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How to Optimize Your Computer

The Consumerist did a great job exposing Best Buy’s Optimization services scam [3] 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 [4] – 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 [5] 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 [6] 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 [7] 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 [8] 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 [9], 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 [10])