by Patricia Beckman
Because doing my job well revolves around utilizing the best, most efficient software programs, I try out new computer tools all the time. Of course, not all of them live up to their "life-saving" promises and so there they sit, eating up space on my hard drive - joining the mass of other typical files that build up over time on one's PC. While in the end, I keep some programs and files and dump others, I make sure to rid my computer of these unused files safely and you should too.
Here are five steps to cleaning up your Microsoft® Windows® XP-based computer (and several older versions of Windows) safely and easily:
Step #1: Decide What to Remove
If the space on your hard drive is about maxed out, deleting files and software programs you don't use or need can significantly increase your PC's speed and performance. First, you will need to figure out which files and software programs you need and which you don't.
Don't take on this task with haste. Take your time. You don't want to end up deleting something important, just because you didn't recognize the file or program name right off the bat. If you don't recognize a program name on your hard drive, make sure you investigate before deleting it. Search for the program name on your preferred search engine to determine if it's something your computer or another program needs.
Step #2: Delete Individual Files:
Some of the biggest space hogs can be MP3 files, graphic files, photo files, and video files. Text files don't take up that much space; however, while you're doing a computer cleanup, this is a good time to burn all the files you no longer use regularly onto CDs for storing. This can free up a lot of space on your PC.
Once you've archived the files you want to keep, it's time to get rid of all those files you no longer use. You can do this one by one, or if you want to clean out or archive specific types of files, search for them by extension type (i.e., ".mp3" or ".jpg"). Once the list of files populates on your screen, highlight the ones you want to erase and click the "Delete" button or right-click and select "Delete." This will send those files to the Recycle Bin for final reviewing before you ultimately discard them permanently. Again, don't take on this task imprudently. Make sure you know what files you're deleting and that it's safe to do so. When in doubt, don't delete the file.
TIP: Sending files to the Recycle Bin does not automatically erase them from your system. You must eventually right-click on the Recycle Bin icon on your desktop and click "Empty Recycle Bin."
Step #3: "Uninstall" Unused Programs
Deleting software programs takes a little more effort than simply deleting the desktop icon if there is one. These icons are generally just shortcuts to the program, which do not include all the related program files.
Once again, take caution here. You can harm your PC's performance by deleting an entire program folder from your hard drive just because you think you don't need it.
So the safest way to remove a software program from your hard drive is by using the "Uninstall" or "Remove" option from the software program grouping. Here are the steps to do this:
TIP: If you get a message that a file you are trying to uninstall is shared by another program, it's best to keep those files - just to be safe.
Step #4: Manually Uninstall Other Programs
If the programs you want to remove do not offer an "Uninstall" or "Remove" option, you can still safely remove them manually. Follow these steps:
TIP: I cannot stress enough how important it is not to delete files or programs of which you are unsure or unfamiliar. If the file or program is not taking up much hard drive space, just leave it for safety's sake. Let your spyware program take care of removing any spyware or adware you come across in your search.
Step #5: Enjoy Your Faster, Cleaner Computer
If you archive onto CDs and/or permanently uninstall or remove a considerable number of unused files or programs, you will surely enjoy a faster, more efficient PC. Make computer cleanups a regular part of your routine. It'll keep your PC - and you - at your best and brightest.
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