PCs tend to slow down over time, usually as a result of the increased demands placed on them. The good news is that the situation can often be improved dramatically without having to shell out more money. For sure, one of the biggest wins is to install more memory (if possible), but after that, here are the steps that I personally follow when cleaning up machines for colleagues and friends.
- Check the list of installed programs and ensure that you only have one internet security suite/virus scanner installed. Remove any extras.
- Uninstall all software that you know you're not using. If there's software you're not sure about or don't recognise, feel free to add a comment to this post and I'll try and offer an opinion. The best option for uninstalling software (this point and the previous point) is to use Revo Uninstaller (Freeware version) instead of the Control Panel. It does a more thorough job than most programs' uninstallation routines. Download here: http://v.gd/V3tsfS
- Use CCleaner. Check the options carefully - you don't necessarily want to select them all. If in doubt about any item, don't remove it. Download here: http://v.gd/4Y7FTo
- Use something like SpaceMonger to track down big files that you can afford to delete. If you look at the "Free Software" tab on the download page, you'll find the old version 1.4.0, which is perfectly adequate. Download here: http://v.gd/GEYSt1
- Defrag with MyDefragPowerGUI. The default options should be fine. If you can find the registry optimization options, use them too. Download here: http://www.wieldraaijer.nl/
- So-called "registry cleaners" usually do more harm than good and are best avoided.
On the subject of installing more memory, I invariably use Crucial for home and business. Crucial's service is very reliable and there is an online scanner that in most cases does a good job of checking your system and advising you on the upgrade possibilities. I don't get any referral fees from Crucial by the way!