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Cleaning Your Windows PC

Keeping your system running like new can almost be a full time job.  What I will try to do here is give you some basics that I have found that everybody needs to do to cleanup a Windows Computer and help keep it clean.  As with everything, there is no perfect solution but here are some tips I have learned.  This entire document is based on Windows XP but should work just fine on Vista.
Please read and understand this entire document before you proceed with the cleanup process.
Step #1:  The first thing you need to do is uninstall all the programs you don't need and others you think you might need but really don't.  To start the uninstall process go to the Control Panel and click on Add/Remove Programs.  You should now see a list of programs installed on your computers.
Note:  If you are not sure if it should be uninstalled or not, send me a note with the exact name in the list and I will give you my thoughts on how you should deal with it.  If you have several, please group them and send me one note if possible.
Look through the list of programs and locate programs that have titles that include words like "Search", "Toolbar", "Fix", etc...  The only toolbar you want on your system is the Google Toolbar.  Also look for programs from Yahoo and other internet service providers and uninstall them.  If you have Norton and/or McAfee and/or any other antivirus software (except AVG) on your computer, uninstall them.  Locate all antispyware type software along with software that claims it can fix your computer and uninstall them.  The list is long but keep looking through it and uninstall other programs you just don't need.  The goal is to get rid of all the junk.  As time goes I'll list specific software here that should be uninstalled.  It will be a long list.
Now that all the junk software is gone, restart your computer one last time.
Step #2:  Download and install Malwarebytes' Anyti-Malware.  It's free but if you really like it, you can buy it.  It would be well worth the money.  Run this program and clean your system.  Run it 2 or 3 times until your system is clean.  Once you are done, if you didn't buy it, uninstall this program.
Step #3:  Download and install PerfectDisk.  This program is free to try and does a fantastic job at defragging your hard drive.  If you love it, buy it, but try it first.  You have 30 days to decide.  Now run it and defrag your computer.  Do the most advanced options possible.  It may take 1 to 5 hours so give yourself some time.  (note that you will do this again later on)
Step #4:  Download and install AVG.  AVG offers a free version for home users.  It works great.  It's the only antivirus software you will need.  Once installed, let it scan your system and fix problems.  If it finds problems, run it again and again until your system is clean.
Step #5:  Download and install Microsoft Windows Defender.  Microsoft offers this Antispyware software for free and it works great.  Warning:  Don't get stuck buying their package to keep your system clean.  All you need is the free download of Defender.  Once installed let it update and scan your system.  Note: You must have a Genuine Version of Windows to install Windows Defender.  This step can be skipped with Vista since Defender comes installed on computers with Vista on them.
Step #6:  Download and install System Mechanic.  This program is free to try and does a good job of cleaning up the registry and deleting temp files but don't use the features that will do things like speed up your internet.  Select the options that cleanup temporary files and clean your registry.  Once you are done, uninstall this program unless you have decided to buy it.
Step #7:  Run Perfect Disk again (Step #2).  It should not take as long this time.  If you don't purchase Perfect Disk, uninstall it now.
Step #8:  Download and install the Google Toolbar.
Memory Anybody?  If your computer is still running slow, check your memory.  You can see how much memory your computer has by going to your Control Panel and double-click on System.  The memory will show in the lower right.  If you have an XP computer, you should have a minimum of 512mb of memory.  XP will run slow on 256mb of memory or less no matter what you do.
Ok, so these are the basics and may not solve all your problems but I can tell you that after years of cleaning computers these steps have helped every computer we have ever touched that was worth working on.  It's well worth the time and if you schedule these tasks around your schedule, some of the tasks that take a long time will do their work while your doing other things.
Warning:  Do not fall into the temptation of installing random programs you don't know anything about that claim they can cleanup and/or fix your computer.  You only need AVG for antivirus protection and Defender for Antispyware protection.  Don't let your kids/grandkids or a relative that know all about computers install programs that you don't know anything about.  I've actually told people to lock the door to the computer room when relatives are coming because everytime they show up, they leave the computer unusable when they leave. 
Disclaimer:  If you bring your computer to us we will perform every step listed above.  It's a tested process and works well for us.  However, if you mess your computer up running one or more of these processes, please don't call your lawyer or call us and expect us to fix it for free.  We can't be responsible for problems that occur outside our controlled environment.
If you have a question or comment please fill out the form below.  I will get back with you as soon as I can.
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