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How to Spring Clean your Computer

10 February 2014 by Jenn Granger

Today is Clean Out Your Computer Day, and while you’re frantically fighting in the aisles for Valentine’s cards what you actually should be doing is hitting your computer with a technological (and literal) feather duster! Unless of course your significant other is planning on getting murdery if you don’t buy them a card; in which case, hit the aisles and then clean up your computer. (We look out for your physical safety here too.) Here are 9 ways to show your computer some love too.


Clean up your operating system

The longer your operating system has been installed the slower it gets, so back up your data and reinstall it to save you precious Valentine’s buying minutes. Run built-in utilities regularly, like Disk Cleanup in system tools and Defragmenter for Microsoft. There are also programmes like System Mechanic that can fix common problems on your system.

Clean up old files

Honestly, do you still need pictures of your third Aunt Kath’s boss’s wedding? Or that old Limp Bizkit album? We fill our hard drives with things we don’t need but can’t bear to get rid of; if you really want to keep hold of them (just in case Limp have a comeback) slide them over to an external hard drive and save yourself some space. Ccleaner from Piriform is great for cleaning all areas of your computer.

Clean out your inbox

This is the cousin of the above point. You don’t need email offers from Pizza Express from five months ago. Delete. The Gnome Collector’s Daily update you never read? Delete. ‘Crazyperson Alert’ Facebook notifications every five minutes? You know what to do. Makes it easier to find the emails that really matter, for a start. Like UKFast newsletters, and er, work.

Gmail it comes with an archive area built in – handy if you’re on it, kind of showing off if you’re not – under ‘All Mail’. When you archive an email – by clicking Archive, selecting the menu option, or hitting the E key – the message gets moved from your inbox and archived in ‘All Mail’ view.

Remove malware

Malware encompasses all the bad things you don’t want on your computer that slows it down, causes weird pop ups about unicorns, and all other manner of sins. To get rid of malware (even if you’re enjoying pop up unicorns, we’d recommend it), first disconnect from the internet to stop the spread of the problem and re-start in safe mode. If you use Windows, reboot your computer and wait for it to start the operating system. Then press and hold F8 while waiting for the Windows logo to appear. When the Advanced Boot Options screen appears use the arrow keys to select Safe mode and press Return. It will say Safe Mode in all four corners to let you know it’s, well, safe.

Then delete temporary files with Disk Cleanup, and download a malware scanner. If you already have antivirus use a different one to ensure it picks up any nasty bugs the first one missed; try one of these malware removal tools. Also do a deep virus scan, rather than the usual lighter scans, and leave it overnight or while you make a really long cuppa.

Clean browsing history

Which is a good way to save some space and keep your browsing private – especially if it’s on a shared computer! That will probably be in your internet toolbar options under history, depending on which browser you’re using.

Defrag like you’ve never defragged before

Give your hard drive a good defragging. Click on the start menu and click Disk Defragmenter (for Windows); select the disk you want to defrag; to see if it needs doing click ‘analyse disk’. Then check the percentage of fragmentation in the last run column – if it’s above 10% you should defrag. Defraggler is a great one for this.

Clear Free Disk Space

When you delete a file it doesn’t actually delete it; I know – I feel fooled too. Until it’s written over, the space where it was is marked ‘available for use’ makes it possible to retrieve it, which means it could still be taking up space. Windows has a utility that allows you to properly kill any files in the free space. Launch a command prompt and type cipher /w:X (X is the letter of the drive or partition you want to wipe). Be warned, the process can take a long time if you have a lot of free space.


MSConfig.exe is generally a good troubleshooting tool, and useful for speeding up opening Microsoft; it’s another system utility bundled with all Windows operating systems since 98 (apart from 2000, but Windows 95 and 2000 can download versions as an extra). Find it by typing MSCONFIG into a command prompt or in the start menu; it can also be found, in many versions, in the Windows/SYSTEM32 folder.

A good scrub, literally

Get your hands dirty – physically removing dust from your system is a good idea too. Use canned air to blow dust out of your computer then suck it up with a hoover (note – don’t just try to hoover your computer!). Pay attention to vents and be careful not to inhale any dust that comes out – if you have a tower or a lot of cleaning maybe best take it outside. Finally, have a good go-over with screen wipes to make sure it looks as shiny outside as it does inside.

Now you’re well on your way to a squeaky clean computer, which should be safer and faster! What are your top tips for a computer (nearly)-Spring clean?