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One common cause of computer failure is the computer runs out of Hard Drive space. Interestingly this can prevent files from saving, networks connecting, and programs running (including updating). This page will help you do basic computer cleaning to improve your computers performance.

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Objective Improving Windows Performance

By the end of this page you will be able to:

  1. Run free utilities to improve windows performance

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For a set of indispensible tools for your PC Piriform provides 4 free tools

  • CCleaner - cleans up old files, cache and registry
  • Defraggler - reorganises files so they are not splattered all over your hard drive
  • Recuva - A file undelete utility
  • Speccy - Tells you what hardware you have.

Archive files to an external drive

Archiving means moving files from your main storage to another (usually external storage device), like a CD-ROM or External Hard Disk Drive.

Note Memory sticks are notoriously unreliable and should only be used as a file transfer device. Always have copies of the files on your memory stick on another device like a Hard Disk.

Backup files

Once common problem I find is that when people do a disk clean up they always delete something they didn't want to. So Backup any important files onto an external drive. You should always make regular backups to a back-up storage device because you never know when your hard-drive will fry.

Delete old files

  • As a run of thumb try to keep 10% of your Primary Hard Disk drive free.
    • For example, Windows Vista needs at least 10GB of free space on its Hard Drive to efficiently manage its swap file.
  • So look for old video files (Use windows search to find .avi, .mpg, .mov and .wmv files)
  • Check your photo albums. Are there files that could be deleted
  • If you are using special software such as CAD or Drawing software (e.g. PhotoShop) - check to see you haven't got lots of backup files
  • If you use Office programs, check if you have several versions of the same file

In Windows Vista and Seven files are normally not saved in program files and instead they are saved in the user's local hidden files. Places to look are:

  • C:\Users\UserName\AppData\Local
  • C:\Users\UserName\AppData\Local\VirtualStore\Program Files

Clean up your cached files in your Web Browser

Don't forget if you run multiple browsers that each one will have a separate cache. A neat tool by Piriform is CCleaner, it allows you to search for and eliminate unnecessary files on your hard-drive freeing up space and the best thing is - it's completely free to use.

Defragmenting your Hard Disk Drive

One of the simplest but something that will provide a huge performance boost is to defrag your hard disk drive. Vista is "supposed" to do this automatically but from what I have experienced the Vista machines I have looked at have horribly fragmented drives

Free Software: Try Defraggler by Piriform software

Check the page cache is set for optimum performance

Virtual Memory Settings in Windows XP

As one of my strudent has observed (thanks Aaron) Windows does not often use the optimum setting for page cache size. So to change the virtual memory follow:

Windows XP

  • Start > Settings > Control Panel > System
  • _ Advanced _ > Performance |  Settings  > _ Advanced _  Change 

Windows 7

  • Microsoft really don't want you to find it...
  • Start > Control Panel > System and Maintenance > System > Advanced > Performance Settings >  Settings  > _ Advanced _  Change 

Now change the settings

  • Now check the Recommended v's what you have set. If it is lower (which is normal) Change to Custom size and make the Initial size the same as the Recommended. Click  OK  and the settings will take effect once you restart your computer.

Stopping unnecessary processes

During computer use many programs get executed and stay executing, eating up valuable RAM space and CPU time. Ways to fix these are:

  • Open up Task Manager (Ctrl+Shift+Esc) and go to the processes tab. Close unnecessary or hanged processes.
  • Use CCleaner, goto the tools tab and click on Startup. Disable unnecessary programs (you can always run them later if you need them).

Icon References.png References

Windows:Performance. (2018). In virtualMV's ( Michael Verhaart ) wiki. Retrieved November 14, 2018, from    (zotero)