Has your Windows PC been running slow? Have you been seeing popups on your computer saying it is infected with a virus and you need to buy something to clean it up? These are very common issues, but luckily, they can be resolved with a couple free tools! Let’s face it, fixing issues on your own is a great accomplishment, and not having to pay a dime to do it makes it all that much better!
One of the easiest cleanup tasks to do is to remove malware. Now, how would you know you’ve got malware on your computer? There are simple, telltale signs of a malware infection. One of the most common signs would be a popup appearing on your computer stating you have PC performance problems and that you should pay to resolve them. Another common symptom of malware would be your normal internet browser homepage being something different from what you normally use.
MalwareBytes is probably the most popular tool for finding and removing malware. This free utility scans and removes unwanted items from your computer. Their malware databases are updated frequently, ensuring protection against the most current malware. Simply download the program and open it. Every time you open the program, it will check for database updates. When the database is up to date, click Scan Now. The program will scan your whole computer and prompt you when it’s found something. If you have installed something that MalwareBytes thinks is malware, you have the option to keep it on your system or get rid of it.
Optimize Your System.
As you use your computer more and more, it collects files and data that take up hard drive space and make your machine run slowly. In addition, as you use the internet, small files called cookies are stored on your computer that allow advertisers and websites to track your internet usage. What your computer needs is to be optimized.
CCleaner is one of the most popular and most effective tools to automate the system optimization process. This powerful, free tool is able to free up drive space by removing unwanted and unneeded files, like cookies, fixing registry problems, and generally making your computer not only operate faster, but boot faster. Again, this is a tool that’s as easy to use as simply installing and running it. When opened, the program will start in the Cleaner section. Simply click analyze, and when the analysis is complete, click Run Cleaner. Analyzing and cleaning the registry works in the same fashion.
Prevent & Remove Viruses.
Lastly, one of the most important things you’ll want to do on your PC is to prevent and remove viruses. Without virus protection, your computer is susceptible to attacks that can render your computer useless. Worse yet, if your computer is networked with others, an attack on your machine can propagate onto the rest of the computers on the network.
In the past, you either had to pay for an anti-virus subscription, or use a free utility that would affect your computer’s performance due to the amount of resources it used. Microsoft Security Essentials is a free, powerful tool that gives you the protection you need, without affecting the performance of your PC. If you are using Windows 8 or Windows 10, this is built into your computer under the Windows Defender utility. Windows XP and Windows 7 users will want to download the installer from the link above and run it. In order to run a virus scan, load up Microsoft Security Essentials or Windows Defender, whichever is appropriate for your version of Windows, and click Scan Now.
Do Monthly Maintenance.
Okay! Now that you are the anti-virus master of masters, here’s a sweet little checklist we put together for your monthly PC maintenance, from here on out:
Disk clean up. This a very simple but important part of maintaining your PC happiness. Disk cleanup will remove temporary files and program files you have downloaded, compress old files, and empty the recycle bin. These are all steps that we sometimes forget to do ourselves, but they are imperative. Running disk cleanup on a regular basis takes care of anything you missed. Execute this by going to: Start >All Programs >Accessories >System Tools >Disk Cleanup
Windows Update. This will update all of your Windows components, keeping your machine happy and up to date. Execute this by going to: Start > All Programs > Windows Update
Run Third-Party software updates. You most likely are using a fair amount of third-party applications which are constantly releasing updates to fix bugs, improve performance, and protect against cyber attacks. It’s important to keep on top of updates for this reason. Some of the most common software that need updating are Adobe products, Flash, Java, and other software that is used on a daily basis.
Full system antivirus scan. There are a bunch of new viruses being released out there in Internet Land every day. By running a full system scan in Microsoft Security Essentials or another antivirus program of your choice you are assuring that your system is still clear of any Trojans, viruses or any other malware. Be sure to once monthly open your AV program and run a full scan. Once this is done make sure to quarantine and get rid of anything that was found.
Complete data backup. Better safe than sorry! You should always have some sort of backup plan in case your system crashes or burns out. Whether it’s in the cloud, on an external hard drive, or both it is always good to create a backup on a monthly basis.
Delete and organize your files. Go through your C:Drive and make sure to delete and organize any files that you no longer need. This is very important because if you keep accumulating files that you no longer need your Drive will fill up, which will definitely cause your computer to slow down.
Uninstall unused third-party programs. If it’s not a default or necessary system program, you haven’t used it in a while, and you don’t know what it is, you most likely do not need it. Navigate to: Start > Control Panel > Programs and Features. Take a quick look at all your programs and if you don’t use them, delete them! This will clear up space and make your computer run even better.
Clean up your hardware. Make sure that your hardware is also clean and no dust is accumulating on it. Dust and blow out (not with your mouth! or anything moist...) your keyboard and fan area and clean your screen. This is a very important step because a dirty computer is a not happy computer.
This is a 2-part series focusing on keeping your machines running in top shape. Watch this space for next month’s blog on keeping your Mac happy.
We hope this helps you with the daily needs of your computer, but keep in mind this is just a starting point and sometimes computers act up despite our best efforts. If you need to call in the big guns, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 415-578-7111 for friendly and efficient IT support.