Remove Hidden Junk From Your PC

Remove Hidden Junk From Your PC

Computer Help

Unwanted clutter can swamp your hard drive and slow down your PC’s performance. I will show you how to keep your computer free of rubbish.

Think of your PC like a house: no matter how much space you have it will soon start to fill up with clutter, if you don’t keep on to of it. If you are not careful your computer will have files everywhere and no space for new stuff.

Even new PC’s can come pre-loaded with gigabytes worth of junk by the manufacturer, the hard drive will be stuffed with trials or utilities they think you want but none of us tend to use.

It’s not just the space junk files take up, having to much junk will also drastically slow your PC to.
I am going to show you how to clear out all the rubbish and speed up your PC, I have created regular maintenance tasks that you should do daily, weekly or monthly, even if you are getting a new PC. I have also picked some of the best free utilities that will help to make cleaning your PC easy.

Things To Do When You Get A New PC

You would think you don’t have to remove any junk from your brand new, factory-fresh PC, but that is not the case.

PC manufactures have very small profit margins and the way they get a little more profit is pre-loading your PC with trial versions of various applications, and they then take a cut if you go on to buy the full program. A good example of this is almost every new PC will come with a pre-installed 30-day trial of a paid for internet security suit, even though windows 8 now comes with its own built in antivirus protection and there are also some very good free alternatives.

Manufactures will sometimes install their own utilities on your brand new PC too. Own branded diagnostics tools are a common favorite, but all they tend to do is waste space if you never use them. Lenovo is a good example of this as they pre-install no fewer than six different utilities on their new PC, at least half of these are just a waste of space.

This so called ‘creapware’ does not only take hard disk space but it can some times double the time it takes for your PC to boot as it can have unnecessary programs to run at start up.

Uninstalling creapware

You can use the ‘Uninstall a program’ tool in the control panel of windows to uninstall programs you don’t want or need, but even on a new PC it’s not always easy to see what you do or don’t need and if a program is worth keeping. Slim Computer is a very handy and free utility that will scan your computer and identify any unwanted programs like, applications, browser tool bars and programs that run at startup.

Find out which programs you can remove using Slim Computer's Uninstaller Tool
Find out which programs you can remove using Slim Computer’s Uninstaller Tool

You can tell Slim Computer just how ruthless you want it to be when identifying unwanted programs, when you run it for the first time. Slim Computers best feature is how it uses community ratings into the uninstaller tool; this helps it know how useful installed programs are as the community provides feedback and reviews of the software and reasons to keep it, these are all stored on online so you can always get the most up today information on the programs unlike other uninstallers which use a pre-loaded database. The info is shown using a sliding scale where red is waste of space and green is good, to get additional information click on the “more info” button.

The other good feature of Slim Computer is when you have finished with it you can simply uninstall it or even better, click on settings and then choose Portable Version, which will then install Slim Computer on a USB Drive, so you can use it on all or your computers and it won’t take up any hard drive space.

Remove unnecessary apps

Manufactures have a habit of pre-loading your new windows 8 or 8.1 PC with apps as well. Removing them is easy if you don’t want them, open up the All Apps view in Windows 8.1 by clicking on the down arrow in the bottom left hand corner of the start screen (Windows 8 users will need to right click the Start Screen and select All Apps), then you simply right click on any unwanted App, and click Uninstall.

Delete old Windows Files

Open the Disk Cleanup tool to safely delete data from a previous Window OS Upgrade

Open the Disk Cleanup tool to safely delete data from a previous Window OS Upgrade

If you have ever upgraded Windows OS rather than buying a new brand new PC, somewhere on your hard drive you will find a large file called Windows.old, this would have all the data from your previous copy of Windows. If the upgrade went smoothly all of your old files and setting should have been copied over to the new copy of Windows so this means you can delete the file Windows.old (but I would still give it a few days just to make sure all if fine).
The best way to delete the Windows.old file is through the disk cleanup tool (Start, my computer, and right click on the :c drive and click properties, then disk cleanup), once it has done its checks make sure that ‘Previous Windows Installation’ box is ticked and click clean.

 

 Things To Do Every Day

There really is not that much maintenance that you need to bother with on a daily basis, its more ‘best practice’ than ‘absolutely essential’.

Clean you Desktop

The first thing I would recommend you do is clear the Desktop of any unnecessary files/folders before you turn off your computer. Try to think of the Desktop as a loading bay: were you would store all your temporary files till you decide where you are going to keep them. The Desktop should never be used as permanent storage area.
What tends to happen is people would use the desktop as a dumping ground for downloads and files taken off a USB stick and of cause shortcuts to programs, over time the desktop can look cluttered, with icons everywhere.

Try and get in the habit of clearing your Desktop at the end of each use, if files need to be kept on the Desktop keep them in a folder. Delete any shortcuts you don’t need. Windows XP has a Desktop Cleaning Wizard that will suggest items that can be removed, how ever in windows 7 and 8 this was moved to the System Maintenance tools.

Clean up your desktop by running the maintenance tasks troubleseshooter

Clean up your desktop by running the maintenance tasks troubleseshooter

The other simple task I would suggest is rebooting your PC, Many people simply leave their PC’s switched on for extended periods of time, or put their laptop into standby mode by simply shutting the lid. Doing this can lead to programs and processes accumulating in the background and this can slow down your PC, if you press Crtl+Alt+Delete on your keyboard, this will open up Task Manager, by clicking on the Performance tab you will be able to see which programs are hogging the most memory. By doing a Reboot this will stop all processes and programs running and give you back your lost memory. Get in to the habit of shutting down your PC when you don’t need to use it, as this will help clear out the temporary clutter it stores. It will also help stop the windows update asking you for a restart.

Things To Do Every Week

Sometimes your PC will get clogged up with thing you did not even know were there in the first place. You should always be careful at what is being installed when installing a new piece of software, epically if you have downloaded it, make sure there are no pre-ticked boxes as these will normally install other software on your PC. Apple is a good example of this as they are always trying to impose QuickTime Player or Safari when you download iTunes. Below I will show you how to identify and remove any unwanted applications.

Remove spyware

Sometimes the things that sneak on to your PC can be harder to remove. I am talking about things like spyware, which sit in the background and collect personal data, or adware, that will pop up annoying adverts at random intervals. Both of these will consume disk space and take system resources like ram, you should remove them as soon as possible. A good Anti-virus should guard you from both, so make sure that its scheduled to do a full scan at least once a week to help protect your self and find any unwanted guests. Trend Micro’s HouseCall  is a free browser based malware scanner that can help to root out spyware and unwanted web browser plug-ins, and it does not need to be installed on your PC. However this is not a replacement for a good antivirus program as they will always be monitoring your PC but is handy if you just want to double check your existing software or think it might of missed something.

Get rid of spyware, adware and other uninvited guests using Trend Micro HouseCal

Get rid of spyware, adware and other uninvited guests using Trend Micro HouseCall

Get rid of toolbars

Browser toolbars are another good example of junk software that companies can install without you knowing. A good example is Oracle’s Java as this will install the Ask toolbar on your browser and change the default search to Ask unless you specifically un-tick boxes when installing. Before you know it your browser can become cluttered with all sorts of unwanted buttons and menus you will probably never even use or even asked for.

You can delve into your browser’s settings and manually remove the toolbars but sometimes the menus are hidden away. Slim Computer can help you remove them, open Slim (you should have it installed on a USB if you followed my advice earlier), and click on the Browsers button on the left-hand side. Doing this will scan all the browsers installed on your PC and will reveal all toolbars, plugins and extensions that are installed on each of them and a rating on how useful each one is. To remove you simply tick the box alongside any thing you don’t want on your Browser and then click Remove Selected. Slim Computer will also tell you if your default search engine has changed and if it has will let you switch back to your default one.

Empty the Recycle Bin

The other thing I would recommend you do weekly is emptying the Recycle Bin. If you delete a file in windows it will just shift it to the Recycle Bin, where is tends to sit wasting as much space as it did before. You will have to manually empty the Recycle Bin to get back all the wasted space. To do this you right-click on the Recycle Bin and select ‘Empty Recycle Bin’ however if you don’t want to keep emptying the Recycle Bin you can tell windows it bypass the Recycle Bin, by right-clicking the Recycle Bin, then selecting Properties and then tick the option to ‘Remove Files Immediately’. I would not recommend this as there is no way to get anything back you might accidentally delete as you wont be able to restore it from the Recycle Bin.

Things To Do Every Month

Monthly is the right frequency to do a proper clear-out, so you should set aside a few minutes each month to clear out all the junk that your PC has accumulated over the past few weeks and get rid of any space-hogging applications that you don’t need or use anymore. The right software will help make this easier.

Delete hidden temporary files

Glary Utilities is a very useful tool and has recently been updated with a fresh new look, it can be used for clearing disk space and preventing programs from slowing your PC. You can buy the Pro version for around $29.95 (around £18), the Pro version includes automatic updates, technical support and a few other benefits. The free version is very handy to have to.

Clean your Registry, delete unnecessary updates, remove temporary files and much more with Glary's Utilities

Clean your Registry, delete unnecessary updates, remove temporary files and much more with Glary’s 1-Click Maintenance

The first thing you will want to do after it has installed is click on the 1-Click Maintenance tab and run the cleaner. This will search your PC for everything that hogs system resourses, and all manner of space fillers – like files you have downloaded over the internet and old windows updates and will offer to delete them for you. 1-Click Maintenance tool will also check your PC for things like Spyware as well as any other programs that are slowing down your PC on start up. You can review what it has found in each category by clicking Show Details – however I would advise that you un-tick the web browser cache in the Temporary Files Cleaner as this usually does not take up much space and will speed up your web browsing – Once you are happy click the Repair Problems button and let Glary Utilities wipe everything

Clean up your hard drive

Now its time to find out what is taking all of your hard drive space. Click on the little pie-chart icon at the bottom of ‘Glary Utilities’ on the main menu, this will then open the Disk Analyzer. Windows can be really bad at showing you what’s eating up your hard disk space, but Glarys Disk Analyzer will quickly identify the disk hogs. Click on the disk you want to scan this would normally be the C: drive, and click OK. Once it has done, you will be shown a breakdown of all the folders on your PC, they will be ranked in order of how much space they take in your PC.

Use Glary Disk Analyser to check which files and folders are taking the most space on your PC

Use Glary Disk Analyser to check which files and folders are taking the most space on your PC

In most cases, the Users folder – were you store all of your documents, photos and music will be at the top, if you double click on the folder it will then show you each individual user (that is if you have different users), this will allow you to see which user is using the most disk space. Double-click again and it will show you the type of files that are taking up the most space, doing this will help you find out what is taking all the space and delete any files or folders you know longer need or want, but you also need to remember to empty the Recycle Bin afterwards.

Identify programs you don’t need

Glary Utilities also has an excellent Uninstall Manger, and can be found by clicking on the Recycle Bin-like icon on the main menu. Its very similar to Windows’ own ‘Uninstall a program’, but Glary own version comes with couple of very handy filters on the left-hand side so you can easily identify Large Programs that are taking up the most space, the best feature is the Rarely Used Programs. To remove a program you no longer want, just click on it to highlight it and then click the Uninstall This Program button in the bottom right of the screen, but don’t get confused with the Remove Entry button at the top – all this will do is simply remove the item from the list, not your PC.

Use Glary Uninstall Manager to help you identify programs you rarely use and are taking up space on your hard drive

Use Glary Uninstall Manager to help you identify programs you rarely use and are taking up space on your hard drive

Find and remove duplicate files

Duplicate files can take up significant amounts of disk space. Glary has a duplicate file finder witch can be found in its Advanced Tools section, but its one of the only few tools that is unreliable and awkward to use. I would recommend Auslogic Duplicate File Finder witch is also free, it now also supports Windows 8.1 thanks to and update. During the installation you need to be careful and make sure you untick the options that will try and install other Auslogic products.

Find and removed duplicate files that are lurking on your hard drive using Auslogic;s free tool

Find and removed duplicate files that are lurking on your hard drive using Auslogic;s free tool

Once you have it installed you can then select which type of files you want to search for, what size to search for and were you would like to put the duplicated files – but don’t worry as no files will be deleted until you have had time to review them. Once the scan has finished, you can right-click on the file and the select Open to view it. Once you are happy the file is a true duplicate press the arrow and choose Select All Duplicates and simply press Delete, and all the duplicates will go to the Recycle Bin.

Clear out your downloads

The Downloads folder is were everything you have downloaded will normally end up. If you leave it to build up, it can easily contain gigabytes of unneeded files. Go through the folder and delete anything you are sure you won’t need anymore. This folder will often contain the installer for all the programs you have downloaded. It’s perfectly safe to delete these (they would normally have ‘setup’ or ‘exe’ at the end of the filename) if you have already installed the software.

Things You Should Never Do

Overzealous cleaning can sometime do more harm than never cleaning at all. This is a quick list of things you should never do:

DON’T MANUALLY REMOVE WINDOWS FILES

Many PC’s have been ruined by someone who has deleted a file or folder they did not recognize. If in doubt you should always leave it alone, you should never delete anything that is stored in the Windows folder on your hard drive, unless you are absolutely sure you know what it is. Clean-up tools like Glary Utilities will find and dispose of any unnecessary Windows files for you.

DON’T DELETE THE RECOVERY PARTITION

Hard drives will often contain what’s know as a recovery partition, this will usually have a separate drive letter and will be labeled ‘Recovery (D:)’. This can be as big as 10GB in size, you may be tempted to try and reclaim this space but don’t as this is your Windows installation DVD, you will need it if you ever have to re-install Windows

DON’T PAY FOR A DEDICATED REGISTRY CLEANER

There are loads of paid-for and free tools that are dedicated to cleaning the Windows Registry (your PC’s database of setting and configurations). Many of the general cleaning tools like Glary Utilities or CCleaner Free will include a Registry cleaner, so there should be no need to buy and download a separate one.

DON’T DELETE SYSTEM RESTORE POINTS

The System Restore is a feature that will allow you to return your PC to a previous state; this can be a very effective way of repairing a broken PC. Many ‘experts’ have suggested you can save space by deleting older Restore Points, but I would advise not doing this. System Restore only takes up a small amount of space and you can always restrict the amount of space it uses by pressing Windows+pause/Brake and then clicking System Protection in the window that has just popped up. The click on the Configure button and use the Max Usage slider to specify the amount of space you want to allow (2% should be fine but its up to you)

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Microsoft has advised Windows users to uninstall some of their latest updates for Widows 7 and 8.1

Microsoft has advised Windows users to uninstall some of their latest updates for Widows 7 and 8.1

Blue Screen Of Death

Microsoft has advised Windows users to uninstall some of their latest updates for Widows 7 and 8.1; this was following hundreds of their customers complaining that their systems were repeatedly crashing after doing the updates.

The updates that went live on 12 of August were causing some PCs to show the following message ‘0x50 Stop’, or as it is commonly know ‘ The Blue Screen of Death’. There have also been some problems with fonts not being shown properly or being saved in the wrong location.

Most of the problems are caused by the update MS14-045, which was meant to be a routine security fix. Microsoft has now removed the update from their website and advised customers to uninstall the update as a precaution even if they have not had any problems yet.

Microsoft have removed a further three updates off there website. Microsoft have posted instructions for uninstalling the problem updates on their Support website, but they are not the easiest set of instructions to follow.

Microsoft has been criticised for not doing enough to highlight the problems when they were discovered. Instead of making an announcement, they just updated the FAQ section of their Security Bulletin and recommended uninstalling MS14-045.

Graham Cluley a security analyst praised Microsoft for offering advice, but said that users would have been happier if the bug “had been intercepted during the Microsoft testing process rather than being discovered once it was rolled out to users”

This is not the first time Microsoft have advised their users to uninstall misbehaving updates. In April 2013 Microsoft told windows 7 users to uninstall an update that crashed some PCs. While in October 2013 the company had to remove a Windows 8.1 RT update that crashed tablets.

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Guide to Windows 8.1

Guide to Windows 8.1

One look at Windows 8.1 and you can see it is very different to Microsoft’s previous operating systems. Here are just some of Windows 8.1 key features, improvements and additions.

Windows App Store

Windows 8 App Store

Windows 8 App Store

Windows 8.1 now comes with its own app store but that’s not really a massive surprise as Apple has had great success with is app store on there Mac’s and iOS devices. Microsoft’s store is an easy way to get free and paid-for software direct from the comfort of your armchair. It’s a good way to get free trials so you can try before you buy. Many Windows 8 apps are designed to be used with swiping gestures on a touchscreen but most will work well with a keyboard and mouse.

Microsoft Account Integration

You sign in to Windows 8.1 and Microsoft’s online cloud service using your Microsoft account. If you have several Window 8.1 devices, you can sync all your settings and preferences across all devices. You will also be able to sync themes, browser favourites, apps, files, folders, and contacts, which include Hotmail, Facebook contacts and people you follow on twitter.

Internet Explorer 11

Over the years Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has had its fair share of criticism, but with its new Internet Explore 11 which is a leaner, easy to use and much faster browser than its predecessors, Microsoft have now for the first time ever opted to use a ‘do not track’ feature and it will be enabled by default. This means websites that sign up to the system wont be able to show you targeted advertising or follow you on line activates.

Virus Protection

Good news for Windows 8.1 users as they are now protected right out of the box from viruses and malicious software. Windows 8.1 now combines the features of Windows Defender with those of Microsoft’s Security Essentials. It is still a lightweight solution, but Windows 8.1 compatible security products are becoming more available from third parties. To avoid antitrust issues Microsoft now disables Windows Defender if any other comparable security software is installed.

The Interface

Windows 8 Interface

Windows 8 Interface

The first thing you will notice once Windows 8.1 starts up is the new tiled interface. This is in a way the replacement for the old Start menu that has been around since 1995. Microsoft have adopted its tiled view from its Windows phones, the new interface features a series of ‘live’ tiles.  These tiles are designed for touch-screens, and they display live information such as news headlines, weather, stock market updates. The tiles work well on a touch screen but not so well with a mouse and keyboard, but its good news if you still use a mouse and keyboard as you can now set windows 8.1 to boot directly to desktop.

Traditional Desktop

Touchscreen friendly tiles largely dominate Windows 8 front end, but the old faithful windows interface is still present. If you still want to use a mouse and keyboard it’s certainly the best option as it has an almost identical file and menu system you are used to in windows of old. Microsoft have given the desktop visuals a much-needed polish.

OneDrive

One Drive

Microsofts One Drive

Microsoft’s Online storage has been around for a while now, the OneDrive app will let you access anything you have stored in your OneDrive account, giving you easy access to all of your files, photos etc.….  As is said earlier when you sign in to your Microsoft account it will sync all the setting in Windows 8.1 (this includes OneDrive). Microsoft is trying to make any Windows 8.1 computer ‘your computer” by signing in to one account.

Windows Reader

In older versions of Windows if you wanted to read a PDF you would have to download additional software like Adobe Reader. Windows 8.1 has its own built in PDF reader so there is no need to download additional software, it may only be a small thing but it’s a good example of how Microsoft is considering what people want and do on there computers. It seems Microsoft is taking it’s cue from Apple by making sure Windows 8.1 covers the most common and basic tasks right out of the box.

Integrated Social Networks

Windows 8.1 has taken its inspiration from smartphones and tablets as it can now be linked to social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google, as well as Microsoft accounts. The People App puts together updates from these services; this will make it easy to follow updates. It will be very familiar to those using a windows phone. The People App will display the latest updates and let you post from your Twitter and Facebook accounts. All contacts information is combined, so that means if they have a Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn account they will all be added to their individual contact screen.

Charms

Windows 8 Charm Bar

Windows 8 Charm Bar

The Charms bar has a daft name, but it’s a very useful addition. To access it perform a quick outward swipe from the right-hand side of the screen. From top to bottom it includes search, share, start devices and settings, this makes it easy to gain access to some of Window’s most commonly used features, but some of the functions like search and share will be varied depending on what app you have open.

Touch

The new Windows 8.1 is all about touchscreen and gestures, as long as you are using a device that will support touch controls. The controls may take some time to get used to. Swiping around apps is intuitive, but accessing menus or preforming more complicated gestures will be a bit of a learning curve. Swiping from top to bottom, left to right will open up different options and extra features in apps; there is also a pinch to zoom witch most of us are all used to now. But if you don’t have a touchscreen and still use a keyboard and mouse they are also supported in Windows 8.1.

The Ribbon

Windows 8 Ribbions

Windows 8 Ribbions

The ribbon will be coming to file explorer in Windows 8.1. The previous tool bar found in recent editions of Microsoft Office will be making the leap to the main operating system and is included in file explorer that is used in the desktop of Windows 8. The new ribbon has a series of large buttons to help perform common tasks faster, so there are buttons for copy, paste, delete, rename and new folder. The ribbon will be split in five sections – File, Home, Share, View and Manage. If you did not like the ribbon in Office you are not going to like its appearance in Windows 8.1.

New Price

Its good news at last as Microsoft have decided to charge just £99.99 for Windows 8.1, and even better news if you all ready have windows 8 you can upgrade to 8.1 for free, There is also a special students price for windows 8.1 of £49.99. Previous Windows operating systems used to cost more than 4x that. Windows 8.1 is so cheap Microsoft won’t be selling a lot of Boxed copies as most people will upgrade or buy the software as a download. Microsoft are also hoping the new low price will tempt people to upgrade from the older version of there operating system to its new Windows 8.1

Windows RT

There is a lightweight version of Windows 8 that can be used on low-spec tablets. Windows RT is designed to run on tablets powered by ARM processors. It will come with Microsoft Office 2013 and uses the simple touchscreen interface. Windows RT is not available to buy but comes preinstalled on some tablets like Microsoft’s Surface.

Picture Passwords

We all struggle to remember passwords we have for all the various accounts and services we use. Windows 8 attempts to solve this by letting people log in using a picture. To use a picture password, go to the Settings app and select the relevant option.  Picture password will use a picture of your choosing from your photo collection, Circles, lines and taps can also be used to create a gesture-based password that’s easy to remember but hard to guess.

Fewer Restarts

The ‘Windows has installed updates and needs to restart’ is a familiar annoyance for most users of Microsoft’s operating systems. Restarting is essential for some major updates but it does not make it any less irritating when it interrupts or causes you to loose unsaved work. Windows 8 restarts are less frequent. Microsoft said it would combine restarts when updating into its security updates, so that’s only one restart a month.

Better Protection

Microsoft’s Smart-screen technology has been expanded and integrated into Windows 8.1 to help people work out what software they should or should not download. For it to work Microsoft collects information about everything you download in Windows 8, this information won’t be stored. This feature is enabled by default and will display a warning when you try and attempt to install untrusted or potentially dangerous software. It works by working out the reputation of the download – were it came from, results from anti-virus scans and the past instances of that piece of software being downloaded on other machines.

Best of the Rest

The blue screen of death was once a terrifying sight for users, but its had a facelift. It no longer shows the baffling combination of technobabble and error codes, in its place Windows 8.1 offers a sad-looking face with a notice saying something has gone wrong with your computers and needs to restart

Windows 8.1 no longer supports DVD playback as we rely less and less on discs. Microsoft used to include the codec for this in older versions of Windows but now users will have to get separate software to play a DVD.

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