Spring cleaning tips to revive your Windows PC

Your once-new Windows PC can become sluggish over time. Instead of running out to buy a new PC, try these spring cleaning tips first.

Sarah Tew/CNET

It's always exciting when you bring home a new computer. It feels so powerful and fast; you can't imagine ever needing to buy another one again. Unfortunately, neither your excitement nor your PC's performance lasts.

Whether your hard drive is running out of space or your system takes forever to run simple tasks, it might be worth your time to try and revive it before replacing it. Here are some spring cleaning tips to revive your Windows PC:

Free up disk space
The enormous size of modern multimedia files can eat up your hard-drive storage quickly. What once seemed like a laughable amount of storage, can suddenly become insufficient. But are you using that storage efficiently?

  • Uninstall software. It's easy to forget about software you've installed but haven't used in a while. Get rid of trial software, games you don't play anymore, and other software you rarely use.
  • Run the Windows Disk Cleanup tool and while you're there, go to the More Options tab to also clean up your system restore files.
  • Empty your Web browser cache. Over time, you'd be surprised how much space a browser's cache takes up.
  • Use CCleaner to automate your cleanup tasks . It's one of the best Windows utilities around.
  • If your hard disk is still short on storage, try running WinDirStat to see what's taking up all that storage . You might discover forgotten files you no longer need.
  • To free up even more disk space, consider using Duplicate File Finder to identify and remove duplicate files on your system.

Recover performance with software tools
Performance on Windows computers tends to degrade over time, but with a few OS tweaks, you can recover some performance.

  • Defrag your hard drive. Especially after performing massive file deletion tasks, your hard disk is going to be heavily fragmented. Use the default Windows defrag utility or a third-party program like, Defraggler to speed up disk access.
  • Make Windows start faster. You can use the Windows msconfig utility to prevent programs from starting up automatically, or use CCleaner. You can also bypass the Windows logo by setting the No GUI boot setting . For a more in-depth look at improving Windows startup, read Dennis O'Reilly's post .
  • Check for updated hardware drivers for components like graphics cards, printers, and network adapters. Updated drivers often fix bugs and improve performance.

Increase performance with simple hardware upgrades
Simple hardware upgrades can make your system perform better than when it was new.

  • Adding RAM is still one of the most cost-effective ways to improve PC performance. Check your system specs to confirm the maximum amount of RAM that can be installed. Also, remember that only 64-bit versions of Windows can see above 4GB.
  • If you're still using a mechanical hard drive in your computer, migrating to an SSD drive will significantly improve system performance.
  • Can't justify the cost of an SSD? Consider upgrading to a hybrid drive . A hybrid drive uses a small amount of solid-state storage along with a traditional mechanical drive to boost performance, for much less than the price of an SSD drive.
  • If you're not up for migrating your Windows 7 system to a brand-new drive, SSD cache drives are an easy way to boost performance. They're small, inexpensive SSD drives that can be added to your system without having to migrate Windows or your data.

Check your Windows system security
While you're tuning up your system for performance, it's also a good time to check your system security.

  • Make sure Windows Update is enabled and scheduled for automatic updates. Updates often contain security patches, so this is essential for keeping your Windows PC secure.
  • Make sure you have a highly rated firewall and antivirus program installed with automatic updates turned on. Free security programs are OK in a pinch, but they're usually crippled in some way or don't measure up to the premium ones. Internet providers like Comcast and AT&T also provide premium security programs for free with service. And online retailers routinely offer huge discounts after rebates on security software.
  • Consider adding a physical firewall to your network. An oft-forgotten benefit of Wi-Fi routers is the fact that they serve as a firewall between the Internet and your home network.
  • Review your system backup plan. Don't have one? Get one. And here's the most important part about a backup plan: test the restore to make sure it actually works.

Clean your hardware the right way
Cleaning your computer gear not only makes them look nice, but also keeps germs at bay and can help your system run better.

  • Clean and disinfect your keyboard and mouse . Computer keyboards can get pretty filthy from just normal use, not to mention from eating at our desks or working while we're sick. Studies have shown that keyboards have more bacteria than toilet seats -- ick!
  • Clean your computer LCD display . Remember when your computer LCD display had that brand-new, fresh out-of-the-box shine? If it's looking a little dull lately, it might be time to give it a good cleaning.
  • Clean the inside of your computer . Over time, dust buildup inside your computer could undermine its cooling efficiency, resulting in shorter life spans for your computer's components.

What to do with your old PC
If you've decided to go ahead and buy a new PC, you can still use your old one for some great things or sell it to put some cash back in your wallet.

That's it. Performing some or all of these tips should help keep your Windows PC running smoothly for at least another year. If you have questions on any of these tips, let us know in the comments below.

Editor's note: As part of our spring cleaning series, we are focusing on one topic each day to get your computing life in order. Check back each day this week for a new topic.

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Tech Culture
About the author

Ed Rhee, a freelance writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, is an IT veteran turned stay-at-home-dad of two girls. He focuses on Android devices and applications while maintaining a review blog at techdadreview.com.

 

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