The Ultimate PC Tune Up Guide

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Welcome to the Ultimate PC Tune Up Guide. It will keep your PC running fast and great. As I discussed in a prior article, the more you use your PC, the more your PC requires maintenance. Every email you read, every web site you visit, and every document you create, leaves little bread crumbs on the hard drive. Over the space of days, weeks and months, these thousands and thousands of bread crumbs ultimately slow down your PC. Fortunately, there are ways to keep your PC like new and in some cases better than new. Let’s get started.

Do a backup.

First do a backup. Whether we want to admit it or not, all hard drives fail, and furthermore, hard drives never crash at a convenient time. So before we start doing anything, let’s back up your hard drive. I use an external hard drive connected to a USB2 port and I try to back up at least once a month. I only back up my critical data, which is essentially the My Documents directory and my email folders. The entire process takes about half an hour.

Delete your junk mail folder.

Did you know that junk mail slows down system performance? Every time you receive an email (good or bad), that email is written to your hard drive. Not such a big deal, but 90% of the email that I receive is actually spam, and it just eats up hard drive space, and further fragments my hard drive. Usually before deleting my junk mail folder, I try to take a quick skim to see if it accidentally classified a good email as bad (the dreaded false positive). In the course of a month, I usually find about 1-2 good emails marked as spam.

Empty the recycle bin.

When you delete a file, it really is still on your hard drive in the recycle bin, out of sight, out of mind. Although it is handy to be able to find an accidentally deleted file, over time, gigabytes and gigabytes of junk accumulate and should be erased. Note: this also poses a security risk because it makes it easy for people to find the things you really wanted permanently deleted. At PC Pitstop, we have seen systems with more than 50GB’s sitting in the Recycle Bin.

Clear out temporary system files.

What happens when you open an attachment from your favorite email client, or when Word is doing an auto save on your new novel? All of your data and much more is being stored in temporary system files throughout your hard drive. Just like your recycle bin, it can be handy, but over the course of days and weeks, it only serves to clog up your hard drive. You should reclaim all of that space, and sometimes it can be a lot!

Clear out internet cache.

Whether your browser is FireFox or Internet Explorer, both have an internet cache with tons of information about each and every web site you visit. In the short term, these caches speed up web browsing, but over the medium term, if you browse the web a lot (who doesn’t?), then these caches get big and unwieldy. At PC Pitstop, we actually have seen more than one PC with an internet cache of more than 100GB.

Uninstall any unused programs.

It has happened to all of us, we download 4-5 software applications, looking for a solution to a particular problem. That’s great, but your hard drive now has quite a few applications that you never intend to use. Or perhaps, you downloaded/bought something a long time ago, but you no longer have a use for it. If this is the case, then uninstall any and all programs that you no longer have a use for. There are three big reasons why you should uninstall programs you don’t use. 1) Programs take up hard drive space, 2) Many programs install background processes that use up processor cycles and memory even if you are not using them, and 3) All programs create entries into your Windows Registry. By uninstalling unwanted programs, you are also uninstalling unwanted registry entries.

Check start up items for unwanted items.

This is a pet peeve of mine. Many good and perfectly legitimate programs leave behind tray icons. These tray icons serve no purpose other than to use up memory and processor cycles. Also, if you are ever wondering why your PC takes so long to reboot, it is usually due to excessive tray icons. The solution is simple. Microsoft has a utility called MSCONFIG that allows you to manage your start up items. Also, PC Pitstop’s Optimize has automated the process of weeding out these pesky tray icons.

Clear out personal temp files.

We are our own worst enemy. Lord knows I am trying to change. I keep a folder on my desktop called temp, and I put all of my temporary work there. Throughout the course of a month, there are many times I need to save something to the hard drive temporarily. Now I have a place that I can easily delete on a monthly basis all my temporary work to avoid hard drive clutter.

Do a malware scan and clean.

It is always a good idea to do a malware scan on your PC as a proactive measure. Even if you are a safe surfer (as I am), it is still a good idea to do a malware scan and clean. Todays scanners not only detect the big and bad viruses and trojans, but also hundreds of little problems. It is a good practice to keep all of these cleaned up.

Delete large files.

This is a key piece of advice that I have discovered over the years. It is not healthy to have really big files on your hard drive. I am not talking about MP3’s or normal files. Let’s call a big file anything over 1 GB. On my system, the only large files are my email folders. However, from time to time, when I am working on video, sometimes I need to leave the video in raw format before compressing for YouTube. If there is anything that slows down your system fast, it is a 40GB file sitting on your main system partition. If you have some large files, it is much better to put them on an external or secondary disk.

Do a registry clean.

Perhaps one of the most complicated and cumbersome files on your disk is the Windows Registry. Not a second goes by that Windows is not writing, deleting or modifying something in the Registry. Has your hard drive light suddenly begun flashing and you are not doing anything on your PC? Windows is probably writing to the registry. I use a registry cleaner about once a month to keep the registry as lean and mean as possible.

Check drivers.

Check your drivers at least once a month. You don’t need to update all of your drivers once a month, but you should check to see what’s new. Drivers fix pesky problems and add new features. As a rule, I try to keep my wireless drivers on my portable up to date, because it usually helps my range, and they also add more security features.

Do a chkdsk.

Run a chkdsk. To be honest this one almost didn’t make my list but I did it today and I was shocked! I had a few minor problems. If left unchecked, minor problems can blossom into major problems. For the beginners, chkdsk is a free Windows utility that checks the integrity of the files stored on your hard drive.

Clean out keyboard.

I was talking on the phone the other day, and I noticed a little fuzz under one of the keys on my keyboard. I took a business card, and dug out the fuzz. But then I realized that underneath the keys was a forest of hair, fuzz, and dust. With just the edge of a business card, in the space of 20 minutes, I had dug out a pile of debris. Now my keyboard is typing much faster, and I am not worried about some gunk getting stuck in the key mechanism. Note: when cleaning out your keyboard, take your time. The last thing you want is the business card stuck under one of your keys!

Clean off screen.

Just take a damp cloth or some Windex and less than 20 seconds, your screen looks amazing. Be sure to add Windex to the cloth and not the monitor. (For LCD’s use water ONLY!) The little things sure make a big difference.

Defragment.

Last but certainly not least is defrag. In my view, there is nothing more important than doing a good and thorough defragmentation. Before beginning a defrag, close all applications. In particular, do not browse the web or do email when performing a defrag. The reason is that our research shows that the most fragmented files are email archives and browser caches. You are defeating the purpose of the defrag.

Conclusions.

I did the above steps on two PCs this weekend, and the performance difference is unbelievable. There is a night and day difference in my two primary activities: email and web browsing. Furthermore, boot times are much faster, and in general the systems seem more responsive. I actually feel like my PC is working for me, and not vice versa.

Secondly, I used all PC Pitstop products to perform the above operations. I used Optimize to clean up all my junky files and also clean out my registry. I used Exterminate for the malware scan and Driver Alert to check on my drivers. Lastly, I used Disk MD for the defragmentation.

I used our products becaused it saved me time. The entire process took about 20 minutes for each PC not including the defragmentation. That said, almost everything that I have mentioned above can be done manually (except the registry scan) or with competitive products. Either way, if you follow the check list above on a monthly basis, I promise the results will be outstanding.

Lastly, these issues are not Windows unique. Whether you are an Apple or a Linux user, the basic principles still apply.

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41 thoughts on “The Ultimate PC Tune Up Guide

  1. Very interesting but not too helpful for me. I tried using my optimise 2 last week and had a crash!!!!!I have discovered the source of most of my problems: There is a folder named “MY Videos” which 1)will not allow me to erase it (it says it is pasr of the system and is rapidly taking over my entire computer! Corel User is taking over the rest! Any more suggestions. Love reading all this stuff but I do need to find a solution. When I try to sign into a site on the internet, I am given as many as 20 different sites. !! Laugh, its ok Ellen

  2. I use System Mechanic 6 to do all of the above. The only problem I have with it is that it hangs up in Total Care. It’s some issue relating to Norton and I haven’t figured that out yet. System Mechanic works great and really does help.

  3. Cynthia,

    What you and several other posters seem to be asking for is a turnkey solution. That is not possible because a program that hasn’t been customized won’t know what software you have on your system that you do or don’t want to use in its default configuration? This is one reason companies have IT personnel for their networks who are the only ones authorized to put programs on company computers. Under that circumstance alone is it possible to know how to configure all the machines in the network automatically. Otherwise, it’s a little like asking a plastic surgeon to just fix everything that’s wrong with you, or a hairdresser to just give you a better look. If you don’t first reach agreement on what you want to keep and what you want to lose or what you want enhanced, you’ll probably be displeased by the result. Until the day psychic software comes along, we’re stuck making the decisions for ourselves.

    About the only thing I know to suggest you do with msconfig is to run it, go over to the startup tab and write down the names of all the programs that start automatically (the ones with checked boxes). Then go to the web and Google them one at a time to find out what they are? I find I have no use for the various entertainment media quick start programs, like for I-tunes. I would rather just let them take a little longer to load and start manually when I need them, so I uncheck their boxes in the msconfig startup list. The same with Acrobat tray and programs that check for updates. I just don’t need all that clutter. So, once I identify them, I uncheck their boxes in that msconfig tab and save the extra boot time and memory they consume. I just have to remember to check for updates manually. About once a month I have a computer maintenance day and do all that, and defragging and the rest.

  4. I have a question? Well Duh–I guess that is obvious. BUT what I want to know is, can anybody at PcPitStop just connect to my computer & run all of the needed tests & delete the crap I don’t need, etc., etc.?? BECAUSE none of this makes sense to me. If NOT, can you or do you have somewhere a step by step tute on what NOT to delete so that I don’t screw up my whole system???

  5. Hello Brian.
    Thanks for all your support. I see you have contacted our Customer Service earlier for help with Optimize. You can contact Doug Bender on Exterminate just like you did on Optimize. He will be glad to assist you anyway he can.

    The “scan failed” error is from an incomplete or interruped definitions download and has nothing to do with 64 bit compatibility.

    I personally don’t use a 64 bit OS but I know Doug in Customer Service does and has no problems.

    All of our products carry a Money Back Guarantee and I don’t believe you will find anyone that has a complaint with this long standing policy.

    I’m not sure where you have written because we don’t have any monitored email addresses but feel free to go back to customer service if you continue to have problems. http://www.pcpitstop.com/store/service.asp
    Thanks again and I hope this has been a help.

  6. I have been a faithful user, supporter, donator, and buy products here for 8-9 years .I tell everyone about it.
    There is one thing I am starting to get “peeved about.

    The new cleaners, removals etc etc on the web are doing this, and it is a scam. You buy, say, a reistry cleaner, only to find out that this product does NOT support 64 bit. Fat chance of getting you money back. I have noticed when trying , for instance, exterminator today, and while I started scan, it says ” scan failed” and then has a page that says ” found no threats”. If the scan faled, how do you know?

    This is a warning sign that 64 bit is not supported. Fat chance if you buy something on the net and 64 bit is not supported, of you getting your money back.

    I would hope, and think that PCpitstop would not do this, but I have written and asked on several occasion if ______ supports 64 bit. No answer, nor do you disclose if or not that _____________ supports 64.

    Can you please mark clearly that your products do or dont support 64 bit? alot of people are using it ( 64 bit) you know. Your losing approx 120 bucks in purchases from me right now, but I cannot get a straight answer if it is supported or not. That is a red flag of the sales tactic other dubvious sights are using. Not that you are, but could you make it clear which do or do not support 64 bit?

    Thank you,

    Brian

  7. Ok, I use everything from Pc Pitstop, and it all works well if u do it all in order the right way, i clean all Browser history first, then i do a Disk clean up second, then i use Pc Pitstop Erase 3rd then i use Pc Pitstop Optimize 2.0 4th, then i turn off System Restore, then i go back to Disk Clean up, click on the 2nd tab other option then delete all the backup restores, then i go to Disk MD Defrag it, then i go back and turn on the system restore and then create a new restore point, then i run the Pc Pitstop Optimize 2.0 again. and i use Windows Vista Ultimate 64 Bit, this is the best thing to do for Vista or XP same thing eather way, it works Great Big diffrence, any people need anymore help, this is my e-mail dolph_fan73@yahoo.com or dolph_fan73@live.com, i will help u out step by step if u need it, just let me no Thanks Pc Pitstop, i like all your Stuff i use them all.

  8. I agree with most that there is not enough info in the article to help do a good cleanup. Most tips are asking to use a 3rd party tool. For that use PC Pitstop tools or go to http://www.downloads.com and look for that free software. In the search box, type in “Defrag” without the quotes. I use Auslogic for defraging.
    Free antivirus, look for AVAST home edition. you register to get an install key but its free for 14 months, then free register again. Avast updates its virus database everyday on your PC. At the end of installing check the box to do a boot scan, reboot.
    To run CHKDK on your c: drive open a DOS box by going to |Start|Run| type cmd and hit enter. When the box opens type “chkdsk c: /r” without the quotes. The C: drive is mounted so the message you will get will ask if you want to run chkdsk at the next reboot. Answer Y. close the box and reboot. Your PC will go through the 5 steps of chkdsk.
    In Internet Explorer go to |tools|internet options| you will see there to clean up cookies, and off line web content. Do it.
    Hope this helps.

  9. Several people have mentioned Revo uninstaller and I use it also. Good free program.

    Kirk, Most of the suggestions don’t even require a purchased program to perform the suggestions. Not ours or others. Of course we sell programs but our main focus is and has always been helping you keep a healthy
    pc. I think Rob actually went out of his way not to mention our programs.

  10. Greetings:

    I’ve used pcpitstop with my limited computer knowledge (being a Senior novice) for the past few years and have found it to be very beneficial. I may not be able to do nor comprehend everything, but any help helps. Thanks.

    Now, my dilemma has to do msconfig. I’ve been told to use it to delete unwanted “stuff” — but I don’t know what to delete and what to keep!!!!

    Any kind of help would help, but keep in mind you are dealing with a Senior novice.

    Again, thanks.
    Angelo V Billiris
    avb1940@aol.com

  11. i agree with mal to would be handy to give some detail on how to do theses things if you are new to computers can get a guide on how to do it

  12. I agree with Mel….Mel Says:
    November 16th, 2008 at 12:38 am
    An article like this is of very little help because it leaves out how to do what is in the article, except, for promoting a few of their own products. It is not a help article, it is a sell article, similar to a few of the posts excited about the pc pitstop products. I wouldn’t bother reading that kind of help article again, unless they take the hint and change policies.
    Just another artical to sell you programs.

  13. Hubert and Michael indicate continued unrelieved fragmentation. I don’t know that Hubert is running Vista, but I assume so. Michael said he is. We would have to ask PC Pitstop about their defragmenting program, but many are, in effect, actually an improved interface that calls the Windows Defrag software which does the actual work. There is a tech note at Microsoft about the their Defrag program in Vista that says they found fragments 64 megabytes or larger were not worth defragmenting owing to the process time and free space consumed, so, by default, they are ignored and not defragmented in Vista. Microsoft figures leaving those large chunks alone has a maximum speed penalty of 1%.

    You can, however, force Defrag to do a complete vista defragmentation regardless of fragment size. This is done by running it from the command prompt. The command prompt for Defrag has to be run as an administrator, and that is not automatic even if your user account is an administrator account, so you need to take added steps.

    One way to go about it is this: go to My Computer. Double-click on the C: drive to explore it. Open the Windows folder. Inside that folder, open the System32 folder. In the System32 folder scroll down past the folders and into the files until you find the cmd.exe program. (In Microsoft terms, we have now browsed to C:/Windows/System32/cmd.exe.) RIGHT click on cmd.exe, and from the resulting flyout menu click on the option to Run As Administrator. You will get the Windows permission window asking if you really wanted to start this program? Tell it yes. Then the little black command line prompt window appears. In it, right on the same line as the prompt, type the command:

    defrag C: -w

    Type it exactly as shown, including the spaces. The -w switch is the option that forces the full defragmentation to be used and not skipping over the 64 meg and larger fragments as is the default mode. This means the defrag program will take longer to run. Possibly a lot longer, depending on your hard drive complexity. It’s the kind of thing you start just before you go to bed and let the machine work on it into the night.

    If the C: drive letter is not the one you want to defragment, replace it with the drive letter of the one you do want to defragment. There is a switch, -c, which will cause Defrag to defragment all drive volumes present on the machine, but I think it is wiser to pick your battles. If you have a slow drive somewhere on the system, such as a backup drive or a W/R DVD or a thumb drive or have a camera memory card inserted, it will defragment them all, and maybe take half a day. Some of those things are pretty slow compared to your hard drive.

  14. Regarding defragging in my humble opinion nothing beats VOPT from Goldenbow systems. Its very fast and also contains various tools to speed up your machine – if you choose to use them. One I always use is the packing thingy. I am using NFTS and there is a choice of “loose packing” or putting everyting at the beginning of the disk; that is what I do so the read/write heads do not have so much work and travel to do – why should they like commuting to work any more than we do?
    I also use PCPitstop Eliminate, Optimise and Registry Mechanic. Another PCPitstop programme I use is Driver Alert. My machine generally comes in the top 27% on the Pitstop test. Its using XP by the way.

  15. An article like this is of very little help because it leaves out how to do what is in the article, except, for promoting a few of their own products. It is not a help article, it is a sell article, similar to a few of the posts excited about the pc pitstop products. I wouldn’t bother reading that kind of help article again, unless they take the hint and change policies.

  16. I agree with Mike Noland’s comment. Not all of us are smart enough to be able to do these things; then again, maybe we are smart enough to know our limitations and not make things worse because of the uncertainty. I would like to have a professional help me out but can’t afford to. For us who hesitate, I wish someone, perhaps PC Pitstop, could provide a blog page with more details on how to carry out the Tune UP Guide’s advice.

  17. Adding to what EvilYellowTang said about making sure you have 15%-20% free disk space when defragging. You’ll also find in Vista that turning off system restore before running defrag software makes a huge difference. PC Pitstop reports my Laptop’s drive as being fragmented immediately after running defrag software, but turning off system restore first solves the problem. Don’t forget to turn restore back on again after defragmenting though.

  18. Yes, these are must do’s. You can also try using Ubuntu OS. It requires no anti virus program and no defrag. It’s free too. Most adults like it. Try Ubuntu 8.10

  19. Hey

    That tune-up really does work, even on Vista machines. It was cool to read it, and already do all of those things and have for years…know why? Because Pitstop has been handing out that kind of excellent advice for years. Thanks – and none of those tips are really hard to do.

    Another tip for Vista users – Clean out the LOG files in “Start menu – Administrative Tools – System Tools – Computer Management – Event Viewer (windows logs) and Global logs”. This is one of the most redundant and useless Vista space wasters… Don’t worry about dumping the logs – I have only left the most essential logs functioning – system events and security.There are thousands of entries in those logs if you haven’t cleaned them and they take up gb’s of space for no purpose. My machine really picked up a lot of speed after I discovered that cure… And I’ve been doing it regularly for over a year now with zero problems.

    I also recommend Auslogics disk defrag – they have an optimize suite as well, quite good.

    At the Pit – it’s pretty frustrating lately with the changes not reflecting Vista-related values. I get the same thing with “fragmented” files, even after running defrag a couple of times – my scores are low in spite of the fact that I usually run pcps’s “optimize” before and after testing… And last time, the test results said my pc memory was the “recommended” amount on one page, and another page said “increase memory” – because Vista doesn’t show all the memory available.

    Argh! It would sure be great if you guys did catch up to Vista – or back up to Vista, or sideways or wherever that OS came out of.But thanks for all the good stuff over the years.

  20. Disc Medic defrags system restore, which many other defrags do not do. This may be why you are still showing a large amount of fragmenatation even after you run another defragger.

  21. To Michael & Hubert

    “I have the exact same problem as Hubert. I have even defraged with three programs in a row, and still have a huge portion of my hard drive showing up as fragmented. This is on a Vista machine–never seemed to have the problem on any XP or Win2K machines. I’ve used the built in defrag, JKDefrag along with PageDefrag and NTREGOPT, and still the same thing.”

    What you’re experiencing doesn’t sound like its just bad software. Typically when HD’s don’t defrag all the way, there isn’t enough actual hard drive space to complete the defragging process. It is ideal to keep at least 15-20 percent of your hard drive free so the defragging program you use can do its job 100%

    /I recommend

    Auslogics Defrag
    Ultimate Defrag
    O & O Defrag

  22. why does this benchmark keep saying that hard drives are fragmented when both the windows defrag and diskeeper 2008 both run and defrag with next only one or 2 items fragged. the pc test says that 30 to 40 % fragged. this cannot be possible. i know im not alone in this finding

  23. I have my PC tested every month. In September I upgraded from 1GB 200HD–to 3GB 500HD. The number of files I have has increased from 78K to 101K. Though I have access to other optimizing programs, I will try the one in “Ultimate PC Tune Up”. I can’t wait to see what they’ll do when next I test at PCPitstop (December 1st).

  24. I have the exact same problem as Hubert. I have even defraged with three programs in a row, and still have a huge portion of my hard drive showing up as fragmented. This is on a Vista machine–never seemed to have the problem on any XP or Win2K machines. I’ve used the built in defrag, JKDefrag along with PageDefrag and NTREGOPT, and still the same thing.

  25. I understand most of this stuff, but the one thing I’ve NEVER understood is drivers. I have only a vague idea what they do, but absolutely NO IDEA how to check them or where to go if I need new ones. Could someone please educate me on drivers? Many thanks!

  26. Unfortunately, as a screen reader user, not all PC Pittstop tests are accessible. They used to be: and I wonder what freezes because I can get partially through the testing cycle on Full Test (for example) but then my sound (for the screen reader, text to speech) dies and there’s no further activity. Shame, ’cause I used to test regularly and found it handy.

  27. I have used PC PITSTOP products for year’s and I could not even think about using anyone else’s … Thank’s guy’s you are the best.,

  28. Thanks for the info. With reference to cleaning your LCD monitors. If you have sticky prints, etc. You can use water and white vinegar. Mix 1 to 1. Spray on lint free cloth. Then clean monitor. Works like a charm.

  29. Barry,

    We are working on this. I actually did the exact same thing and I was disappointed that my OverDrive test did not jump more. The reason is that OverDrive is measuring performance through a set of synthetic benchmarks that do not capture the full performance of your PC. We will be modifying the OverDrive test in the future to better reflect real world performance.

    Thanks for the comment.

    Rob

  30. I will have to read a few more times and I hope the problems that I have since wpxp3 crashed my computer!!!!!!Big mistake I let circuit city restore (Dumb, dumb). Now everything is so messed up that it takes 7 steps to upon a file inWP that I have used from before Word. This article will be printed and read until I see that everything is fixed Thanks

  31. When un-installing programs, it is important to get rid of files that were not removed during the “Uninstall” process. They take up room on your hard drive.
    After doing normal uninstall, shut down completely for at least 30 seconds, and then restart. This should release any “Locked files” for deletion.
    Search computer for all “Program Name” files, then delete.

    General instructions.
    Do a search in ‘all files and folders’ – search for both “Company Name” and “Program Name”, with the options “Search system folders”, “Search hidden files and folders” and “Search subfolders” checked. Delete all of those related files found.
    You should do this search and delete whenever you un-install any programs. It will remove lots and lots of leftover junk files and corrupted files taking up room on your hard drive. It will also give you a “clean install” when you reinstall or install an updated program. (Do this ESPECIALLY when updating to a NEW anti-virus programs and “Internet Security Suite” programs such as McAfee or Norton etc.)

    Download and install “PC Pitstop Optimize 2.0” then do any updates prior to running it and removing anything for the first time.

    This will get rid of all your current Registry errors and outdated Registry files, prior to installing or reinstalling the replacement program.

  32. No matter which program I defrag with, PCPitstop says that I have a large percentage of fragmentation. Why would I believe that the program that they push will be any better?

  33. Why is it, that after doing everything mentioned, when I run PCPitstop, I get a result being at the bottom 34%? I have a 2 gig 150 gig hd, with an AMD Turion64X2? Cant be that bad?????? (AND I just reformatted the HD!)

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