Try These Ten+ 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 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.

All-in-one and some specialized PC maintenance tools 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 "Try These Ten+ Free PC Maintenance Tools"

Posted by:

Allan Brunner
13 Sep 2019

I don't know if this comes under Maintenance but Revo Uninstaller (free) is brillant.

Posted by:

13 Sep 2019

I have used CCleaner for years with very good results.

Posted by:

13 Sep 2019

ccleaner is great, but ever since the paid version and the ccleaner browser showed up expect a lot of ads, and especially the updates and the sneaky way the upload their browser on the sneak!!!

Posted by:

13 Sep 2019

I use IObit products (Advanced System Care, Smart Defrag, Uninstaller, Driver Booster). They are free and do a good job, but it is a mystery to me why they are not combined into a suite. They, too, have free and paid versions. I won't pay for four separate programs, but would be willing to pay for a combined suite.

Posted by:

13 Sep 2019

I've used Speccy for many years and it's almost endlessly useful - EXCEPT for reporting the temperature of AMD CPUs.

For that, I use AMD Overdrive, which reports a good, stabile thermal safety margin of 41-51 degrees. On the same PC, Speccy reports temps jumping erratically up and down from 72 - 99 degrees (10 degrees into the red).

Same situation on my other AMD systems, too.

Posted by:

Kenneth Heikkila
13 Sep 2019

I agree with snert. CCleaner is annoying and I rarely use it. I probably should use Privizer more often. Mostly I depend on Kaspersky and SuperAntiSpyware.

Posted by:

13 Sep 2019

I just ran a quick search and found no proof that defragging makes any difference. People recite intuitive conclusions without empirical support.
I believe performance depends on how files are accessed. E.g., simultaneously reading two files that are interlaced, with one file occupying odd-numbered tracks, and the other occupying the intervening even-numbered tracks, would be much faster than if the files are contiguous but separated radially.
Has anyone done a measurement with a stop-watch?

Posted by:

13 Sep 2019

Ashampoo has free versions of much of their software.
WinOptimiser works well

Posted by:

14 Sep 2019

I use a combination of Piriform CCleaner, Piriform Defrag, Privazer, and Malwarebytes-Anti-Malware, plus a few other tools, and I am happy with how they all work and do a great job of getting rid of junk. Cleaning all the junk and preventing malware keep my computers running quickly and efficiently. Thank you for this informative article!

Posted by:

14 Sep 2019

Flexera's Personal Software Inspector (PSI) is the best tool I've come across to ensure all your installed applications are patched and up-to-date.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Flexera took over PSI from Secunia, and killed the product.

Posted by:

15 Sep 2019

Very good!!!!!

Posted by:

15 Sep 2019

I've used Glary utilities both free and paid versions, since 2008, and would'nt want to have a computer without it.I've also used AVG free since 2008 as well and have had no problems with viruses or worms as well. I also keep all my software up to date, and don't open any emails I don't recognize.
And I learned a long time ago, that free software is not always free, and to be reallllly selective about what you install. And as Bob says, backup everything that matters! His book on backups is great, and can help you find good backup software,a lot of it free.

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