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Computer Care: Take out the trash on your computer
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Everyone use their computers with little regard as to maintenance. I’m not talking about running virus checkers or scanning for malware. That was another column and we’ve already covered it. What I’m referring to is the regular task of taking out the trash.

It involves more than just right-clicking on the recycle bin. There are hosts of other places where garbage accumulates in the computer. Utilities exist to assist in this task that you may or may not have, but it can be done manually as well.

Junks files to consider deleting on a regular basis include temporary Internet files, temporary system files, the history cache from your browsers, old e-mails and their attachments, downloaded programs, music, photos and videos.

Now I’m not calling your music or video collection junk, but once you have them, it’s best to move them off of your hard drive to a safer location. It will keep your drive clean and protect your files should the computer crash.

Copy your collection of files you don’t want to throw out to an external hard drive, flash drive or burn them to CDs or DVDs as size warrants.

The more clutter you have on your system, the slower it can be. It decreases overall performance and slows down boot time.

Personally, I am a sucker for downloading free programs. I like to try new things out and among other sites, subscribe to downloadoftheday.com. It’s a great site, and every once in a while, I find a program that I can use and need to keep. It’s the others I need to be careful with. Programs can accumulate and before you know it, the desktop is full of icons and suddenly it takes five minutes to boot again.

So I’ve learned (the hard way) it’s best to immediately delete what I download and find I won’t be using. I tend to forget about them otherwise. It’s easy to tell yourself you’ll delete them later or that you might use them one day. You won’t.

A good place to look for unused programs and their installers are on the desktop, in the Download folder and in Program Files, under the Windows or Users folder, depending on which version of Windows you have.

Remember to delete both the installer package you’ve downloaded as well as uninstalling the program itself.

Think of programs you may have downloaded like Adobe Reader, Firefox, an Internet Explorer upgrade or a Windows update. Each leaves an installer icon behind after its installation. Even if you keep the program, you don’t need that installer.

If you do want to get rid of the program, use the uninstaller that comes with windows or a third-party application that uninstalls programs. You should also check the program in doubt. Occasionally they uninstall themselves. Look in the Start menu for that option. Deleting the desktop icon only does just that.

A good, free tool is Decrapifier that you can find on the Internet. It will help you delete a plethora of unwanted applications from your system.

After you’ve deleted some, it’s a good idea to run a registry tool to tidy up any remnants left behind from the programs you just got rid of. Those tidbits of data can contribute to affecting the performance of your computer.

E-mails tend accumulate on everyone’s system. It’s not just the letters themselves, but as I mentioned earlier, the attachments that come with them. The video that you downloaded and thought was initially so amusing will most likely never be watched again. Get rid of it.

The photos your mom sent you of the dog are great, but don’t need to reside on the hard drive. Move them to another permanent location.

Your e-mail client (Outlook, Outlook Express, Mail) will archive your old e-mails for you. Even if you use Web mail (AOL, Yahoo, Gmail) there should also be a choice to be able to archive your old incoming.

Your browser has a setting to automatically dump its cache when you close it. It’s a setting worth changing.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth saying again: There are almost always programs in your start-up group that don’t need to be there. By getting rid of them, you won’t necessarily cut down on system clutter, but your computer will start faster.

From the start button, click Run, type msconfig and go to the startup tab. All of those items with check boxes start when Windows does. Uncheck what doesn’t need to start each time the computer boots up.

These programs are running in the background all of the time. So it’s not just a slower boot time, but a degraded overall system performance allowing all of those items to run.

After you uncheck the one you don’t want (keep the antivirus and anti-malware ones), click Apply, then OK and reboot. When it reboots you’ll see a message advising you a change was made, Just click OK and continue. So if you remember to empty the trash at regular intervals and run a few utilities or do a little extra work, your system will thank you for it. It will be healthier and will run faster.

Arthur Glazer is a freelance writer and computer technician in Gainesville. His column appears biweekly. Arthur welcomes your computer questions and ideas for future columns.

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