If your PC is bogged down with useless software and your desktop is jammed with icons and documents, then your PC is next to useless as a productivity tool.
Even scarier is the increased likelihood that if you have lost track of your files, you could easily have sensitive personal information exposed without your knowledge.
Begin by emptying your trash, since these unwanted files are still taking up valuable space on your hard drive, then follow these tips for a cleaner, faster machine:
Organize software: Gather all your software disks and serial numbers, and back them up in two or three different locations. I keep all my software on the original CDs or DVDs, and I’ve also ripped copies, which I save in organized folders on external hard drives.
This includes all your drivers, recent versions of browsers, antivirus and anti-spyware software, and any free applications you use. (Ripping is the process of copying audio files, video files, or software to a hard disk.)
Get Belarc Advisor: This free utility takes a snapshot of your entire system and generates a convenient list of everything that’s installed, including serial numbers. This helps you identify and eliminate bloat—programs with an excess of superfluous features that are unnecessary for users.
Remove old programs: If you have software that you haven’t used for at least a year, it is time to remove these programs from your PC as they are taking up space and could contribute to a slow down your PC.
Eliminate clutter and back up important files: Delete files that aren’t important to you and organize the files that you want to save into clearly labeled, easy to find folders.
Defrag: If you have a Windows machine, find “disk defragmentation” in your programs menu to start this process.
Upgrade your operating system: Upgrades usually offer new features that can help your machine run smoothly, and often include security patches that keep your computer protected from the latest threats.
Clear your cache: Clearing your browser’s cache of temporary files and cookies can free up a lot of space on your hard drive. Search online for specific instructions on how to clean your browser’s cache.
Do a reinstall: Adventurous and tech-savvy types can bypass all of the above and do a full reinstall. This means gathering all your installation CDs, software and files on external CDs or drives and then wiping the hard drive clean.
If you need help identifying problems with your computer, try McAfee TechCheck, a free diagnostic tool that quickly scans your PC to pinpoint possible problems with your operating system, network, applications, hardware, or peripherals.
If you want help maintaining your computer or have more serious issues, check out McAfee TechMaster service, which can rescue an ailing PC or help you set up and optimize a new computer or smartphone.
So before the summer rolls around, make sure you finish this last bit of spring cleaning.
Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Evangelist to McAfee. Watch him discussing information he found on used electronic devices YouTube. (Disclosures)