November 28, 2014

Tom Mighell: Spring Cleaning During the Summer – Taking Out the Junk

Editor’s Note: This post is the third in a series about maintaining technology and improving functionality.

I’ll finish my “Spring Cleaning During the Summer” series by talking about what’s inside your computer, now that we’ve done our best to clean the outside.  If you’re like me, you’ve installed a lot of programs that you no longer use, and you probably also have a lot of junk on your computer that you don’t even know is there.  For example, when you open an attachment to an email, Windows is very helpful (sarcasm intended) when it saves a copy of that attachment in a temporary file.  If you aren’t regularly cleaning out that Temp folder, you’ll be very surprised all the junk that’s being stored there.  Here are a couple of suggestions on how to keep the junk off your hard drive.

Delete What You Don’t Need.  If you have programs you don’t use anymore, I recommend you not use the Uninstall Programs feature of Windows – it does a decent job, but I find that stray directories and registry entries are often left behind.  Instead, I use Revo Uninstaller (free, or $39.25 for more features), which does a fantastic job of thoroughly removing a program from your computer.  It uses the program’s own uninstall process to remove the basic files.  Then it does a deep cleaning of your registry and file structure, and gives you the ability to delete all the files and items it finds.  I run Revo Uninstaller at least every month or two, especially if I have installed new programs I don’t use or like during that time.

Keeping Up to Date.  It’s also important to regularly update the programs you do have, but it can be a pain to have to keep visiting all the software sites to see if an update is available.  Most programs have a “Check for Update” feature under the Help or About menu, but that can also be time-consuming.  Instead, check out UpdateStar ($34.95), a program that scans all of your software, and regularly reports back if there’s an updated version.  You can download many programs directly from UpdateStar – it’s an incredibly convenient way of updating your software.

Time for a Deep Clean.  I’ve mentioned CCleaner (Free) a bunch on this blog and in presentations, and there’s a reason for that – it is an amazing computer cleaner.  I will run CCleaner after running Revo Uninstaller, just in case it happened to miss a stray file – CCleaner has its own Registry Cleaner which will scan for obsolete or unneeded registry entries and get rid of them for good.  CCleaner will also empty your Recycle Bin, and remove files from those pesky hidden temporary files that get created whenever you open attachments to an email.  You can also use CCleaner to do a more thorough cleaning, to make sure that the empty space on your hard drive (otherwise known as the slack space) is completely wiped of any residual programs, documents, or other data.

Put Everything Together Again.  Sometimes files or parts of a program get a little separated from each other on your hard drive.  The closer things are on your hard drive, the faster and better your drive performs.  That’s why it’s important to “defragment” your hard drive on a regular basis. If you’re using Windows 7, you already have a defragger built in – just go to “Search Programs and Files” on the Start Menu, type in defrag, and the Disk Defragmenter window appears; you can then configure your schedule, or start the defrag process right then.  If you aren’t using Windows 7, then check out this page of ten disk defragmenter software programs.  One of my favorite tools, PerfectDisk, is listed at #2 – it’s a great option.

And that’s it!  I do all of these things once a month, and at the most once every two months, and my computer is in pretty good shape.  Try it for yourself.

Tom Mighell is a Senior Consultant with Contoural, Inc., where he helps companies address their records management, electronic discovery, and litigation readiness issues. Tom has followed technology trends for more than twenty years, and works with lawyers to help them use technology in ways that provide great service to their clients. He writes about technology topics, as well as the latest in law practice management tips, tricks, and resources at Inter Alia, where this post originally appeared on August 29, 2011.

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