You should uninstall applications from Windows that you don't use, or you don't recognize and are certain that your Windows system doesn't need. We like using Revo Uninstaller for this job, because it can be set to thoroughly delete the miscellaneous files, folders and settings that often remain when programs are removed using the standard uninstall function within the Windows control panel.
The free version of Revo Uninstaller can remove 32-bit programs (installed on either a 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows), but you'll have to pay for the pro version to remove 64-bit programs.
This tool can also be used to deactivate or entirely remove autorun files, so that your Windows computer's start-up won't be bogged down from having to automatically load programs that you don't need or want it to run whenever you boot up the computer.
4. Clean out temporary files and the Windows registry with CCleaner.
This popular tool washes Windows of Web browser cookies and miscellaneous, usually temporary files that it and other applications create. It can also quickly scan through the registry settings of Windows and remove entries that are no longer needed. Although deleting these items can free up quite a lot of space on your hard drive, it's debatable whether doing so really improves the overall performance of your computer.
Regardless, for those of us who like to keep a Windows computer clean and running "tight," CCleaner is an essential tool for clearing out temporary file clutter and freeing up some additional hard drive space.
Like Revo Uninstaller, CCleaner also includes a tool for removing unwanted autorun files to help you speed up the boot time of your Windows system.
5. Check for updates to installed programs with FileHippo.com's Update Checker.
As we said, we prefer turning off the automatic updating functionality of Windows, in order to prevent unexpected system and Internet speed slowdowns. We feel the same about individual applications that have the built-in capability to update themselves without user input. Switch this off! Many applications, like Adobe Reader, let you download updates manually from within their settings.
Rather than having to go through all your installed software one-by-one to check for updates to them, install FileHippo.com's Update Checker. This tool audits the programs installed on your Windows system, and then opens a page in your default Web browser listing links to download the latest versions of them (hosted on FileHippo.com).
6. Defrag the hard drive with Auslogics Disk Defrag.
After you've updated Windows, scanned for malware, and thoroughly removed programs and files you don't need, the last maintenance step you should do is defrag your Windows system's hard drive to optimize its speed and overall performance. There are a couple of decent defragging tools you can use over the one that comes with Windows. We've come to prefer Auslogics Disk Defrag for its ease-of-use, graphically informative representation of your hard drive, and speed at defragging.
7. Use Chrome, Firefox, or Opera as your default browser -- then pick one of the remaining two as your back-up browser.
Basically, we're suggesting that you don't use Internet Explorer or, for that matter, Safari. We're sorry to knock on them, but neither is as secure as Chrome, Firefox or Opera. IE 10 is certainly safer to use than previous versions, but significant security flaws that could expose your Windows system to malicious code online tend to crop up with it.
If you have to use IE (because your office work requires it, for instance), go through the browser's list of add-ons and uninstall any you don't need or recognize.
Although we're recommending Firefox, it is not immune to being compromised. We've come across Firefox installations in which their default search engine settings have been hijacked to forward to another site, despite there being no add-on or other installed software that's obviously associated with this behavior. The fastest solution to this is to select the function within Firefox that lets you restart it with all of its add-ons disabled.
Wen is a freelance writer and product tester. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Read more about software in Network World's Software section.