Spring cleaning includes more than the storage room and yard work for my family. Laptop computers are now fair game (or at least my mom has just added this to my list of chores to help her with!). Her laptop was slow and cumbersome, so I offered to lend a hand. I powered up, started to dig and discovered my mom was an electronic packrat. She had never removed a single program, backup file or other unused files during the entire two years she owned the computer. Clearly, a good cleaning was in order (Expert Village offers a pretty good video). This blog post shows how I cleaned her entire computer.
Step one: Checking free disk space
First, I checked the disk space by double-clicking “Computer” on the desktop, and then right-clicking on drive C, which is where Windows and all of her programs were installed. After clicking “Properties”, my face went blank. She only had about 50 Mbytes of free disk space available. Red alert! Two reasons for that:
- If Windows runs out of main memory (2 GByte on her machine), it uses the hard disk as an expansion of the memory. The pros call this Paging. However, you can expect a severe performance hit, or even the computer to crash when Windows is not able to reserve free disk space for this method.
- Programs (e.g. Office or Photoshop) also reserve free disk space for so called temporary files. Expect poor performance or error messages if your hard disk hits its space limit.
Step two: Remove unnecessary programs
Next, I needed to take inventory of all of the programs on the laptop and figure out what is actually being used and what isn’t. Before I uninstalled any programs, I wanted to be sure my mom didn’t need them. Once a program is gone, it’s gone. Unfortunately, you can’t really do this without a utility, and to my surprise and considerable embarrassment, I had actually installed TuneUp Utilities on her PC several months ago. Shameless plug for the product, but it’s really good at detecting and removing unused programs—take CNET’s word for it (2.5 million people have downloaded it, and 900+ gave it four out of five stars). Here’s what I did:
- I fired up TuneUp Utilities and clicked on “Clean up Windows”. Here lies TuneUp Uninstall Manager that’s able to tell which programs my mom has rarely or never used.
- I then looked at the “Programs not used for a long time” and the “Rarely used programs” categories.
The utility took inventory of the laptop and showed how many days it had been since each program was used. Even better, it counted “use” based on when the laptop was turned on, so vacation time or days the computer wasn’t used were not counted. Meaning, if mom used the laptop 32 days over three months and did not use her spyware sweeper, it would count as 32 days rather than 90. My “safe to delete” range was 60+ days, but I would make a list and ask mom to check it just in case something was essential to her. Mom could have done it by herself, had she started TuneUp Utilities – now that I showed her, she promised to run it on a regular basis.
Bottom line: 14 GByte of data saved
It literally took me an hour to remove all of the unused programs from her machine. In the list of unnecessary applications, I also discovered half a dozen game demos that my little brother installed on her machine; this included video editing suites and a ton of trial software that had expired ages ago. A total of 28 programs are gone now–14 GBytes of data has been saved. Today, where a 1,000-GByte disk costs less than $100, this does not seem important. However, Windows and others programs have all of the free space needed to use temporary files. But maintenance should not stop here. The key is to repeat this step at least on a monthly basis. My mom now has a clean and fast running laptop again. Looking forward to her next call…?
I wanted to share this story with you. Feel free to leave a reply, and tell me what you think. Is there anything I might have missed?
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