How to Tune Up A Computer For Free

By Alan Hughes

Much like automobiles, computers need maintenance to keep them in top running order. Just as sludge builds up in a car’s engine, junk files and installation leftovers can gum up a computer’s hard disk. Dust gets trapped inside the case, resulting in added heat which slows down the circuitry and shortens component life. With a bit of work, you can tune up your computer and get it running faster.

Step 1

Delete files and folders that you are no longer using. Click Start and type “disk cleanup” (without the quotes) in the Search box. Click the “Disk Cleanup” link in the list of available programs. Check the box for each category that you want to delete. Other than “Setup Log Files,” you should be able to check all of the boxes. Click “OK” and provide permission or administrator credentials if prompted. Click “Yes” to give the utility permission to delete the selected files. Deleting unused files frees up space on the disk, which allows the input/output program to operate faster.

Step 2

Regroup fragmented files with a disk defragmentation utility. Microsoft Windows includes a Disk Defragmentation utility for this purpose. Click Start and type “defrag” (without the quotes) in the Search box. Click the “Disk Defragmenter” link from the list of available programs. The primary volume on a computer is usually the “C:” drive. Select this drive and click “Defragment Disk.” The utility will perform a fragmentation analysis to see if your disk actually requires defragmentation and will make a recommendation in the form of a prompt. If the utility recommends defragmentation, select the option to proceed. When all data in a file is grouped together, the computer is able to read and write files faster and more efficiently.

Step 3

Increase the amount of memory in your computer. Random Access Memory (RAM) holds programs and data that the computer is currently processing. If you open too many windows at one time for the amount of RAM you have installed, the computer will begin to “page.” Paging is a process where the computer pages programs and data out to disk files while it works on other programs and data. Excessive paging due to insufficient RAM leads to a condition where no real work is getting done. Each computer is slightly different in the specific process of adding RAM, but in each case you will have to open the computer, find the currently installed RAM and replace it with a higher capacity memory stick or add RAM in an extra memory slot.

Step 4

Install an anti-malware and anti-virus application and scan your computer regularly. Spyware, viruses, Trojans and adware all take a toll on your computer’s performance. Several good products are available for free download on the Internet. Microsoft’s Security Essentials, Malwarebytes and AVG Anti-virus are products that can protect your computer from invasion by unwanted software. After installing the software, run a scan and set up an automated weekly or daily anti-malware scan.

Tips & Warnings

  • Some expensive programs, such as Norton or McAfee, can do a better job, but free programs should be sufficient.
  • Clean up often. You are gaining unnecessary files every day, delete the ones you do not need.
  • Be careful to avoid static electricity discharge when opening your computer.