PCs gather the digital equivalent of dust over time — files from unwanted applications, forgotten downloads and so on. These can slow down your PC, so performing a regular clean-up can work wonders.
Here are seven steps you should take on a regular basis.
Tip 1: Empty the Recycle bin
Visiting your Recycle Bin is a great way to rescue files that you’ve deleted by accident (even if you didn’t realise it at the time), but a bin that’s filled with thousands of files is a waste of memory and file space - although modern hard drives are large enough for this not to be a pressing issue for most.
Even so, emptying the Recycle Bin once in a while will make it easier to find files you do want to undelete and this is simply a matter of right-clicking its Desktop icon and selecting Empty Recycle Bin.
You can also reduce the size of the Recycle Bin so that it empties automatically more often (i.e. whenever it’s full). Right-click the Desktop icon, select Properties and edit the Custom size value.
Tip 2: Perform a hard drive cleanup
Windows has a built-in tool for ridding the hard drive of unwanted and unnecessary files, so it’s worth using it every few months.
Right-click the drive you want to clean under This PC and select Properties. When the dialog box opens, click the Disk Clean-up button on the General tab.
Windows will carry out a quick check on the drive and then display a list of file types to clean.
You can leave the default selection of file types as it is, but just selecting everything won’t cause any problems.
Click OK to delete the selected files, which won’t go to the Recycle Bin. A final box will ask you if you're sure about your decision.
Tip 3: Defrag your hard drive
Disk fragmentation occurs because of the way hard drives store data. Files are split into tiny chunks and stored wherever there’s a free space.
As new files are created and old ones deleted (which occurs as part of everyday operations), free space becomes scattered over the drive and the blocks of data that make up files become scattered too.
This ‘fragmentation’ makes files slower to read and write, which in turn slows down your PC, but Windows has a built-in defragmentation tool to remedy it.
Your PC should be defragmenting automatically on a regular basis, but you can carry on out whenever you like.
Search 'Defragment' using Cortana search and select Defragment and optimise drives.
Choose one of the drives listed, then click Optimise to start the process. This can take some time, so it’s best left running overnight. Or, if you leave your computer switched on when you’re not using it, you can set a schedule for defragmentation to run automatically.
Tip 4: Check your hard drive for errors
Windows automatically checks your hard drive for errors whenever it restarts after a crash, but it’s worth doing this manually once in a while.
In This PC, right click on a drive and select Properties.
Click the Tools tab, go to Check under the 'Error checking' tab, then click Start on the dialog box that appears — the check only takes a few minutes.
Tip 5: Flush your browser
All browsers create temporary files as you browse the web. While the built-in cleanup tool (tip 2) will remove some, it won’t remove them all.
Tip 6: Uninstall old applications
If you haven’t used an application for several months, or installed one and never used it, get rid of it.
Many applications come with their own uninstaller that should remove all trace of them, else use Windows’ own tool — but never just delete the application folder from your hard drive.
Instead, open Windows’ Settings and head to Apps. You’ll see a list of installed applications, so just select the one you want to remove, click the Uninstall option at the top of the window and follow the on-screen instructions.
Tip 7: Tidy up your documents
Finally, it’s all too easy to fill your Desktop or Documents folder with unorganised files, but this makes things harder to find and can slow down your PC.
Instead, sort your documents into folders and sub-folders within the Documents folder — and store music files, photos and videos in the appropriate folders, too.
Deleting unused application shortcuts from the Desktop is also a good idea. This won’t affect the installed applications, which can still be launched from the Start menu.