Everybody knows how to buy a computer and use one, but what about maintaining one? It’s not just about keeping viruses off your computer but so much more. There’s also the physical aspect to keeping your computer running smooth and clean and extend the life of all your computer hardware and accessories. Over the years I have seen friends and family neglect their computer out of laziness, lack of knowledge, or because they flat out just don’t care. So many times have I been in a computer store and hearing the insane prices of various stores’ protection plans and computer repair programs. It’s 2016 and we rely on technology more than anything else in life, and the fact that the average user does not know how to fix the simplest issue on their device is just maddening. I hope this guide will shed some light on how to extend the life of your computer, hardware, and accessories.
What is bloatware? This is software that is installed by a manufacturer or company that your device came from. Usually, this is sponsored content and 99% of it is junk or slows down your computer. The first thing you should do when you buy a new computer, or right now, is get rid of programs that you either didn’t put on your computer or will probably never use. So many people install programs month after month and don’t realize they are clogging their registry, hard drive, and the overall impact of their computer. Here are a few golden rules to remember and well known misnomers about uninstalling programs.
- You won’t break anything — I’m serious. You can’t uninstall anything that will make your computer stop working. This is a failsafe put into Windows (and even Mac OS) so users don’t create a huge paper weight. If it looks like you never use it, don’t know what it is, or don’t wait for it — GET RID OF IT!
- Google it — Another serious issue. If you are unsure what a program is just Google it. 10/10 times I promise a result will come up even for the most obscure program.
- It won’t uninstall — Usually, this isn’t a huge issue. Find out where the program is installed by searching for the program in the start menu (or a shortcut somewhere), right click>properties and somewhere the location will be posted. Go to that folder and delete it!
- Can’t uninstall or delete because another program is using it — As simple as installing Unlocker , right clicking, and choosing delete. If it can’t delete right away it will on the next reboot.
Seriously get rid of those unwanted programs, if you never use it — toss it. This goes for games, art programs, photo apps, codecs files, and various other items.
Once you get your bloatware off the next best thing is to update all your computer drivers. Drivers are pieces of software that tell the hardware what to do. Without these, you wouldn’t even be able to type with your keyboard or see what you’re doing!
Gaming PCs are more prone to this than others, but your graphics driver, motherboard, sound, and any other piece of hardware should be updated. To make this easy, if you bought a computer pre-built from Dell or HP, for example, just log in to your account or go to the support section under downloads. Usually, you will have a service tag or specific model number to type and most manufacturers have utilities that will scan your computer for updates. This is best for basic users, but for custom built PCs, and gaming PCs, you need to go to each piece of hardware’s manufacturer and check for updates. This also includes mice and keyboards and sometimes even monitors and sound cards.
For graphics drivers always do clean installs. Download DDU Uninstaller and uninstall the driver in safe mode. Do this for every graphics driver update. For example, I have a Nvidia GPU, Killer N wifi card, keyboard and mouse that need updates every so often. I know I bought these separately so I check the driver downloads section once a week to stay up to date. Most peripheral manufacturers automate this, but usually not internal hardware like motherboards, sound cards, and wifi cards.
The next best thing is to install the following programs and run them in safe mode.
Spybot Search & Destroy 2
With those installed, make sure you go into the settings of all programs (except AVG) and make sure none are running in the background. Background processes kill performance even on high-end gaming machines. These should only run when you click on them. After everything is installed scan make sure you delete everything that shows up. You also want to make sure none of these programs update automatically as it causes slowdown and unnecessary background processes.
After you clear up your malware issues this will get your machine running at top conditions software wise. Download and install WiseCare 365.
- Run the PC Checkup right off the bat
- Go to the System Cleaner tab and run the Registry Cleaner
- Run the Common Cleaner
- Run the System Slimming cleaner and delete everything it suggests
- Go to the System Tuneup tab and run the System Optimizer
- Run Disk Defrag, but analyze disks first! If it says you don’t need a defrag don’t waste the time as this takes quite a while on large hard drives. Note: DO NOT RUN THIS ON SSDs! You will damage your drives.
- Run Registry Defrag. Only defrag if the analysis says to
- Go to Startup Manager and click the Startup tab. This is what is going to wholehandedly speed up your boot times. Turn off all applications you don’t want starting up with your PC. Leave on things like AVG, sound and audio devices, display and USB managers. Any programs should be turned off.
- You’re done! At the bottom of the program turn off automatic cleaning and in the settings make sure Windows bootup and all settings are off.
After this you should actually delete files and folders that are no longer needed or are empty. Start with these common locations where files and empty folders build up. If you have a gaming PC, many games don’t remove their folders for settings and various other reasons.
- Downloads Folder — Delete all the software you already installed or don’t need. Don’t pile up updates, pictures, videos and various other things.
- Program Files/Program Files (x86) — Delete all folders for programs you have uninstalled or know don’t exist on your PC anymore. Delete any folders that are empty or only contain a couple of files. These are usually left behind from uninstalls.
- Users/(username)/AppData/Local, LocalLow, and Roaming — Same reasons for Program Files. If you don’t see AppData folder, turn on hidden files and folders in the Windows Explorer settings.
- My Documents — Delete or organize any old files or empty folder.
It’s not just about how your computer runs, but how clean it is. It’s very important to download your computer’s manual and learn how to open it up. Take a makeup brush, can of compressed air, and — if there’s an insane amount of dust — a vacuum and get all that dust-out. Use the brush to dust off boards and smaller components while you use the compressed air to blow out fans and the majority of dust. Doing this once every 3-4 months is ideal for smaller PCs and for larger PCs with a lot of fans, it will get clogged up faster.
Keeping fans clogged up causes them to work harder and eventually burn out, and it creates more noise. Leaving dust sitting on boards creates heat and causes fans to work harder thus burning out components quicker.
It’s also important to keep peripherals clean at all times as they last longer. Mice, keyboards, and mouse pads should be cleaned weekly with alcohol/screen cleaner and a microfiber cloth. Turn your keyboard upside and tap it on a desk to shake loose debris and blow keys out with a can of compressed air. With really well with a microfiber cloth to remove oils and grime that eventually finds it’s way down into the mechanical part of the keys and cause seizing. The same goes for your mouse, but just a good wipe down is fine as oil buildup and grime is excessive on mice. Make sure you check the feet of the mouse and scrape off any gunk as gaming mice have Teflon feet and need to glide. Wiping down a mouse pad is essential for the same reasons.
You should also think about wiping down controllers and any other accessories as dust and dirt can get down into components and cause sticking of keys. Dusting your entire desk and wiping down monitors and speakers once a week is also a healthy option for your PC tower so it won’t suck in dust that gets kicked up or laying around.
Get all that clutter put away! Buy small filing drawers, take everything out of cabinets and cubbies and throw away trash and things you don’t need. Many a computer desk tend to become hoarding stations, so you would be surprised. Use cord and cable organizers to hide away cord spaghetti, get charging docks for your devices, make your desk look nice! This represents you and who you are as a person. Why spend all that money on computer hardware just to have it surrounded by a mess?