Need a PC Tuneup? Free PC Maintenance Tools

Category: Software

An astute AskBob reader asks: 'I know I need to clean up my hard drive every once in a while. But are there any other regular PC maintenance tasks you recommend doing on a regular basis?' Well, yes! Here are more than ten free programs you can use to clean up and tune up your Windows computer...

Keep Your Computer Running Fast and Reliably

Just like a car, your computer needs regular maintenance to continue performing at its best. Waiting until accumulated minor problems make your computer run intolerably slow is bad for it. A neglected PC works harder than it should and then hardware can start to fail. You may experience a sudden catastrophic crash similar to a car engine seizing up because you never changed the oil.

Fortunately, there are some free PC maintenance tools that make it a breeze to keep your system in top shape. Their functions generally include hard disk management; optimization of system settings; and deletion of unnecessary, duplicate or temporary files. Some free PC maintenance tools include scheduling of maintenance, diagnostic tests, backups, malware cleanup, and system-tweaking options for advanced users.

Free Computer Maintenance Tools

Smart users perform PC cleanup and tune-up operations at least once a month. Here's what I recommend, and some free computer maintenance tools to help you do the job. Unless otherwise mentioned, all of them work with Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10 computers.

CCleaner by Piriform is a popular PC cleaner/optimizer/privacy tool that's developed a sterling reputation over many years. CCleaner zaps temp files, web browser history, cookies, and form inputs, to remove all traces of your online activities. It also mops up after Windows, cleaning out your Recycle Bin, removing unneeded log files, deleting memory dumps, and pruning obsolete registry entries. CCleaner does not include a defrag module, but Piriform also offers the free Defraggler, which does the job quite well.

The Glary Utilities is another PC maintenance suite, downloaded over 40 million times. It, too, does registry, privacy, defrag and junk files cleanup. It includes an application uninstaller that is more sophisticated than Windows Add/Remove app; for example, you can tag multiple applications to be uninstalled in one operation. It also includes a startup programs manager, a memory manager, and a nifty utility to remove unwanted context menu items. Cleanup can include a sweep for duplicate files, empty file folders, and broken shortcuts. It will also backup and restore all your hardware device drivers. The latest version claims to be 800% faster at analyzing your PC for potential problems.

PrivaZer is a hard drive clean-up utility on steroids. It gets rid of junk files and wipes away traces of activity that could compromise your privacy. PrivaZer zaps duplicate files, temporary files, log files, unneeded Windows update files and old Windows installs left over from a system upgrade. In addition to cleaning files and filesystems, Privazer does a thorough scrubbing of your Windows registry, and will also remove web browsing history, saved passwords, and cookies.

A few notes about defragmenting your hard drive. Traditional magnetic hard drives installed in most computers do benefit from defragmenting, as it speeds up disk access. However, SSD (solid state) hard drives do not require defragmenting, and some people believe that you can shorten the life span of an SSD by defragging. I don't think that's true of newer SSD's, but it's still a best practice to defrag only magnetic drives. Treat hybrid (magnetic/SSD) drives the same as magnetic drives. Also note that Windows 7, 8 and 10 have automatic defrag built in, but you may still benefit by running a third-party defragger a few times per year.

My article Free Hard Drive Tune-up Tools has links to several programs that will help you identify large, duplicate or unwanted files that are clogging up your hard drive. You'll also find links to recommended software that will help you permanently erase a hard drive, recover accidentally deleted files, or fix damaged drives that won't boot up.

Macrium Reflect is my preferred software for making backups. The Free Edition offers backup, disk imaging and cloning solution for both commercial and personal use. It can schedule your backups to run automatically, which I consider a must.

The NirSoft website provides a collection of freeware, including Windows password-recovery tools, network monitoring tools, and some privacy-related utilities.

Speccy and Belarc Advisor are two diagnostic programs I rely on when a computer doesn't seem to be running optimally. See my article What's Going On Inside My PC? to learn how they can help you identify overheating and other potential problems.

The Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool is built into Windows 7 and higher. To run it, click the Start button and type memory in the search bar. Click Windows Memory Diagnostic in the search results. You can choose to restart and check for memory errors, or tell it to check for memory problems the next time you start your computer.

Don't Forget About Security

Finally, it should go without saying that you need to be vigilant about computer security. Here are the two most important pieces of advice I can give on that subject:

  1. Keep Your Software Updated - See my related article Keep Your Software Updated (or else...) to learn how to scan your computer for software vulnerabilities, and how to make sure you have the latest versions and security patches.
  2. Use Anti-Malware Protection - See my list of Free AntiVirus Programs to learn how to get excellent security software for free.

Each of these free PC maintenance programs has additional bells and whistles for advanced users or troubleshooting. Some have premium versions that you can purchase, to get additional features. Read the product features lists carefully if you have a particular issue that you want to resolve. In my opinion, all of these freebies will do a good job of tuning up your computer for top performance. Try a few of them, and then uninstall the ones you don't want to continue using.

Do you have a favorite computer maintenance program I didn't mention? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Need a PC Tuneup? Free PC Maintenance Tools"

Posted by:

13 Sep 2021

I know there are a ton of really bad actors in this field. Any chance of listing some of the more notorious ones to stay away from?

Posted by:

Bob S
13 Sep 2021

Thanks Bob for all your advice and fun Geeky Updates.
I have used Revo Uninstaller to do a thorough uninstall of apps. It does more than the standard windows and built in program uninstalls by examining all leftover files and registry entities and letting you choose to remove them. I always have let Revo Uninstaller choose everything to remove without any problems. It's a little geeky, but so are some of the other programs that you mention.

Posted by:

14 Sep 2021

Uninstaller utilities w/capability to track/monitor installation processes are very useful. But the pickins' have become slim! Most such utilities have not been upgraded for quite some time. Others are on sketchy grounds by advertising “FREE” which really are neutered PAYware. Remaining such examples are RevoUninstaller and AdvancedUninstaller. Leaving only FreeUninstallIt but its ‘install monitor’ feature needs much work.
I find that my yearly install of TurboTax in a few machines forces me to also do uninstall (on each machine) before installing the next year’s version of TurboTax again.
There are also special Anti-Virus program uninstallers. AntiVirus programs tend to do a more complex integration with the OperatingSystems and at times they are equally difficult to uninstall/remove completely from WinOS.
I recall Norton used to be real nasty to eradicate from systems.

Posted by:

14 Sep 2021

Wise Program uninstaller freeware has removal as well as forced removal, good to get rid of old virus programs that won't let go and leave trojan files behind.

Posted by:

14 Sep 2021

Do any of these programs check for corrupted operating system files? If found do they replace said corrupted files?

Posted by:

14 Sep 2021

If you want to spend a few bucks, get System Mechanic . . . I bought it back when i got a new laptop with windows 7 . . . and then somewhere along the line it came with a lifetime purchase for like 1.5 times the yearly fee . . . a no brainer . . . has all of the above and more . . . and it can include other features too if you want to buy them (i only have the base maintenance software and use another great value software product, malwarebytes for my security)

Posted by:

Bob Pegram
14 Sep 2021

I used to repair computers and I would always install the free version of Advanced System Care. It is simple to use and good for people who are not computer savvy. Now has popups to 'upgrade.' I always told customers that update was good and upgrade was not good since it cost money.
I agree on the comment on Revo Uninstaller. It is excellent although that was for me, not them. Too easy to delete important files if they didn't realize how it works.

Posted by:

Mike Davies
15 Sep 2021

If you've got a SSD (Solid State Drive) DO NOT defrag.
Defragging is good for a regular Hard Drive, but NOT for an SSD.

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