Seven Free PC Maintenance Tools

Category: Software

A reader asks: 'I know I need to clean up my hard drive every once in a while. Are there any other regular PC maintenance tasks you recommend doing on a regular basis?' Yes! Here are seven 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.

All-in-one and some specialized PC maintenance tools make it a breeze to keep your system in top shape. Their functions generally include registry cleaning; disk defragmentation; optimization of system settings; and deletion of unnecessary, duplicate or temporary files. Some free PC maintenance tools include scheduling of maintenance, diagnostic tests, cleanup of malware, 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 XP, Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 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.


Advanced SystemCare Free by IObit has been downloaded over 150 million times since 2006. It takes only one click to launch this popular program's comprehensive maintenance scan. It does an excellent job of registry cleaning, disk defragmentation, junk files cleanup, and system optimization. It also clears out spyware and adjusts your system settings to protect your privacy and security. The Homepage Protection option protects your browser from rogue software that tries to change your browser's start page.

NOTE: When downloading Advanced SystemCare, you may be directed to CNET's Download.com site. If so, read this before continuing: DOWNLOAD ALERT: Foistware Warning. This warning has nothing to do with IObit's product, which I like and recommend. But you do have to be careful when downloading from CNET, or you could get annoying "tag-along" software you don't want.


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 and Windows 8 have automatic defrag built in, but you may still benefit by running a third-party defragger a few times per year.

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.


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, along with Startup Repair and other utilities that come with Windows are described in my article Free Windows Repair and Recovery Tools.

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 Computer Security: The Missing Link 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 "Seven Free PC Maintenance Tools"

Posted by:

Dave B.
17 Jul 2014

When it comes to Free PC tools - here is the one I use.
I have found Wise 360 a very good maintenance tool
It not only is a free download but it is free.

DwB


Posted by:

RandiO
17 Jul 2014

I see your seven maintenance recommendations and raise you 8+ freeware no WinOS should be without:
http://www.nirsoft.net/ (e.g. network and password utilities)
http://www.iobit.com/products.php (e.g. uninstaller and unlocker)
http://www.winpatrol.com/ (startup protection - now under new ownership)
http://www.macrium.com/reflectfree.aspx (backup/clone/image your drives)
http://keepass.info/ (KeePass password safe)
http://www.editpadlite.com/ (notepad replacement)
http://www.irfanview.com/ (graphics/image viewer)
http://www.techsupportalert.com/ (gizmo's recommended freeware)


Posted by:

Kay
17 Jul 2014

Every time I try to down load any of the programs from the links it takes me to the Cnet down load site. I am afraid to down load from there??


Posted by:

intelligencia
18 Jul 2014

Mr. Rankin, I use CCleaner (formerly Crap Cleaner) on a semi-regular basis. Will this or any similar product Hurt the SSD's in my computer (over time)?

EDITOR'S NOTE: No, it should be fine.


Posted by:

mur_phy
18 Jul 2014

ASC is not something that the average user should use even with that number of downloads. For basic care one is much better using C Cleaner as ASC can be very aggressive. The most important tools users can have are those that protect or solve malware, adware and virus/trojan issues such as a good AV scanner (Bit Defender Free or Avast) resident and programs such as Malwarebytes, HitMan Pro, Stinger (new version)Norton Power Eraser, Emsisoft Emergency toolkit etc. Then again, paying attention and thinking before clicking can be most useful because just being paranoid does not mean someone is not out to get you.


Posted by:

BaliRob
18 Jul 2014

Dear Bob, 10bit has a doubtful origin and that it was built in China copying much of Malwarebytes technology - just what I was told from a reliable source.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I've read the IOBit/MBAM story, which dates back to 2009. According to the MBAM wikipedia page, IOBit was using the MBAM virus database in their product without permission. IOBit denies their claim, and the the issue was resolved in IOBit's ASC v1.3 product. They're now at V7, and there have been no reports since 2009 of any more database issues. Yes, IOBit is a Chinese company, and China has different views on copyrights and intellectual property. But as far as I can tell, they've mended their ways and are "playing nice" for the past 5 years.


Posted by:

Carmel
18 Jul 2014

When I changed my browser from Firefox and Chrome to Pale Moon the infections Malwarebytes finds dropped from 200-300 to zero. Pale Moon is based on Firefox but seems to have eliminated all the software targets that the bad guys aim for. I wonder why.


Posted by:

Brian
18 Jul 2014

For those who have trouble with, or are afraid of cnet downloads try "File Hippo" instead.


Posted by:

Rochelle
18 Jul 2014

Brian--

I agree. Cnet, once reliable, is now using a downloader program. Usually you can also D/L directly from the manufacturer of a program.

Does anyone know of other sites with safe downloads?


Posted by:

Rochelle
18 Jul 2014

Are Majorgeeks.com and softpedia.com still free of downloaders and malware?

EDITOR'S NOTE: MG is fine. Don't know about Softpedia...


Posted by:

Robert
18 Jul 2014

I've been using ASC as per your suggestion for quite some time on juat about all the computers I own. The one question I have that I hope someone can shed some light on, is that when ASC finishes, it always reports that there are numerous additional problems that of course can be "fixed" if I'd just buy the pay-for version. Can anyone report on just what sort of "problems" these might really be, and if there is another (free of course) program out there that can take care of some of these "leftovers?"


Posted by:

MmeMoxie
18 Jul 2014

Some of the safest download websites are: MajorGeeks.com and Filepuma.com. Both of these have a large listing, of maintenance programs. Just to let those who didn't know ... Filepuma.com is provided by Glary Soft, who created Glary Utilities and several other programs.

Just saying that, you can always download from the company's website, their programs, doesn't "cut the mustard" anymore, these days. Way too many companies use a Download service like CNET Download.com, to save on bandwidth and etc.. So, it is important that, you know where the safe download websites are and to use them!

As for the free programs, I trust PrivaZer, CCleaner, Glary Utilities, Malwarebytes, Revo Uninstaller and Avast! Anti-Virus. I used IOBit Advanced, both the free and paid version, but then, became unhappy, since it was taking up too much, of my computer's resources. I discovered Glary Utilities Free, which seem to do a much better job of "cleaning" out areas of my computer, than IOBit was doing ... And, it was FREE! Glary Utilities does NOT take up a lot of resources, either. Plus, to "clean up" the areas Glary Utilities checks out, you do NOT have to "purchase" the paid version, to "clean up"!!!

I have always like when a Free version will still just do what it suppose to do and not make you have to buy, the advance or pro version, to complete your task ... Glary Utilities, CCleaner, Malwarebytes, PrivaZer, Revo Uninstaller and Avast! Anti-Virus will complete the task, at hand, without charging you or even suggesting that you buy the paid version.


Posted by:

Brad
19 Jul 2014

I used to use SpyBot but their letest version sucks it will clean half of H/D and for the other half "Show me the monie"


Posted by:

Michtrixie
21 Jul 2014

Regarding CNET's and other sites' propensity for installing unwanted "extras," first download and install Unchecky (unchecky.com) which works in the background and will eliminate those extras. Unchecky automatically unchecks every one of those extra boxes and all that is installed is the program you want. I have installed it on mine and the computers of all my friends who tend to install a program without thoroughly reading what they're installing along with it.


Posted by:

me
30 Oct 2014

RandiO I've downloaded winpatrol, i hope it works well.
I was desperate for something to replace "disable startup" that i had on xp.
there aren't many startup protection tools, and disable startup doesn't work very well on my win 7. i startup protection is perhaps the most important system tool for me. removing startups after they were installed is more difficult, you dont know what those startups are and you have to be careful
so really hope it would work like disable startup did.


Posted by:

Larry Ray
01 Mar 2015

I feel that "something funny is going on" with IOBIT's ASC and don't use it. Also I don't see ninite.com listed as a secure site to download safe free programs. ninite.com is recommended by a few other geek newsletters as being safe source download site.


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