You can make Windows run smoothly. For many people, it sounds like pure science fiction, but it is true. Like any other technological product, the operating system running our computer needs maintenance, and some of it cannot be done remotely by Microsoft engineers. It is users who have to take the helm and do the important maintenance job.
Every once in a while, your Windows gets possessed by frost demons. It just keeps freezing all the way down to the absolute zero and occasionally enters a state of blissful catatonia, not reacting to any command of yours whatsoever. Even when it does work, it does that so sluggishly you have no choice but to heave a sigh full of Weltschmerz and restart your computer. So, how can you ban the nasty frost demons from your precious Windows? What does it take to make your Windows run as smoothly as it did the day you installed it? What mainenance procedures can you easily drop? Let's have a close look at this all.
Defragging basically means cleaning up the mess we unknowingly wreak on our hard-drives. Unless you are using hip solid-state drives (SSD), your hard drives basically consist of a spinning disk, where the data are stored, and a read/write head, which, as follows from its name, reads and writes the data. The problem is, the data are not stored in one large chunk, they rather get split in smaller pieces. These small pieces can then be stored pretty far away from each other on the disk. Logically enough, it takes the read/write head longer to read such distantly placed data pieces. During defragging, the data blocks are put back next to each other, so the overall reading time is reduced by a small bit.
Back in the Windows XP days, defragging was a manual-only process. It had to be performed by users, who, for that end, had to be aware their Windows needs defragging and know how to defrag. Back then, most people didn't have the foggiest idea about what 'defragmentation' could mean, even more so because the system didn't notify them about a requried defragmentation at all. If you are still using Windows XP by any chance, you have to defrag your disks manually every now and then. It was changed in Windows 7 and 8, where defragmentation is performed automatically, so the only thing you have to bother about is to check whether the defragging schedule is working correctly.
Windows XP: Choose the Run option in the Start menu. Type
Dfrg.MSC in the opened window. Carry out the defragmentation using the options in the opened window.
Windows 7 & 8: Type 'defrag' or 'defragmenter' in your Start menu or Start screen. Open Disk Defragmenter, the link to which will be suggested by the system. Make sure the defragging schedule is working properly.
2. Registry Maintenance
The Windows Registry is a utopian dream of any bureaucrat come true. It is a vast index of all the imaginable and unimaginable configuration settings and other options for each an every program you have ever installed on your Windows machine. Any time you download another program from SI and launch the install wizard, it generates special text files containing information about the way the program is supposed to work.
And that is exactly the heart of the problem. Most of the time, the said text files are not deleted when you uninstall the program they came with. They trash up your registry instead, so after about half a year or so of not being maintained, it starts stinking royally. More often than not, it all ends with your Windows working wa-a-a-a-a-ay more slowly than it used to.
So, how can you fix it? Unfortunately, there are no native Windows tools to tackle the registry issue, so you'll have to look for some substitute. The best alternative is definitely CCleaner, which is in fact so good that I'd be surprised to know you haven't installed one yet. The capabilities of CCleaner go well beyond the registry fixes, but I can't say it's my all-time favorite for, say, cookie management. Although deleting hundreds of megabytes of temporary data generated by your web browsers can sometimes come in handy, as they can also slow down the system. Howbeit, CCleaner is hardly beatable at fixing your registry issues, and in my eyes it is more than a sufficient reason to install it.
Fixing Registry issues with CCleaner: Select the 'Registry' tab on the left control panel. Click the 'Scan for Issues' button. If the app finds any issues, click the 'Fix selected issues' button. Opt in for creating a registry backup and select the folder to save it in. Click the 'Fix all selected issues' button in the opened dialog box. Repeat the registry scan until CCleaner doesn't detect any problems at all. Warning! Sometimes, there can be problems that are virtually 'unfixable' and CCleaner detects them again and again no matter how many times you choose to 'fix' them. However, there are usually two or three of those at the most, if any.
Check the second part of this article for even more Windows maintenance tips!