Spring Cleaning for Your PC

Wave goodbye to snow and polar vortexes—spring is finally here. This means saying hello to April showers and May flowers, as well as some cleaning up around the house you’ve been putting off all winter. Don’t just concentrate on mopping your floors and making those bathroom sinks look shiny, though: Your computer could use some cleaning too. Let’s start with how to clean your hardware, and then move on to your applications and hard drive.

1. PC Hardware

How NOT to Clean Your Hardware

First, a few words of caution to help you avoid causing any problems: Do not leave your computer powered on during any cleaning tasks; in fact, be sure to unplug it as well. Second, never spray liquid cleaners directly into your system. If you use any liquid to get rid of dust, pour it lightly onto a cloth first.

Fans and Vents

Over time, dust and lint build up on a computer’s fans and vents, contributing to overheating. Therefore, when it comes to the hardware portion of a routine PC cleanup, your best friend is a can of compressed air, which will allow you to blast every fan and vent on the outside of the tower. Make sure you’re utilizing it in such a way that you’re not putting any dust back into the computer, however. Alternatively, as PCWorld pointed out, you could use a soft brush, paper towel, cotton swab or even a toothbrush for this task. It may seem like a cumbersome and tedious process, but it can make a big difference for PC performance.

Tackling the Interior

This is the part that intimidates many computer owners, but with the right guidance and carefulness, cleaning out the inside of your machine should be simple.

First, touch something metal for several seconds to ground yourself and prevent static electricity from damaging the sensitive inside components of your system. Next, remove any added video or audio cards and place them aside. Other components, like audio connectors and port extensions, can be taken out too. Be careful when using a vacuum—it’s effective for much of the built-up dust, but don’t get it near any PC components. Get out the brush and compressed air you used for the exterior and very gently get to work on the motherboard and slots. According to TechRadar, for the open, bare areas of the case, wipe them down with a dry cloth.

Piecing It Back Together

Before you seal the machine back up, carefully clean all of the components you set aside with your brush. Then put them back where they belong, ensuring that you replaced everything to its rightful position and you didn’t leave any cleaning materials inside the case. Close it all up, but wait at least half an hour before plugging in your now-clean PC and booting it up again. If it’s been a while since you’ve cleaned your PC’s physical parts, you should see a significant improvement in the way your hardware runs.

2. Apps

Clearing Out the CRUDD

Microsoft likes to package its operating system with loads of software that most users will never use or need. Regardless, many PC owners won’t delete all these wastes of hard drive space. Go through your applications folders. Chances are, there will be some programs listed you’ve barely even noticed before—some of them may have come pre-installed and others may have installed themselves without your knowledge.

Uninstalling all of this the traditional way, however, could prove tedious, and identifying all unnecessary applications may be easier said than done. For a faster approach, use iolo technologies’ CRUDD Remover, just one part of its comprehensive PC performance boosting software, System Mechanic. This tool automatically detects all sorts of duplicate, unused and unneeded programs, classifying and presenting them all for you so you can be rid of them in one fell swoop.

Update Everything

Everyone has procrastinated on keeping applications up to date from time to time. It may seem pointless, but setting aside some time to tackle updating all the software you’ve been putting off will go a long way toward speeding up your system. Not only that, but installing software updates will also help make sure your computer is protected against many of the latest security threats, which get patched regularly within programs but remain unpatched in older versions. System Mechanic‘s Designated Drivers tool will automatically find and install many of the latest hardware driver updates as well, which is another key step to take for optimal PC security.

Consolidate Antivirus Software

A surefire way to slow down every process your PC runs is to have multiple, real-time antivirus suites running in the background. In truth, you only need one. We suggest downloading another product from iolo technologies, System Shield, which would eliminate the need for any other AV solutions slowing down your system and taking up space on your hard drive.

System Shield is an antivirus/anti-malware solution that regularly and automatically updates to catch the latest threat definitions, maintaining an ever-expanding roster of specific malware signatures and suspicious behaviors to help keep your PC secure.

You can combine the benefits of both iolo products in one by downloading System Mechanic Pro.

3. Hard Drive

Benefits of Backup

It can be devastating to lose all your files due to a hard drive crash or another computing calamity. Back them up onto an external hard drive or cloud storage service. Then go through your library and delete some of the stuff you don’t use very often anymore. This way, you can keep around some of the documents and media files you don’t usually need—just in case you get an itch to revisit them—while also clearing space on your hard drive to speed up your computer.

Get Rid of Fragmented Data

The longer you use your PC, the more cluttered your hard drive becomes. As you add and delete data, eventually the disk can no longer store your files in one continuous block, and the data gets scattered. This means that when your computer needs to run some software, it basically needs to reassemble the data like a jigsaw puzzle every time. Obviously, this can significantly slow down your system. You will need to run a defragmenter to fix the problem. Like many of the processes on this list, you should do it more regularly than once a year. A defrag can often prove to be a tedious and time-consuming activity, but once again, System Mechanic has you covered with its built-in AcceleWrite technology, which prevents much fragmentation in the first place by automatically writing files to disk in batches, rather than piecemeal.

iolo UptoSpeed

UpToSpeed™ is iolo's ongoing article series written by PC experts for everyday computer users. Each article is packed with easy tips and practical advice on the latest issues affecting computers to help you get the most out of your PC.

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Spring Cleaning for Your PC