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How often do you spring-clean your PC?

Most people, if given the choice, will try to skip out on doing the evening dishes, or for that matter even loading a dishwasher. It’s not exactly the most thrilling of chores to undertake, but if you don’t clean your dishes somehow, everything ends up dirty and unusable.

It’s much the same story for your computer. Not that it should pick up stray traces of egg and bacon over time unless you’re doing something drastically wrong with it, but simply that over time, the interaction of your own usage and the way software interacts can lead to a system that’s messy and far less optimised than it used to be.

Old school PC optimisation used to involve some very specific tasks that are far less vital than they used to be.

Once upon a time, it was viewed as essential that you defragment your hard drive on a regular basis. This gave the computer time to shift and sort files in order, so that all the parts of a given file were ordered logically within storage for faster access. These days, with faster SSD drives and operating systems that do a considerably better job of managing storage allocations, it’s largely a relic of the past. Indeed, if you’ve got a computer with an integrated SSD — which includes the vast majority of current laptops — defragging will do you absolutely no good at all.

That doesn’t mean, however, that a spring clean of your PC is something you should ignore, especially if it’s a computer you’ve owned for any significant length of time. Human beings are creatures of convenience, and that almost certainly means that you’ve had some sloppy habits when it comes to organising your PC. Add into that the quirks and bumps of software development and the way that different applications interact with each other, and there’s a good chance your computer isn’t running as well as it could.

In many cases, these aren’t hard tasks to tackle with just a few simple apps to keep your system up and running. If you’re using some kind of malware prevention — and you absolutely should be in this day and age, no matter your computing platform of choice — you may even have tools to hand as part of that software that will manage that for you. Those tools can vary quite a lot, however, both in what they check and how they apply it.

You can even “clean up” a new PC to get the most out of it, because many of them come with plenty of applications pre-installed “for your convenience”. It’s popularly known as bloatware (amongst other less, ahem, polite terms), and while some of it may be useful for some users, for many it’s just wasted space, and often intrusive in the way that they push themselves on you. The equally impolitely named (but free) PC Decrapifier is a software tool that scans Windows PCs for commonly preinstalled apps and makes it easy to remove the apps you don’t really want.

If your computer has a few more miles on the clock, it may be worth running a dedicated cleanup program to keep everything as shiny as possible. CCleaner provides both a free and paid tool for monitoring apps that use system resources, cleaning up unwanted files and sorting out any errant registry entries that may be slowing down your Windows PC. There’s even a Mac version for macOS users on systems that may be running at a slug’s pace.

If all else fails, there is always the nuclear option of a complete system reinstall. Make sure you carefully back up everything beforehand, and equally that you’ve got the needed install setup and any registration codes for the operating system and apps. A full system reinstall isn’t as tricky as it used to be, and it’s certainly nothing you should glibly start just for its own sake, but it is a solution that can often deliver you a system that runs faster than you might even remember when it was new.

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