AVG. If you don’t have an anti-virus program and are considering buying something, give AVG a try. You’ll be impressed.

The Consumerist also mentioned Avira Anti-Virus, also free, but I’ve never used it.

If you run just those applications and the built in Windows ones, you’re bound to clean a metric ton of crap off your computer if you’ve never approached it. Then, every once and a while, run them again to make sure things are still nice and clean!

Is there an app that should be on the list but isn’t?

(Photo: vickispix)

{ 51 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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51 Responses to “How to Optimize Your Computer”

  1. otipoby says:

    I personally prefer Microsoft’s free anti-virus solution “Security Essentials”. I like it over AVG because it seems to not slow the system down as much and it only shows information if something is wrong. Other anti-virus scanners will usually tell you periodically that it has stopped XX attacks.

  2. Safeway_Sage says:

    My Norton subscription ran out and I got AVG a few months ago. It runs cleaner than Norton, doesn’t use as much system resources, and best of all it free!


  3. Steven says:

    Ad-aware is another good one.

    When I fix someone’s computer runs “slow”, I run what I call the Trinity.

    Virus scan, spybot, and ad-aware. If the three don’t install/won’t scan, your only course of action is to wipe it.

    There are other time-consuming things you can try, but I charged a flat flee, so I wasn’t going to bother trying all those various solutions. I’d just backup their music, data, photos, and bookmarks, then wipe it clean.

    For the average users, wiping your computer and starting from a fresh install will work wonders if you do it once a year. The Windows registry gets clogged over time.

    • Caitlin says:

      I’ve never wiped my computer, because it’s always sounded like an incredible hassle. I have several programs that are no longer available, or that I’ve lost the install CDs over the years, or that the current downloadable free version sucks and I want to stick with the version from a year ago.

      What do you do about programs that you don’t want to lose, but don’t have the means to readily re-install after the wipe?

      • Shirley says:

        This won’t help your dilemma for now, but in the future when you download or install a program, always save the setup.exe on either a disc or a flash drive. A folder on an external HD is perfect for this (along with your backups).

    • iamellis says:

      There have been times when my computer has been so bogged down with crap these programmes won’t work for me either. Luckily I had loaded said programmes onto a flash-drive. There have been times when a programme has had a .exe file extension and malware has blocked it. I simply changed the file extension to.scr for example

  4. Soccer9040 says:

    I’m new to AVG having used an enterprise version of McAfee. McAfee seemed to consume too much CPU power. So far AVG has been good for me.

  5. NewPerspective says:

    … OR… you could use Linux and never worry about cleaning your computer again! LOL

    If you choose to stick with Windows, I would scrap AVG and Avira. The ads from both programs are a pain. Avira consistently gave me a lot of false positives too. I’ve been using Avast! on all my home PCs and it works beautifully. From the most recent studies I’ve seen, Avast is second only to Avira in terms of detection and ability to clean infections (referring only to free anti-virus programs).

    • NewPerspective says:

      Oh, and I second the plug for Ad-Aware! Excellent piece of software and a great compliment to Spybot.

    • Glenn Lasher says:

      I second the notion on Linux. In my side-line consulting business, I have been converting my customers from Windows to Linux whenever they will hear me out. I have, thus far, heard no complaints, and one customer, about half an hour into training her on Linux, even said, “I already don’t miss Windows.”

      At home, I do not run Windows. Unfortunately, I don’t have an option at my day job.

      • NewPerspective says:

        Glenn, I hear you! I have a PC for my kids’ use that was constantly filled with malware and crashing. I switched them to Linux (Ubuntu) and haven’t had a problem since. My Laptop is Linux, and my desktop PC is dual-boot (I have a couple old Windows programs I like to run occasionally).

  6. Chris says:

    I wonder how many people will buy new pc’s because they think that theirs is too slow when actually it may just need to be cleaned up.

    • jsbrendog says:

      seriously, I want to find these people and have them sell me their old laptops for cheap because they think it is too slow lol

  7. I had AVG Free for a while and it caused more problems than it solved.

    Right now I’m using Trend Micro. $32 and zero issues.

    Jim, why don’t you like Best Buy? I’ve had a really good experience with them over the years.

  8. Microsoft Security Essentials is also free and uses far fewer resources compared to AVG which I previously used. Advanced System Care is another free system cleaner and utility suite that I have used with good success. Download it from CNET.

    • lostAnnfound says:

      Agree with Advanced System, no problems.

      Had used Avast Anti-Virus in the past (another free program), but had nothing but problems. Even my computer guy had a tough time getting rid of the stuff that got by that program.

      • NewPerspective says:

        Wow… How long ago was it? I’ve used Avast! on 3 PCs at home (plus some I maintain at our church) for years and never had a problem! They recently took 2nd place in PC World for free anti-virus programs’ performance in detection and removal of viruses.

  9. jsbrendog says:

    cc cleaner istop notch and i am running avg currently on the pc i am on now.

  10. CC cleaner is good stuff

    If you work for corporate America, you can often get a free license of one of the commercial-grade antivirus programs for use at home from your IT department (as long as there is at least some reason to use your home computer for work). You can also get free Microsoft Office licenses the same way.

  11. zapeta says:

    I use AVG and Spybot currently and I run PC Decrapifier on any new computer that I don’t build myself.

  12. billsnider says:


    My pc took a long time to boot up and it crashed often. I did disk defrag, disk cleanup and a whole lot more and I still had the problem.

    I subscribe to a newsletter at She recently had an article about this. It said that it had to do with the way we view MY COMPUTER.

    Try this.

    Go to MY COMPUTER.

    Click on any folder or file.

    Change the view to LIST

    Then click on TOOLS.

    Then click on VIEW

    Then click on APPLY TO ALL FOLDERS.

    The reat is history. Let me know if you get the same results that I did.

    Bill Snider

  13. Mike says:

    If you are looking to make the computer run faster then you must also check a few more things. Spyware and viruses will bring the system to a crawl but they aren’t always the culprit.

    Also check:
    1) RAM- Do you have enough? If the computer must constantly pull data from swap/paging file that will really slow you down.

    2)Startup programs- do you have too many programs running or starting every time you boot up? Go into the settings or registry(with caution) to allow only necessary programs to start at boot. This will help boot time and performance. There is usually no need for most programs to run in the background.
    3)Defragment your computer – this will opimize your hard drives so the computer can access your files faster and more efficiently.

  14. Caitlin says:

    I hadn’t heard about PC Decrapifier before, but it sounds great! My current computer was a gift, which means it came pre-built and full of loads of crap. I tried to get rid of as much as possible, but I know there’s still some there. Decrapifier sounds great!

    I run Spybot and Ad-Aware occasionally, and AVG is my anti-virus of choice.

  15. Bucksome says:

    I’ll be writing about this as well soon as it pertains to Mr. Boomer’s computer and what we did to speed it up.

    You have a couple of programs listed I didn’t use so appreciate the information and getting the word out (yes, I was going to pay Best Buy).

  16. David says:

    why did u reject my comment

  17. Shahid says:


    Thanks for this article. Quite informative. I knew about all the tools except “PC Decrapifier”.

  18. A great addon if you use firefox is NoScript. It blocks all scripts from running(and in some cases blocks malware from auto installing). It takes some time to configure what to allow and what to keep blocked. But once you get it set up, it’s a great passive tool to have around.

  19. daenyll says:

    I’m a longtime fan of spybot, which reminds me to run a scan. Also have had ad-aware but had forgotten to download it when I got my new laptop. Thanks for the article.

  20. Izalot says:

    Huge fan of Firefox with NoScript, Adblock plus, flashblock and bugmenot installed. All free and make browsing a worthwhile experience!

  21. stonewall says:

    Good suggestions everyone.

    y’all should look into Opendns. It filters out malware, viruses and other crap before it reaches your computer. Best of all they offer a free service. I haven’t paid for a virus subscription since the Clinton administration.

    Also I prefer to use LastPass as a password organizer.

  22. javi says:

    Love NoScript. It stops pdfs from loading in the background and makes webpages easier to see by blocking many ads. You just have to step up your trusted sites once and then forget about it.

    For antivirus, I have switched from AVG to Microsoft Security Essentials. I did this to stop AVG bugging me to buy their paid version during their upgrades. I set up MSE on my parents computer and it doesn’t bother them unless there is a problem.

  23. eric says:

    I love geeky stuff hahaha.

    I usually run PC Decrapifier on new computers that people bring me. It saves a lot of time for me. I love CCleaner too. I used to use Spybot (and it’s still a great program) but I like Malwarebytes’ Anti-malware these days. For AV, I used to stick with AVG but I’m liking Avira and Avast a lot these days so I have made the switch to either of those.

  24. barbie says:


  25. BrianC says:

    VERY nice list. I recently bought a new desktop and was very annoyed at all the trial versions, etc. loaded onto it. Thanks!

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