Basic computer maintenance everyone should do
Computers tend to bog down over time. Some simple maintenance every 2-4 weeks (depending on computer use and programs installed) will only take 10-30 minutes, can be performed at any knowledge level and will keep your computer running smoothly. This is fairly basic and something all computer users should do.
Remove programs you no longer use or knew about:
Over time, you may have installed games or utilities that you forgot about or no longer use. Why waste the space? Go to your Start button, and check out All Programs. If there are items you know you do not use, or didn't install yourself....Go to your control panel, Add\Remove programs (or Programs and Features in Vista) and uninstall anything you no longer use. Occasionally you will find a toolbar or other item you were unaware was there! Please let me know if you have any questions BEFORE deleting anything!
Cleaning your hard drive of unneeded files:
One of the biggest problems is hard drive usage. Your hard drive has more moving parts then any other in your computer and is constantly adding, deleting and reorganizing files. Because of this, you want to clean your computers hard drive. If you need a referral to a program, please let me know.
Remove invalid registry entries:
Next up is the registry..it does get large and can contain many invalid references. The registry is not an area for even the average computer user to be playing around in, so please let me know if you have any questions BEFORE deleting anything!
Here is a HUGE culprit on the average PC. If your wondering why you have to wait a minute to use your computer after startup, it is because all of those items are loading after Windows has started. They also use up memory just sitting there. Removal takes a bit more knowledge, or research, but you can do it!
First off, if you know what these items in the tray are and do not need them running, you can either right click an icon and look for options or a "run with Windows" option. Otherwise, you can double click any icon to open the program and look for options from there. Some are easy and common. Quicktime, AOL and RealPlayer are good examples of items that do not need to be there.
Please let me know if you have any questions BEFORE editing anything!
Defragment your hard drive
Now that you have removed all of this garbage, you have fragmented files all over your hard drive. Reading and writing data on a heavily fragmented hard drive is slowed down because the time for the heads to move between fragments on the disk surface can be substantial.
Microsoft includes a disk defrag, but it is widely known that it is not very good. Luckily, quite a few free alternatives are available, please let me know if you would like a referral.
You should also use a malware scanner occasionally just to be sure you did not pick something up, I can also suggest a few fine programs for this. Malware and Spyware can be seen differently to a regular "anti-virus" program, so it is good to make a check for specific mal/spy wares.
System Restore: This needs to be set and refreshed very few months after everything is running good and clean, it enables you to return to a solid point in time on your PC.
File Back up: you can copy your documents / pictures to a CD disk or external storage, as a safety net incase something should go wrong and a reformat is needed, you will have all your favorite things in one place.