Give Windows a shot in the arm by cleaning up and optimizing your PC
Spring is in the air, so it’s the perfect time to take a virtual vacuum to your computer. Every year, it’s the same old story: Despite your best intentions, you rapidly lose control of what goes on to your PC, as programs are installed and forgotten, while gigabytes of files — from documents to photos and videos — are copied multiple times to a myriad locations, clogging up your hard drives. The result? A computer that’s slow to start, performs sluggishly, and is approaching the limits of your storage capacity.
The changing of the seasons brings the whiff of new life, and again, you resolve to clean out your PC, and see whether you can bring it back to those heady days of its youth, when it performed with a noticeable zip. And this is where we come in. We’re going to reveal all the tips and tools you need to get your PC properly cleaned up and raring to go. We’ll avoid snake-oil remedies, such as Registry cleaning, to focus on techniques that actually make a difference to your PC’s performance.
We’ve split the feature into four sections, enabling you to take your cleaning as far as you wish. Don’t want to dig too deep? Our light clean focuses on quick and easy ways to clean out space using only those tools provided by Windows itself. Feeling a bit braver? We introduce a couple of tools that go further than Windows does. Then we move on to tackle the problem of duplicate files, helping you preserve just the essentials, and freeing up tens (or hundreds) of gigabytes in the process.
If you’re still not satisfied, we push the boat out even further with our deep clean, revealing how to balance the competing demands of your PC’s resources, strip back unnecessary services, and optimize older hard drives so they perform that bit quicker. The end result is a revitalized PC, one that more closely resembles the lean, mean speed machine you bought, ready and better able to face the challenges you’ll throw at it over the next 12 months.
A LIGHT SPRING CLEAN
Discover how much space and resources you can reclaim armed with only Windows 10’s tools
Alight spring clean can free up drive space and improve your PC’s performance without involving any hard work or even third-party tools. Everything we feature on these two pages is done using Windows’ own built-in tools, so without further ado, let’s get started.
First, check your hard drive is in good working order. The quickest way to force Windows 10 to perform a complete check on your hard drive is to right-click the “Start” button, and choose “Command Prompt (Admin).” Type the following into the command prompt window, then hit Enter: $ chkdisk /f /r c:
You’re told the drive can’t be locked (because it’s in use), so press Y, then when you next restart, Windows performs a complete check of your hard drive, attempting to correct any errors it comes across. If it finds and fixes any, you may immediately get a speed boost. Now repeat for any other drives you have attached — if you get a warning about forcing a dismount, we suggest hitting N, then Y to run the check when you next reboot. Once your drives have been checked, it’s time to begin cleaning.
Remove Unwanted Apps
How many programs have you installed on your PC? How many do you still use? Now is the perfect time to go through all the desktop programs and Microsoft Store apps you have installed, cleaning out those you no longer need or use. To do this, click “Start > Settings.” Select “System,” followed by “Apps & features.”
All installed apps and programs are listed alphabetically — you can, however, sort by size (useful if you need to free up drive space) or installation date. Go through the list, clicking any programs you no longer need, and choosing “Uninstall” to remove them using the standard program installer. Some uninstallers leave Registry entries and program files behind — for a more thorough way to remove programs, turn the page.
Perform a Disk Clean
Open File Explorer, and select “This PC” on the left to reveal a list of all your hard drives. Right-click your C drive (or the drive Windows is installed on), and choose “Properties,” then click the ‘“Disk Cleanup” button. The step-by-step guide reveals how the tool works — basically, it enables you to quickly clear up all kinds of detritus, from the contents of various temporary folders to redundant system error logs, and even older System Restore points. You can run Disk Cleanup across other drives, too, but it’s usually most effective on the drive Windows is installed on.
It’s worth taking a pause before simply deleting everything that Windows suggests. For example, if you’ve just upgraded to a new version of Windows, you should find a “Previous Windows installation(s)” entry, offering tens of gigabytes of data ready to free up — don’t select this until you’re happy you won’t be rolling back to that previous version (note that Windows usually deletes these files after a set time anyway; typically 30 days).
Recently installed a new driver and not sure whether it’s causing problems? Don’t touch “Device driver packages,” otherwise you lose the “Roll back” option in Device Manager. Finally, if you’re in the middle of troubleshooting a problem using a tool such as WhoCrashed (www.resplendence.com), deleting the “System error memory dump files” is not recommended until you’ve finished fixing your problem. Long story short: Make sure you read the description of each setting before choosing whether or not to delete it, and if in doubt, leave it where it is for now.
Trim Startup Items
One of the biggest bottlenecks of PC performance is the number of processes and programs running in the background. We look at more extreme ways of bringing these under control later on in the feature, but for now, the most effective way to give your PC a shot in the arm is to review — and clean out, if necessary — the programs that are set to start with your PC.
The simplest way to do this is with the help of Task Manager, so right-click the taskbar, and choose “Task Manager.” Click “More details,” if necessary, then switch to the “Startup” tab. You’ll see a list of programs set to load with Windows, complete with publisher, status (enabled at this point), and — crucially — startup impact. This latter column helps you quickly determine which are the biggest resource-hogging programs.
Some programs are — by necessity — vital to the well-being of your PC, while others may be required on a regular basis, such as OneDrive or your cloud sync provider. Others, however, can be safely disabled, so they only run when you want them to. To do this, right-click the offending entry, and choose “Disable.” It’ll shave seconds off your startup, free up memory and other resources, and if you find enough items to disable, could make a noticeable difference to the performance of your PC.
Don’t recognize an entry? Right-click it, and choose “Search online” to search the web for the underlying file name. Disabled entries can be restored later — right-click, choose “Enable” — but if you’d like to remove them completely, explore the program’s own settings or preferences for an option to do so, and they should vanish from sight.
More Cleanup Tweaks
One way to improve performance is to take control of the Windows search index. This database helps speed up searches on frequently accessed folders, by scanning them for content, and storing them in a database. Sometimes, you’ll want to add folders to this index — data folders stored outside your user folder, for instance — while removing others.
To manage these settings, type “indexing” into the “Search” box, and click “Change how Windows searches.” Click “Modify” to choose which folders get indexed, by selecting or unselecting them, or click “Advanced,” where you can change the index location (handy if you’d like to store it on another partition for retrieving after a Windows reinstall), or switch to the “File Types” tab to choose exactly which sort of files you want to include in your index. This latter tip enables you to tune the search index to only find specific document or image types, if those are the kinds of files you typically search for.
If you’re left feeling dissatisfied by your light spring clean, turn the page to dig deeper and really start to clear the clutter.
Hopefully, you’re making good use of File History or Windows Backup to ensure your critical files are kept safe and sound. Both methods store multiple versions of your backups, giving you the option of rolling back the changes with individual files should you wish to restore an earlier version.
This protection comes with a price, however — increased consumption of drive space. If you’re feeling the squeeze, reclaim some breathing room by removing the oldest backups. Right-click the “Start” button and choose “Control Panel.” File History users should click “Save backup copies of your files with File History,” then click “Advanced settings.” You can change the frequency of backups (to reduce drive consumption going forward), plus set a time limit for how long backups are kept (“Until space is needed” is safest, but you can specify your own time). Click “Clean up versions” to clear out space by choosing what backups to delete (anything from all but the most recent to those backups older than two years).
If you use the Windows Backup tool, select “Back up and Restore (Windows 7),” and click “Manage space,” then “View backups” to manually select which backups to remove. Remember that older backups may contain files you have subsequently deleted, so be sure you haven’t mislaid any critical old files before cleaning up.
FREE UP DRIVE SPACE WITH DISK CLEANUP
1. CHOOSE FULL SCAN
The first time you run Disk Cleanup, you’re prompted to wait while it analyzes selected parts of your system. When the scan completes, you’re shown an amount of disk space you can gain. For a more thorough scan, click the “Clean up system files” button, and wait while the scan repeats.
2. REVIEW SCAN ITEMS
You should find Windows has found lots more free space it can clear. Review each item by highlighting it for a description. You can select or unselect boxes to add or remove items to be cleaned — you should see the space gained figure adjust. Ready to clean? Click “OK > Delete Files.”
3. MORE ITEMS TO CLEAN
If you have System Restore enabled, you can launch Disk Cleanup again and click “Clean up system files” for a second time. Switch to the “More Options” tab, and quickly wipe all but the most recent Restore points by clicking the relevant “Clean up” button after reading the warnings.
A MEDIUM SPRING CLEAN FOR YOUR PC
Need to free up more resources? With third-party tools, you can give Windows a more thorough clean
Dissatisfied with the results of spring cleaning with Windows’ own tools? Time to go further. In this section, we’ll perform a deeper clean on areas already covered, with the help of free thirdparty tools, which can also reach areas not touched by Windows. As always, caution should be your keyword. While cleaning out gigabytes of data is satisfying, it can lose its allure if you’ve been hasty and discover useful shortcuts, such as the Jump lists of programs, have been removed.
Remove Apps Thoroughly
Standard program uninstallers tend to be conservative, leaving lots of detritus behind. This can soon mount up, and while you could employ the services of a Registry cleaner, the best time to clean up after a program is when you remove it.
Our tool of choice for cleaning out old programs is IObit Uninstaller (www.iobit.com/en/advanceduninstaller.php), which offers a “powerful scan” feature after a program’s standard uninstaller finishes. This roots out leftover files and Registry entries, which you review manually, then decide whether or not to keep.
During installation, look out for prompts to install Advanced SystemCare Free — it’s from IObit, so safe, but not needed for this feature. Once done, Uninstaller launches and you’ll see a list of desktop programs. A number of options appear on the left, from “All Programs” to “Large Programs” and “Infrequently Used.” The latter is good for weeding out programs you’re not using.
You’ll see a bin button appear on the right of each entry — click it, and the program in question is uninstalled. IObit Uninstaller offers to take a System Restore point before uninstalling, which we recommend for safety purposes. It then invokes the program’s own uninstaller — ignore prompts to reboot now — and performs its own powerful scan. This roots out potential leftovers in the form of files and Registry entries — you review the list, decide what to remove, then reboot if necessary.
To remove programs in batches, select each program you want to get rid of, then click “Uninstall.” The “Programs” list focuses on desktop programs only, so select “Windows Apps” to get a list of apps you’ve installed through the Microsoft Store, enabling you to remove those, too. Select “Toolbars & Plug-ins” to quickly review all the browser add-ons you have installed (all popular variants — IE, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Edge — are supported), plus remove those you don’t want, need, or recognize. It’s a quick and effective way to trim down your browser’s resource usage.
Clean More Settings
One of the best free cleanup tools is CCleaner (www.piriform.com). The app boasts a number of tools to help you clean out the detritus and recover gigabytes of files. Its main cleaning component searches more than just basic Windows settings, including browser settings (a source of hundreds of megabytes of potential waste), plus popular programs, and apps. It’s tempting to click “Analyze,” then clean out everything it recommends, but you’ll end up losing potentially useful settings. The step-by-step guide reveals how to use it to free up space without deleting those files you didn’t know you needed.
Outside of its primary cleaning element, CCleaner offers a number of other tools. Its Registry cleaner is potentially the most dangerous, so skip that. Instead, select “Tools,” where you’ll find seven cleanup tools. The Uninstall section works in the same way as Windows’ Apps & Features tool, but is outclassed by IObit Uninstaller.
Startup provides you with a more comprehensive list of programs and items that launch with Windows. This is split into three tabs. “Windows” contains a list of programs, organized by location (Registry or startup folder). It’s the same list as in Task Manager, with one crucial difference: you can permanently delete entries (with care), as opposed to just disabling them.
Switch to “Scheduled Tasks” to review what tasks Windows and other programs have set up — you’ll find items such as backup tasks, program update tasks, and so on here. Again, you can disable or delete items. Select “Advanced” mode, and various Windows-related tasks are shown. These should be left alone, so leave the box unselected after reviewing it.
One final tab — “Context Menu” — is worth exploring. Frustrated at how programs clutter up the menus that appear when you right-click items in File Explorer? You’ll find these items here, referencing “Directory” (when you right-click a folder), “Drive,” and “File” (when you right-click a specific file type — sadly, the actual file isn’t listed). Disable or delete those you don’t want — if they keep coming back, examine the program’s settings to see if you can disable them from there, or use its intransigence as an excuse to remove the app completely.
The “Browser Plugins” tab works in a similar way to IObit Uninstaller’s “Toolbars & Plugins” section — it’s a matter of personal preference as to which one you use. Skip the Disk Analyzer and Duplicate Finder tools for now — we’ll look at these (and more powerful alternatives) later on. System Restore lets you view all the Restore points on your PC. Each one is clearly labeled, and you can remove them individually or in groups (hold Ctrl as you click each one to select it) without affecting others. The most recent Restore point is always grayed out for safety reasons.
The final tool, Driver Wiper, makes it possible to wipe free space or (with the usual precautions) an entire drive securely. Instead of marking deleted files as space available for writing over, making them vulnerable to data recovery tools, you can securely wipe the space by overwriting it.
This is slow, and should only be done when you have sensitive data to wipe. You can also wipe free space and mark nondeleted files and folders for secure removal from CCleaner’s main Cleaner component — scroll to the bottom of the “Windows” tab, and select each box (“Custom Files and Folders” refers to any files or folders you specify under “Options > Include”). If you’d like CCleaner to securely wipe all files from its Cleaner tool, go to “Options > Settings,” and select “Secure file deletion (Slower).”
CLEAN OUT YOUR SYSTEM WITH CCLEANER
1. CHOOSE WHAT TO SCAN
CCleaner’s Cleaner component comes with some settings pre-selected. It’s a good idea to review these thoroughly, unselecting those you don’t want to lose, and selecting the settings you’d like to clean. Unsure what files a particular setting might delete? Right-click it and choose “Analyze….”
2. REVIEW ANALYSIS
CCleaner performs a limited scan on the chosen setting. To view exactly what it’s found, double-click the summary in the right-hand pane (such as “Microsoft Edge — Download History”), and a list of all files is shown. Right-click files to exclude them from future scans or open the parent folder.
3. CONTINUE CHECKING
Scroll down to view all Windows settings — if in doubt, perform an analysis on the specific setting, or unselect it to exclude it from the full scan. When done, switch to the “Applications” tab to see which programs are supported. Scan these in the same way, unselecting those you wish to leave alone.
4. ANALYZE AND CLEAN
Once you’re ready, click “Analyze” and wait while CCleaner performs a complete scan. When it’s complete, a summary is shown, listing all the components you’ve selected, complete with how much space you might save. As before, review individual components by double-clicking them.
5. CLEAN UP YOUR PC
Ready? Click “Run Cleaner.” A warning dialog pops up — this is your last chance to back out (files are deleted, not sent to the Recycle Bin). If you’re happy to proceed, click “OK,” and watch as CCleaner clears up gigabytes of hard drive space to give you some much-needed breathing space.
6. MANAGE EXCLUSIONS
Click “Options,” and select “Exclude” to review what items are excluded from your scans. You can remove files you’ve placed here (Ctrl-click those files to select them, then click “Remove”), or add files, folders, Registry keys (not relevant here), and file types to the list by clicking “Add.”
MAKE YOUR HARD DRIVE MORE MANAGEABLE
Discover how to bring order to your chaotic hard drive
Your PC is hopefully noticeably zippier, but there’s still room for improvement. Before we tackle a really deep spring clean, let’s divert our attention for a moment to hard drive management. Unless you’re the most organized person in the world, it’s likely your filing system is a little haphazard. And if you’ve got multiple hard drives, it’s likely you have multiple copies of files, too.
First, consult the box below for general advice on what to look for when rooting out and removing duplicates — this could save you from potentially deleting the wrong file or files when you come to clean up.
Find Duplicates Quickly
CCleaner comes with a built-in file duplicate finder, but it’s not very sophisticated. It matches purely on file name, size, and date last modified. We want something more thorough, so download the free version of Duplicate Cleaner (www.digitalvolcano.co.uk/duplicatecleaner.html), which has all the functionality you need.
First, choose what to search for — the default options search files by content rather than name, size, or date. You can also set filters — such as documents, pictures, or music — or files to include or exclude, plus limit your search to files of a certain size and date. For a system-wide sweep, leave the defaults as they are, and switch to the ‘Scan Location” tab.
Next, elect where to search using the tools provided — whether it’s entire drives or specific folders. If you want to exclude a specific location, add it in the usual way, then right-click it, and choose “Exclude Selected Path(s).” When you’re ready, click the “Scan Now” button, and wait while Duplicate Cleaner does its work — it’s not a quick process, so be prepared to leave your PC on for several hours or even overnight, depending on the size of the folders you’re scanning. If necessary, minimize the scan window while you work on other tasks.
You can review the results on the “Duplicate Files” tab (“Duplicate Folders” is restricted to Pro users only) — they’re listed in no particular order. Focus on the largest files by clicking the “Size” column header twice. You can now go through the list, manually selecting the duplicates you wish to remove, or you can use the “Selection Assistant” buttons to speed things up.
If you have a single folder or location where your original files sit, you can specify that with “Select by Location,” which tells Duplicate Cleaner to target files in other folders for deletion. Once done, you can select all other files by clicking the magic wand button, and choosing “Mark > Select by group > All but one file in each group.”
Duplicate Cleaner offers many matching tools to try to automate the selection process, but you may find it’s easier, quicker, and safer to go through the list by hand, weeding out unwanted files, and periodically clicking “File Removal.” From here, you can choose whether to delete the file completely, or send it to the Recycle Bin.
The program can be quite slow at times, and appear non-responsive. The trick is to be patient, and it soon comes back to life. If there’s a long list of files to clean, you may want to take a break. Simply close the program — when you next launch Duplicate Cleaner, your results are ready and waiting for you to continue processing.
Manage Your Photos
When it comes to managing your photos, you need a tool that can search for similarlooking images, as well as identical matches. You’ll have to upgrade to the Pro version of Duplicate Cleaner for that functionality, so our favorite alternative is the free — and open-source — AntiDupl (http://antidupl.sourceforge.net/english/index.html). Download the latest version, and double-click the .exe file to extract the program folder. Open this, and double-click “AntiDupl.NET.exe” to get started. The step-by-step guide reveals the basic procedure you need to follow, but as always, it pays to move slowly through each photo in the list, to be sure you’ve got the right match.
By default, AntiDupl assumes the first folder you added to it is the “master” folder — the one where the files are (by default) left untouched. When the search results appear, you’ll see a preview of each photo on the left, complete with basic information confirming the match. Next to each photo, you’ll see three buttons:
taking the first photo, the top-most button deletes both copies, while the second icon overwrites the second copy with the first. The next button removes the top photo.
Below the two arrow buttons, you’ll see three similar buttons, with the first one highlighted in red, indicating that the second photo is set to be deleted by default. Below this is a button allowing the second copy to overwrite the top one, and the final button — the hand signal — allows you to mark this match as a “mistake,” ensuring it’s ignored in future.
Click a button, and the desired action is performed now, and the next item is selected, ready for you to act on. You’ll see similar buttons appear under the menu bar — if you select multiple entries together using Ctrl-click, you can click these buttons to perform the same action on all the matches. There’s also a “Process selected results automatically” button for applying the default action to all of the results — not something we recommend, unless you’re feeling very brave or working on a small set of results.
As you go down the list, you’ll come to photos that aren’t exact matches, allowing you to remove similar photos, too. All deleted photos are sent to the Recycle Bin by default, giving you a fail-safe in case you make a mistake, so be sure to empty the Bin once you’re happy to free up the space.
What to Look for When Cleaning Duplicates
Backups of critical files are — of course — important, so any file cleaning needs to bear this in mind. Also, you may have renamed a file without changing its content, so a good duplicate finder utility should not simply match files by their names (which could be disastrous if two completely separate files with the same name become linked together), but also by the file’s properties, too, from its size to the date it was last modified — that’s especially important with digital photos that have been downloaded from different cloud providers, each one naming them differently. And what about the legions of digital photos cluttering up space on your hard drive? It’s not uncommon to take five or more shots to ensure you get one usable one, but what about the rest? You only want to keep the best copy, but manually trawling through all your photographs can be a daunting task. Panic not — we’ll reveal a tool that makes this job that bit simpler.
The end result should be this: You have one master copy of your files, plus as many backups as you need. These could be stored as an exact backup copy in one backup folder (which you’ll need to identify to make sure it’s ignored by the duplicate file finder), or you might have them backed up using a tool such as Windows’ own File History, in which case, the backup won’t be touched by your file weeding. All other copies — or slight variations — then become candidates for removal.
STREAMLINE YOUR PHOTO COLLECTION
1. SET SEARCH PARAMETERS
Launch AntiDupl, select “Search > Options,” and select “Search rotated and mirror image dupls” if you wish (click “OK”). Now select “Search > Paths.” Click “Add Folder” to add a folder or drive to search — repeat for as many locations as you need. Click “OK.”
2. REVIEW RESULTS
Click the play button and wait while folders are searched and compared (click “Background Mode” to minimize to the System Tray). When the scan finishes, AntiDupl lists all found duplicates and similar files. See the main text for advice on what settings to choose for each find.
3. PERFORM CLEANUP
As you click a button for each result, it disappears from the list, and the next item comes into view. Work through the list — you can select multiple items at once using Ctrl-click. If you close the program, you can relaunch it later, and the results are saved, ready for you to resume working.
PERFORM A HEAVYDUTY SPRING CLEAN
Still not satisfied with your cleaning efforts? Read on for a collection of more advanced cleaning tips
At last, we reach the final curtain. If your PC still isn’t running as smoothly as you’d like, let us take more drastic steps to bring it under control in this last section on cleaning, diving deep to squeeze out every last possible optimization we can find. We’ll also reveal some final tips for optimizing drive space, to ensure your hard drive doesn’t fill up too quickly going forward.
First, you’ll notice that we haven’t included Registry cleaning as part of this feature. Registry cleaners would like you to think they can perform minor miracles when it comes to performance. They can’t. Even if they weren’t justifiably shunned for their ability to delete critical Registry entries along with genuinely redundant ones, the act of simply deleting Registry entries isn’t enough in itself to speed things up. The fact is, Windows 10 is more than capable of managing and optimizing the Registry, so leave it well alone.
Defrag Your Drive
These days, more and more people have SSD drives, which don’t require defragging. Older platter-based (HDD) drives do, however, and it’s likely that you have at least one of these installed, either internally or attached via USB. Windows’ built-in defrag tool should be adequate for most people’s needs, but if you want to push the boat out further, download and install the free version of Defraggler (www.piriform.com/defraggler).
Defraggler can differentiate between SSD and HDD drives, so it only defrags the latter. Go to “Settings Options > Defrag tab,” and you can optimize your drive by moving larger files to the end of the drive, which can help boost performance that bit more. It’s also possible to analyze and defrag individual files via the “File list” tab, or by right-clicking the file in File Explorer — handy for a quick boost when working with specific large files.
Startup programs aren’t the only things launching with Windows, extending your boot time, and grabbing resources — system (and third-party) services do, too. You can manually review and optimize these via the Services management console (type “services” into the “Search” box), but for a quick and easy optimization, download the free version of PC Services Optimizer (www.smartpcutilities.com/servicesoptimizer. html). Once installed, launch the app. After visiting Services Manager, waiting while the services list is populated, and clicking “Backup,” select “Automatic Tuneup,” and answer a series of questions split into four sections: “Hardware,” “Security,” “Internet & Network,” and “System Functions.” Click “OK,” and any unnecessary services are promptly disabled, providing you with a minor speed boost.
Gamers should also check out Gaming Mode. This enables you to temporarily disable services by switching Gaming Mode on to maximize performance for gaming or similar processor-intensive tasks, such as HD video editing. Click “Preset,” and experiment with “Minimum,” “Normal,” or “Maximum” settings, or manually select which settings to apply. Don’t be surprised if Windows changes appearance — when you switch off Gaming Mode, things should return to normal.
If things appear to go wrong after you’ve made your tweaks, simply click the “Rescue Center” button, and select your backup to undo your changes.
Visualize Drive Space
Running out of drive space, but unsure what’s gobbling it all up? CCleaner offers a Disk Analyzer under “Tools” that can provide you with a quick summary for individual or collected drives, split into various categories (such as pictures, documents, or everything). When the scan completes, a pie chart divides everything up, while the largest files are listed below, complete with a checkbox enabling you to select specific files to delete via the rightclick menu.
An alternative tool to try is SpaceSniffer (www.uderzo.it/main_products/space_sniffer). This portable tool (be sure to rightclick it, and choose “Run as administrator” to access all files on the selected drive) provides a visual view based on folder, rather than type, giving you insights into where all the space has gone, rather than what type of content is gobbling it up. Click a folder to peer inside it, or double-click to go inside, and drill down deeper until you locate what’s taking all your space.
More Cleaning Tips
Type “restore point” into the “Search” box, and click “Create a restore point.” Verify System Restore is switched on — if not, select your system drive, and click “Configure” to do so. When you come to allocate space, consider limiting it to 5GB or 5 percent, whichever is smallest. This provides a good balance between giving you usable Restore points and not swallowing up too much drive space.
One obvious way to free up space without deleting any files is to compress them. The obvious solution would be to right-click the file (or folder), and choose “Send to > Compressed (zip) folder,” but while you can easily browse their contents in File Explorer, third-party apps can’t access the content unless you unzip it. An alternative is to use NTFS Compression instead, which compresses a selected folder while retaining its content. The folder is a little slower to process, but is more convenient to use. To do this, right-click the folder, and choose “Properties.” Click “Advanced” under “General,” and select “Compress contents to save disk space.” Remember, it only works on NTFS-formatted hard drives.
One handy time-saving function is Jump Lists, which appear when you click “>” next to an application in the Start menu, or rightclick its taskbar entry. It pays to take the time to manage these thoroughly — click the pin icon next to an entry to pin it permanently to the top of the list, or right-click a redundant entry and choose “Remove from this list” to get rid of it. You can quickly clear all Jump List entries using CCleaner (look in the “Windows Explorer” section of the cleaner).
Finally, if you want to take full control of the startup procedure, download and run Autoruns (https://bit.ly/autoruns). Switch to the “Logon” tab, and you’ll find significantly more startup entries than those provided by Task Manager or CCleaner. Unselect an entry to disable it, or right-click it for more options, including deleting it and checking it for possible malware.
Switch to Portable Apps
Why let programs take more resources than they need? Instead of installing a program on your PC — letting it scatter itself all over your hard drive, and take up valuable space in the Registry — look to see if a portable alternative is available. Portable apps are programs that restrict themselves to a single folder; everything they need to run can be found inside that folder, so not only do you keep them in check (delete the folder, remove the program — completely), you also get to choose where they reside.
Portable apps are a particularly good choice when you have Windows installed on a small system drive — such as a 64GB or even 32GB SSD. You can store the apps on another drive, and leave enough space for Windows to run smoothly. Not only that, but if you have to reinstall Windows from scratch, the portable apps (and your settings) survive intact. You can even store portable apps on a USB thumb drive, enabling you to port them — and your preferences — to another computer.
A great place to start when building a portable app collection is www.portableapps.com. Install the PortableApps Platform tool, which provides a custom Start menu for easy access to your portable apps, plus makes it easy to install and update apps from its own extensive collection. You can add other portable apps — including those portable tools we’ve covered in this feature — by extracting them into folders inside the main PortableApps folder, and choosing “Apps > Refresh App Icons.”
Rein in Unruly Programs
The act of running multiple programs (never mind numerous background processes) is a delicate one, requiring a fine balance to keep everything running smoothly. It doesn’t always work, which is why your PC may sometimes seemingly grind to a halt or act sluggishly for a few minutes.
If you’re running Windows 10 on an older PC or low-powered tablet or laptop device, you may find it frequently sticks, due to the competing demands of different processes. One solution is to scale back what you do — keep open programs to a minimum, and trim startup back, too.
If this doesn’t help, then downloading and installing the Free version of Process Lasso (https://bitsum.com/processlasso) will, and it can even help on more powerful setups as well. When prompted, leave the default options as they are, and the main window opens to show you what’s running on your device, and how Process Lasso is balancing it. Its ProBalanced tool is up and running from the start, ensuring no process can overwhelm the system with its demands. A summary tells you how it’s working, and the log reveals which processes have been neutered when their demands get too high (click “Insights” for a handy summary).
You can also tweak things further: Open the “Main” menu, and choose “SmartTrim” to free up physical RAM when it’s safe to do so. Select “IdleSaver” if you’d like to cut energy usage, and choose “Gaming mode” for those times when you want to play games or perform other CPU-intensive tasks, such as ripping or encoding HD video.