By following a few simple guidelines, you can maintain your computer, help increase its speed, and help keep it running smoothly. This article discusses how to use the tools available in Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP Service Pack 3 to help make your computer faster, maintain your computer efficiently, and help safeguard your privacy when you're online.Note: Some of the tools mentioned in this article require you to be logged on as an administrator. If you aren't logged on as an administrator, you can only change settings that apply to your user account.
1. Remove spyware, and help protect your computer from virusesSpyware collects personal information without asking for permission. From the websites you visit to user names and passwords, spyware can put you and your confidential information at risk. In addition to compromising your privacy, spyware can hamper your computer's performance. Fortunately, there are a couple of easy ways to combat spyware.
Download Microsoft Security Essentials for free to help guard your system from viruses, spyware, adware, and other malicious software (also known as malware). Microsoft Security Essentials acts as a spyware
removal tool and includes automatic updates to help keep your system protected from emerging threats.
The Microsoft Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool, also free, checks computers running Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2008, and Windows Server 2003 for infections by specific, prevalent malicious software, including Folstart, Phorpiex, Weelsof, Blaster, Sasser, and Mydoom. It helps remove any detected infection or malware.
2. Free up disk space
The Disk Cleanup tool helps you to free up space on your hard disk to improve the performance of your computer. The tool identifies files that you can safely delete and lets you choose to delete some, all, or none of the identified files.
Use Disk Cleanup to:
- Remove temporary Internet files.
- Delete downloaded program files, such as Microsoft ActiveX controls and Java applets.
- Empty the Recycle Bin.
- Remove Windows temporary files, such as error reports.
- Delete optional Windows components that you don't use.
- Delete installed programs that you no longer use.
- Remove unused restore points and shadow copies from System Restore.
- Delete system files (Windows 8).
3. Speed up access to dataDisk fragmentation slows the overall performance of your system. When files are fragmented, the computer must search the hard disk as a file is opened (to piece it back together). The response time can be significantly longer.
Optimize Drives (Windows 8) and Disk Defragmenter (sometimes shortened to Defrag by users) are Windows utilities that consolidate fragmented files and folders on your computer's hard disk so that each occupies a single space on the disk. With your files stored neatly end to end, without fragmentation, reading and writing to the disk speeds up.
When to run Optimize Drives or Disk Defragmenter
In addition to running these utilities at regular intervals (weekly is optimal), there are other times you should run it, too, such as when:
- You add a large number of files.
- Your free disk space totals 15 percent or less.
- You install new programs or a new version of the Windows operating system.
- Open Optimize Drives by swiping in from the right edge of the screen, tapping Search (or if you're using a mouse, pointing to the upper-right corner of the screen, moving the mouse pointer down, and then clicking Search), entering Defragment in the search box, tapping or clicking Settings, and then tapping or clicking Defragment and optimize your drives.
- Under Status, tap or click the drive you want to optimize. (The Media type column tells you what type of drive you're optimizing.)
- To determine if the drive needs to be optimized, tap or click Analyze. You might be asked for an admin password or to confirm your choice.
After Windows is finished analyzing the drive, check the Current status column to see whether you need to optimize the drive. If the drive is more than 10% fragmented, you should optimize the drive now.
- Tap or click Optimize. You might be asked for an admin password or to confirm your choice.
Optimizing a drive might take anywhere from several minutes to a few hours to finish, depending on the size of the drive and degree of optimization needed. You can still use your PC during the optimization process.
- If the drive is being used by another program, or is formatted using a file system other than NTFS, FAT, or FAT32, it can't be optimized.
- Network drives can't be optimized.
- If a drive isn't appearing in Optimize Drives, it might be because it contains an error. Try to repair the drive first, then return to Optimize Drives to try again.
Running Optimize Drives, Disk Cleanup, and Disk Defragmenter on a regular basis is a proven way to help keep your computer running quickly and efficiently. If you'd like to learn how to schedule these tools and others to run automatically, please read Speed up your PC: Automate your computer maintenance schedule. Windows 8 users should read Improve performance by optimizing your hard drive.
4. Detect and repair disk errorsIn addition to running Optimize Drives, Disk Cleanup, and Disk Defragmenter to optimize the performance of your computer, you can check the integrity of the files stored on your hard disk by running the Error Checking utility.
As you use your hard drive, it can develop bad sectors. Bad sectors slow down hard disk performance and sometimes make data writing (such as file saving) difficult or even impossible. The Error Checking utility scans the hard drive for bad sectors and scans for file system errors to see whether certain files or folders are misplaced.
If you use your computer daily, you should run this utility once a week to help prevent data loss.