[nextpage title=”Introduction and Basic Procedures”]
Everybody that uses Windows knows that from time to time we need to perform a major clean-up to remove unused junk in order to not only freeing hard disk space, but also to make Windows run faster and make our computer to run more stable. This tutorial is a step-by-step guide on how to make a major clean up on your PC.
There are several commercial software available on the market to help you out with this task. In our guide, however, we decided to only use freeware software and tools that come with Windows.
This tutorial can be applied to any Windows version. So, let’s do it.

1. Update your Windows by going to https://www.windowsupdate.com. This is pretty straightforward. Just open this address and click on the “Express” button that will show up and follow the instructions that will appear on the screen. The exact steps and the time it will take to update your Windows will depend on how badly your Windows is outdated.

A tip here is to enable your Windows to download and install updates automatically (this option only exists on Windows XP). Usually this is enabled by default, but you should check if your PC has this featured enabled or not. Just click on System icon on Control Panel and then click on Automatic Updates tab. Check if “Automatic (recommended)” option is select. If it isn’t, please select it, as shown in Figure 1.

Enabling automatic updates on your WindowsFigure 1: Enabling automatic updates on your Windows.

2. Install an antivirus on your PC and scan you PC for virus. A good option is Avast!, which is free: https://www.avast.com.
3. Install anti-spyware software and scan your PC for spyware and related malware. Microsoft’s Windows Defender is an excellent choice and is free: https://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/spyware/software/default.mspx.
[nextpage title=”Deleting Temporary Files”]
4. Delete temporary files. This can be done opening My Computer, right clicking your hard disk drive selecting Properties, then clicking on Disk Cleanup box (see Figure 2). Repeat this step for all hard disk drives and/or partitions your PC may have.

Deleting temporary filesFigure 2: Deleting temporary files.

Next go to C:Documents and Settings[your_user_name]Local settingsTemp and delete everything you find there (believe, you will find a lot of junk there), see Figure 3 (you will only be able to see this folder if you enabled “Show hidden files and folders” option; we will show you how to do this below). Just hit Control A and then the Del key. While doing this one or another file will complain that it cannot be deleted because it is being used by another program (see Figure 4) and Windows will stop the entire deletion that you were performing. Just select manually all files again but this file and hit Del again. Keep going until you have deleted all files that you were able to. Repeat this process for all users available on your system.

Deleting temporary filesFigure 3: Deleting temporary files.

One temporary file complaining that it cannot be deletedFigure 4: One temporary file complaining that it cannot be deleted. Just ignore it and go ahead.

As we mentioned, you will only be able to access this folder if you enabled “Show hidden files and folders” option. This option is found under My Computer, Tools, Folder Options, View. On the Window that will show up, you need to configure the available options like the following:

  • Enable “Show hidden files and folders”
  • Uncheck “Hide extensions for known file types”
  • Uncheck “Hide protected operating system files (Recommended)”

After performing this configuration, it should look like the screen shown in Figure 5.

Configuring WindowsFigure 5: Configuring Windows.

Even though the last two options are not really necessary, we recommend that you configure them the way we are telling you, since the default Windows configuration prevents you from seeing virus-related files when your computer is infected.
[nextpage title=”Uninstalling Unwanted Software”]
5. Uninstall programs that you don’t use by clicking on Add or Remove Programs icon from Control Panel. Select each program that you don’t use and hit the Change/Remove button to uninstall it.

Removing programs that you don"t useFigure 6: Removing programs that you don’t use.

6. Uninstall Windows components that you don’t use, by clicking on Add or Remove Programs icon from Control Panel, and then on the Add/Remove Windows Components icon located on the left-hand side. On the window that will pop up, uncheck all the programs that you don’t use. Click on Next and the components you unchecked will be removed. We suggest you to uncheck (i.e., remove) the following components (unless you use them, of course):

  • Fax Services
  • Internet Information Services (IIS)
  • Management and Monitoring Tools
  • Message Queuing
  • MSN Explorer
  • Outlook Express (assuming that you use a different e-mail software)
  • Windows Messenger (assuming that you don’t use it)

Removing unwanted Windows componentsFigure 7: Removing unwanted Windows components.

[nextpage title=”Cleaning Up Windows Registry”]
7. Clean all Windows Registry invalid entries. RegSeeker program is a good choice, since it is free (https://www.snapfiles.com/download/dlregseeker.html). Download, install and run it and then click on Clean the Registry and then hit the Ok button. The program will delay a while checking your computer. On the output screen provided by this program, click on Select All and hit the Del key. Just to give you an idea, on our PC this program found over 1,000 invalid entries, see Figure 8.

Deleting invalid Registry entries.Figure 8: Deleting invalid Registry entries.

8. Delete invalid Add/Remove entries using RegSeeker. Click on Installed applications then on Invalid Add/Remove entries. The program will present you a report. Click on Select All, Select All then hit the Del key. Just to give you an idea, this software found 24 invalid Add/Remove entries on our PC, see Figure 9.

Deleting invalid Add/Remove entriesFigure 9: Deleting invalid Add/Remove entries.

9. Remove programs that are unnecessarily loaded when Windows is started. You can do this using RegSeeker, clicking on Startup entries. This program will show you a list of programs that are run whenever Windows is loaded. Here you have to pay very close attention to not delete any program that is really necessary for your PC to work correctly (e.g., your video card control panel). Select the program you don’t want Windows to load automatically anymore and hit the Del key.
[nextpage title=”Final Steps”]
10. Scan your hard disk drives or partitions for errors. This can be done opening My Computer, right clicking your hard disk drive selecting Properties, then selecting Tools tab (see Figure 10). Click on Check now box and the window shown in Figure 11 will pop up. Check Automatically fix file system errors and then hit Start. If you are scanning your boot drive (almost always your C: drive), the system will tell you that it cannot run Scandisk right now and that it will schedule it to be run next time you load Windows. Click on Yes and reboot (i.e., restart) your computer in order to make Windows to run Scandisk. Repeat this step for all hard disk drives and/or partitions your PC may have. This process can take a lot of time to be completed.

Where you will find Scandisk and Disk Defragmenter utilities.Figure 10: Where you will find Scandisk and Disk Defragmenter utilities.

ScandiskFigure 11: Running Scandisk.

11. Defragment your hard disk drives or partitions. Just follow the same steps above, but clicking on Defragment Now box instead (see Figure 10). Disk defragmenter will be loaded, see Figure 12. Click on Defragment box. Repeat this step for all hard disk drives and/or partitions your PC may have. This process can take a lot of time to be completed.

Disk DefragmenterFigure 12: Disk defragmenter.

This is a basic guide that covers the most common situations for the average PC user. Of course you can improve this guide by adding your own clean up steps. Suggestions are always welcome.