Keeping your computer running efficiently requires thoughtful set up and occasional TLC to deal with the detritus of day-to-day computer use. Temporary files, old data and other unused behind-the-scenes files can clog up your hard drive, slowing your system's performance. Even regular removal of these files may not be enough. There are programs built-in to the Windows 8.1 operating system that can help, as well as a few must-have third-party utilities.
Throw out the Leftovers
Programs that you no longer use take up disk space and may possibly load services at startup or use resources of which you are unaware. You can remove programs through Windows 8.1 using Uninstall from the Control Panel. Free utilities, such as PC Decrapifier, Wise Program Uninstaller and Revo Uninstaller can help you too, by suggesting programs for removal and unneeded startup items (see Resources). While it may be tempting to remove programs you don't recognize, research these first, so you're not removing critical components.
Scrape up the Spills
Windows 8.1 includes a utility called Disk Cleanup that removes temporary and system files, empties the Recycle Bin and deletes other unneeded files. Available through the Administrative Tools option in Control Panel, Disk Cleanup permits you to specify what items you want to remove. CCleaner, Wise Disk Cleaner and JetClean are free utilities that perform similar cleaning functions to Disk Cleanup, while adding features and different user interfaces (see Resources).
Careful With the Registry
Earlier versions of Windows had problems with the computer's registry getting bogged down with old and outdated entries from programs that didn't fully uninstall and other system operations. Products such as CCleaner and Wise Registry Cleaner do certainly find and remove orphaned registry entries, but whether this improves the performance of your computer is debatable. Microsoft stated that the Windows registry is usually self-sufficient at the time of Windows 7, and while the company stopped short of recommending against the use of registry cleaners, the use of these is not encouraged.
Removing unused files and programs is a great start, but it leaves your hard drive with physical gaps that may cause the drive to spin longer and more often to run programs or store saved data. Disk Defragmenter is updated to Optimize Drives in Windows 8.1. You can access the program by accessing the Search box, entering "defragment" and choosing "Defragment and optimize your drives." This utility can also be set to run on a schedule, which makes it one less thing for you to worry about.