Time For a PC Tuneup? Try These Free Tools
A perspicacious AskBob reader says: “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 bothered to change 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.
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, 8, 10 and 11 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, 10 and 11 have automatic defrag built in, but you may still benefit by running a third-party defragger a few times per year
My article Here's How to Optimize Your Hard Drive 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.
EaseUS Todo Backup is a popular free software tool for making backups. The Free Edition offers backup, disk cloning, and the ability to transfer your system to a different PC. 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 Should You X-Ray Your Computer? 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:
- Keep Your Software Updated - See my related article Here's Why You Must Keep Your Software Updated (and how to do it for free) to learn how to scan your computer for software vulnerabilities, and how to make sure you have the latest versions and security patches.
- Use Anti-Malware Protection - Avast! is a popular free anti-virus program with a rich feature set, and ease of use. Avast! claims it’s #1, with 230 million users worldwide. It is updated regularly. The Avast Free Anti-virus protects against viruses, spyware, rootkits, and even zero-day attacks that no one’s heard of yet. Its Home Network Security scans your network for weaknesses that could admit malware or hackers. Protection is offered for PCs, Macs, and Android mobile devices.
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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 8 Jun 2023
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Time For a PC Tuneup? Try These Free Tools (Posted: 8 Jun 2023)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved