Does your computer need a tune up?
If your machine is a few years old, or it’s been getting sluggish, or both, chances are it could use some optimization.
Even if your PC is brand-new, a good tune-up could remove bloatware and speed up its performance.
But you don’t need to pay your local Geek Squad 50 bucks to tune up your computer.
They’re not going to cast arcane spells over it, or even run specialized software that you can’t get access to yourself.
Chances are, they’re going to run a standard antivirus, install standard software updates, turn off automatic program launches and use the disk cleanup utilities already installed on your computer. You can do all of that yourself at home, without paying a dime.
Back up Your Files
Before you start tuning up your computer, it’s a good idea to back up your files to the cloud, to an external hard drive or to a USB.
There’s a 99.99 percent chance that you won’t need this backup; this tune-up procedure is simple and easy.
But, should something go wrong, you’ll have it just in case — and if you tune up regularly, that means you’ll be backing up your files regularly, too.
Plan to tune up your computer once a month — it might take a while the first time you do it, but future tune-ups will go quicker.
Whether you run Windows or Mac OS, chances are your operating system updates itself automatically.
If that’s the case, then you probably don’t need to install any OS updates.
You should also check for and install device driver and program updates.
Turn off Startup Launches
If your computer has started taking forever to boot up, it’s probably because you have a lot of automatic startup launches running.
These are programs that are set to open automatically when you turn your computer on. Regular computer tune ups give you a chance to manage these startup launches, so you can slash your computer’s boot up time.
You’ll need to use the Startup tab in your Task Manager pane to disable any apps that have helped themselves to an automatic startup launch.
Only disable those apps you recognize; if you’re not sure whether you need an app to launch on startup, either leave it enabled or Google it to see what it is and whether you need it.
The CHKDSK function on your Windows PC finds hard drive errors and allows you to fix them, to keep your computer running smoothly.
If you have a Mac, use the Verify Disk function in your Disk Utility.
Scan for Malware and Viruses
You should have two kinds of anti-virus program on your computer: a real-time scanner that detects threats as your computer encounters them and an on-demand malware scanner that can remove threats after they have infected your computer.
You can have both kinds installed on your computer at once — the real-time scanner runs constantly in the background, and the malware scanner only runs when you tell it to.
A good real-time anti-virus program will also run thorough scans of your system when you ask it or on a pre-determined schedule.
Run both your real-time anti-virus’s scanner and your malware scanner.
It may seem redundant, but running two different programs offers more comprehensive protection, in case one of your programs misses a threat or infection.
Run Disk Cleanup
If you’ve been using your computer for a while, it likely has thousands of files on it you don’t need — and maybe didn’t even know you had. Run your computer’s Disk Cleanup utility, or download a cleanup tool like Dr. Cleaner or CCleaner.
Don’t forget to clear your browser’s cache, and empty your Downloads folder (and your Mail Downloads folder if you’re on a Mac).
Delete old files you no longer need. When you’re done, empty the trash.
Uninstall Disused Programs
Whether you just bought your computer or have been using it for years, you probably have programs installed that you never used or don’t use anymore.
You can use a bloatware remover like PC Decrapify to remove bloatware, the unnecessary programs that come pre-installed on your PC.
Use your computers uninstall function to remove programs you don’t use anymore, especially large ones. Hang on to the licensing key, in case you need to reinstall.
If you have a solid state drive (SSD), you should never defragment, or defrag, your computer.
Even if you have a traditional mechanical hard drive, you probably don’t need to defrag; Macs will do this automatically, as long as at least 10 percent of your disk space is free.
Most new Windows computers will defrag automatically, too. You can use Disk Defragmenter or, on Windows 8 and newer OS, Optimize Drives to defrag manually. If you decide to defrag, do it last.
Tuning up your computer regularly — say, once a month or so — can keep it running smoothly and quickly.
The best part is, there’s no need to add it to your list of expenses because you can do it at home for free. Save money, and enjoy your device more, when you learn to tune it up yourself.