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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

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)

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51 Responses to “How to Optimize Your Computer”

  1. Shirley says:

    I have 5 computers in use and 2 others given to me because they were “just too slow”.
    Cleaning them up and passing them on where needed is a joy.

    After clearing temp files and defragging, CCleaner is my first tool of choice and it also cleans and defragments the registry.
    SpywareBlaster (free) and SUPERAntispyware ($19.95 lifetime license) for real-time protection are next and then Spybot Search and Destroy for twice weekly scans.

    Avast! is my virus scanner of choice since AVG put their toolbar on the program.
    I have it running on Windows 98, 2000, XP pro and home and Win7, and have never had a problem since installing it.

    Free Malwarebytes can’t be beat for getting rid of all sorts of malware and the difference between it and the paid version is manual updating. It does not run continuously (that is not its purpose) but is called up for scans when desired. There is an update link right on the interface.

    I use WinPatrol to show me (and configure) all startup and running programs, hidden files, ActiveX and browser helpers.
    This program is amazing!

    These programs leave me with clean and fast machines.

  2. Derek says:

    I use AVG Free but the best virus protection I’ve used is Kaspersky. In terms of free, they only offer a trial. I also use Malwarebytes for spyware.

    The bottom line is if you have a virus infection, reformatting is the safest solution. It is the only 100% guarantee to get rid of the virus. There are tons of viruses designed to avoid detection and deletion. You might think you got rid of a virus but it already replicated into something else. Just make sure you backup all personal files and you have your windows cd and key ready.

  3. HuBu says:

    The Ever-Growing Free Windows Software List

    http://forum.notebookreview.com/showthread.php?t=337890

  4. Chris says:

    To start with I fix PCs daily and on average do about 15-25 a week. The first step of ANY PC user is to ditch McAfee ant-virus/internetsecurity/total protection crap that you get from your ISP. Verizon Security Suite is another quick one to ditch (it seems to be based on ESods Nod32 or Kaspersky depending on the version but its a bloated POS) because of the relative poor job it does of protection as well as the massive resource consumption both have.

    Step two would be to check your RAM. If you’re running Windows XP and have less than 1Gb, upgrade (yes 256-512Mb was fine at launch but you’re running alot more stuff now…memory is cheap). Vista you want atleast 2Gb, 3Gb is even smoother. Again, memory is cheap. Windows 7 runs ok on 1Gb but 2Gb is better and again…more is BETTER. You can never have enough ram and with 4Gb running between $60-70 for DDR3 (DDR2 will cost you closer to $80 and DDR will run closer to $100-120) its the cheapest upgrade you can do and will NEVER (unless its bad memory) treat you wrong.

    Next, AVG? No, its become massively bloated and its default toolbar and safesearch capabilities are massively sluggish. Microsoft offers a free, amazingly good security solution called Security Essentials. It works as long as you have a valid, WGA certified version of XP/Vista/Win7. Great software. Avast works in a pinch as well (more so for fixing/recovery) and in a pinch Avira is nice too but its ads are annoying.

    Ccleaner is good but its not going to fix massive problems and in fact Vista/Win7 offer similar space cleaning tools but dont touch the registry (and I’d prefer far more users to stay the hell away from registry cleaners. Ccleaner does ok there but the rest just LEAVE THE REGISTRY ALONE!).

    Finally, Spybot is good but no malware tool by itself is perfect. Spybot + malwarebytes is about as close to perfect as you can get. AdAware is junk nowadays as is Spysweeper. Kaspersky AV does a decent job as an Anti-virus for removing malware but again, its somewhat bloated and not intuitive for a user app.

    Seriously though, the absolute best thing you can do to improve performance is remove as many of the computer companies programs as you can at start but MAKE SURE YOU HAVE AS MUCH MEMORY AS YOU CAN AFFORD!!!!!!!

  5. Neal says:

    Recently, my computer started running real slow only online. It used to be super fast. My wife’s computer is working fine online so it’s not the connection.

    I’ve ran a virus scan, spybot, & cc cleaner but to no avail.

    Can someone point me in the right direction?

    Thanks,
    Neal

    • Anonymous says:

      For starters:
      R-click on ‘MyComputer’
      R-click on Local Disk C
      Click on ‘Properties’
      Click on ‘Disc cleanup’
      Clean it all.

      Next click n the Tool tab
      Click on ‘Defragment Now’

      When this is done, try your Spybot and CCleaner again, and scan with an antivirus program. HTH :-)

  6. Anne says:

    If you’re on a new pc, or just looking for a lot of this that you haven’t installed yet, check out http://ninite.com/ it’ creates a single installer with all of the apps that you check on the page! (And, it removes all the stupid toolbar options you are usually asked about.) You can let it run without having to wait for any of the accept pages – I usually have it run overnight after I build new laptops.

  7. John says:

    AVAST (free anti-virus)
    Spybot (free spyware)
    Malwarebytes (free anti-malware)
    Glary Utilities (free for system management)
    Open Office (open source version MS office)
    Firefox (free web browser with excellent add-ons)
    Gimpshop (open source similar to photoshop)

  8. I came over from The Simple Dollar – great article! I’ll be passing this on to my hubs, the tech person of our household :>) and I linked to it on my weekly roundup, the post is under my name. Thanks!

  9. Deby says:

    Wow, this is good timing. We’re looking to replace our 7-yr, twitchy, virus-laden, slow-as-molassess, laughable RAM Compaq in a month or so, definately some good suggestions here. A bit off topic, but what would anyone suggest as a good replacement pc? We mostly use it for budgeting/spreadsheets, internet, music downloads, and the kids have tons of video on it. Anybody have any suggestions?

    ~Deby


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