PC Maintenance for Windows Users: Part 1

Cleaning junk files from your hard drives

As part of a series on proper system maintenance, we'll first look at one of the most basic necessities: Cleaning junk files from your hard drive.

This clears out space for more important files, and helps keep your system running a bit more smoothly in most cases.

While this is an essential task, it does have a few negative aspects:

  1. File fragmentation. We'll cover what that is and how to solve that in the next blog of this series.
  2. Possible slower initial load times for websites after cleaning. This depends entirely upon what settings you use when cleaning your hard drive. When your browser loads a page, it downloads all of the file for the page so you can view it. These are stored as cached files on your hard drive. This is great for browsing speed and data usage, but the files are stored and kept regardless of age and relevancy, which means more than half of the cached files for faster web browsing are likely out of date and useless.
What you'll need:

The first application you'll need is CCleaner. The standard version is free, includes the functions you need and then some, and can be downloaded by clicking on the logo to the right, or below if you're not reading this in a full-screen window.

The second is Disk Cleanup, a system tool included with Windows. We'll cover how to access it after we finish with CCleaner.



If this is your first time to this page, click the following link or scroll down to start with the CCleaner instructions:

CCleaner instructions


If you've already completed the CCleaner instructions, and are ready to begin with Disk Cleanup, click the following link to jump to the Disk Cleanup instructions:

Disk Cleanup Instructions


Install and configure CCleaner:


Once you've downloaded CCleaner, install it. Default settings during installation should be fine for most users.


Now, lets change some settings that weren't available during install:

1) Open CCleaner if you haven't already, and select the Options tab on the far left. This will put you on the About menu option by default.

2) Select the Settings menu option.


3) Make certain 'Run CCleaner when the computer starts' checkbox is unchecked.

4) Select the Monitoring menu option.


5) Uncheck the 'Enable system monitoring' checkbox.


6) Uncheck the 'Enable Active Monitoring' checkbox.

*This will call up a warning prompt to ask if you're certain. Answer yes, then proceed to the next step.

7) Now select the Cleaner tab on the left, and make sure the Windows upper tab is selected.

Many options are available, and for most users the defaults are fine.

7a) If you're using Internet Explorer for your browser, you may want to uncheck the boxes for History, Cookies, and Last Download Location in the Internet Explorer section.
7b) If you find yourself frequently pulling deleted files out of your Recycling Bin, you may want to uncheck that box in the System section as well.


8) Uncheck the box for Windows Log Files in the System section.

*Only run CCleaner with this box checked once every two months or so, to keep logs small, but hopefully have enough recent data for troubleshooting.

9) Now select the Applications upper tab.

Many options are available, and for most users the defaults are fine.

9a) If you're using Google Chrome for your browser, you may want to uncheck the boxes for Internet History, Cookies, Download History, and Last Download Location in the Google Chrome section.


10) Bookmark this page in your browser.

Step 11 will run a scan and tell you how much space will be freed by cleaning your hard drive, but requires your browser to be closed.

Step 12 will remove the files, after which you can reopen this page and continue the walk-through.

11) Click the Analyze button.

The scan can take a few minutes the first time, or if it's been a while since your last scan.


As you can see in the image, after two weeks my PC had collected 4.7GB of junk files!!! That's as much as an average movie on DVD!


12) Once the scan has completed, click the Run Cleaner button.

This can take a while as well, especially on older systems that have never been cleaned.


That finishes the CCleaner section, and we're now halfway through cleaning the junk files from the PC.

Disk Cleanup

Running Disk Cleanup
*Several of these instructions are nearly verbatim from the Microsoft website, as all other methods vary by Windows version. These should work on Windows 7, 8/8.1, and 10.

1) Open Disk Cleanup by clicking the Start button. In the search box, type Disk Cleanup, and then, in the list of results, select Disk Cleanup.


2) If prompted, select the drive that you want to clean up, and then select OK.

For most users, only one drive (C:) will be available. If you have multiple drives, make sure to select the drive that Windows is installed on.

3) In the newly opened Disk Cleanup window, click the 'Clean up system files' button near the bottom left.

If prompted, select the same drive that you chose before, and then select OK.

This may take a while when run for the first time.

4) On the Disk Cleanup tab, in addition to the default selections, select the check boxes for 'System error memory dump files', 'Windows Update Cleanup' if it isn't selected, any per user or system 'Windows Error Reporting' files, and then select OK.

4a) If you upgraded your system to your current version of Windows, select the Previous Windows installation(s) check box.


5) In the message that appears, select Delete files.

This may take a while when run for the first time.

A progress bar like the one shown will pop up.

When the progress bar disappears, you're done.

Your PC is now free of junk file build up from normal use.

Our next walk-through in this series will show you how to defragment your hard drive, helping to keep your hard drive accessing your files quickly and efficiently.

PC Maintenance for Windows Users: Part 2

Posted in Windows.

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