If you find your PC becoming slower by the day, it may be time to eliminate programs that are no longer used and simply taking up valuable space on your hard drive. The cleanup process is easy, but deciding what to send to the trash can be difficult.
Start by opening the list of programs installed on your PC. From the Start menu, open the Control Panel, choose "Uninstall a program" under the programs heading. If you're a Windows XP user, look for "Add or remove programs."
It may be helpful at this time, to take a "picture" of the list, especially if the list is long. Expand the window so you can see Name, Publisher, Installed On and Size heading. You can use Microsoft's Snipping Tool to capture the image.
If you're not familiar with this handy tool, you'll find it in the Accessories file listed in All Programs found in the Start menu. Take as many "snips" as you need until you've captured the entire list. Print them out and use as worksheets.
Before uninstalling any program, make a safety net by creating a restore point for your computer found in the Backup and Restore section in the Control Panel. If you uninstall a program that later disrupts the computer, you will be able to reset the machine to exactly the way it was before you started your clean-up process.
Here's a simple guide to evaluate what to keep and what to trash:
1. If it's a Microsoft program or the publisher is listed as Microsoft, leave it alone.
2. If you use your computer online, you'll want to keep the browsers you use such as Firefox, Internet Explorer and Chrome. More than one browser is fine, but outdated versions should be removed.
3. Java, Adobe Flash Player and Adobe Reader are used for web browsing, playing video content and opening PDF documents, keep them.
4. If it's an antivirus or other security product you've installed, keep it.
5. Programs whose publisher is listed as the manufacturer of your computer should be kept. These include drivers to run Internet connections and hardware.
Hopefully, your potential delete list has been significantly reduced. Highlight the keepers.
For the balance, ask yourself, "Do I know what this program is?" If you do, ask, "Do I regularly use this program?" If the answer is yes, mark it as a keeper on your master list.
The programs that are leftover can be categorized into two groups: those you know and don't use or use infrequently, and those you are unfamiliar with. If you don't use a program, uninstall it. Consider its size: if it's very large, say greater than 500MB, it may be worth deleting if you rarely use it.
Finally, do a search for the remaining unfamiliar programs: Type in "What is" followed by the name of the software. If it's clearly a third party program that you are certain you won't use, uninstall it. If you're unsure, leave it alone.
Using your categorized list, go back to your computer's Control Panel. Select each program you've marked as trash and uninstall it. Once you've finished, restart your computer.
If you're feeling ambitious, consider tackling your PC's startup programs: those programs that automatically begin running when you turn on the machine.
Disabling startup programs is an easy and safe way to potentially gain some computing speed. When you disable a program from the startup menu, you are simply telling the computer to wait until you need the program.
For Windows XP, Vista and 7, use Windows Defender, a program that is included with Vista and 7. If you're still running XP, you may download it for free from Microsoft.
Here's how: Open Start and type "Windows Defender" in the search box. Open it, click "Tools" at the top of the screen and then select "Software Explorer" from the dropdown menu. Select Startup Programs as the category. When you click on a program, a window will be populated with information about that program such as file size, date installed and whether or not it shipped with the operating system.
Good candidates for disabling are programs with unusually large files sizes and those that are not a part of the operating system. Programs are arranged alphabetically by manufacturer.
If it is a Microsoft program, is classified as permitted and it shipped with the operating system, it's most likely a keeper, so skip this section. Likewise, if it's an antivirus or other security program that you've installed, you'll want it to run at startup, keep it.
When you identify a program that's not essential at startup, such as iTunes or media players, click the "Disable" button. Notice that the program does not disappear from the list, rather its classification changed to "Disabled." If you change your mind, it's easy to go back into Software Explorer and enable a program to put it back on the startup list.
Ogden-based TopTenREVIEWS.com guides consumers by comparing products in the world of technology, including electronics, software and Web services. Have a question for TopTenREVIEWS? E-mail Leslie Meredith at email@example.com.