Unless you're into the subject of acetic acid in a big way, you probably
never heard of the National Vinegar Institute.
But it turns out we have them to thank for declaring January to be National
Clean Up Your Computer Month.
Obviously, they were thinking of the cleansing properties of watered-down
vinegar when they dreamed this up but the notion caught on, not so much as
an inducement to buy gallons of the stuff to scrub up our PCs and
keyboards, but to encourage us to clean the digital parts we can't see.
That's the stuff that comprises the data, apps and programs that constitute
the business of computing and that somehow contrive to run slower and
slower as the year progresses.
But, still, a bit of a vinegar rub-down is probably also in order as well.
So if you want your PC to sparkle inside and out, read on.
How to Get Your Computer in Clean Running Condition
Yes, it happens to everyone. You buy a new computer that flies like a
supersonic jet. Then you install and uninstall software and updates, maybe
replace a few parts, change the operating system, and before you know it,
you're tapping your fingers waiting for things to happen.
But you don't need to buy a new computer to recapture that speed and
efficiency you enjoyed so much. A few simple steps can get things (almost)
back to the way they were. And you don't need to be an expert to do most of
But cleaning up your computer doesn’t just mean speeding up its
performance. It also calls for improving security and making stuff easier
to find by removing clutter.
Below are 10 of the most effective actions you can take. But before you
start, make a full backup of both your computer system and, if it's on the
same hard disk, data. If you don’t know how to do this, you can find and
download free backup software such as Easus, AOMEI or Macrium Reflect.
10 Ways to Clean Up Your Computer Drives and Software (for Windows PCs)
- Remove unwanted programs. They take up space and may also be running in
the background all of the time. If you don’t know how to do this, use free
uninstallation software such as Revo.
- Likewise, delete unwanted documents and other data files. Or move them
onto removable devices like USB drives or SD cards. Again, this will free
up space on your internal drives and make it easier to manage your file
- Delete cookies. These are small pieces of computer code that sites you
visit place on your machine so they recognize you when you come back. They
may also track your user behavior and generally slow down the operation.
You can remove cookies from within settings in your Internet browser.
- Delete temporary files and empty the recycle bin. Windows has a program
called "Disk Cleanup" that will do the job for you -- as well as giving you
the option to remove other unneeded files.
- Stop programs from running at startup. You may not realize that some
programs run by default as soon as you switch on your PC, whether you like
it or not. You can often stop this in the individual software settings. Or
you can run the built-in configuration program (type "msconfig" in the
search bar) and switch them off from there.
- Defragment your hard disk. Your main drive (usually "C") stores and
moves bits of data all over the place, using a flagging system to remember
where all the parts of a file are. Over time this process becomes slower
and slower. Type "defrag" in you taskbar search window. Note: This only
applies to mechanical hard drives. Solid state drives look after their own
- You might also be able to speed up your PC by adding extra memory and
storage. This requires a certain level of skill that might call for someone
more computer savvy. However, you can also gain speed via a USB drive using
Windows' ReadyBoost feature. See https://tinyurl.com/R-Boost for
- Run a deep security scan to remove adware and malware that might be
slowing you down. Most Internet security apps include a function that
enables a detailed scan that can even detect hidden viruses. It may take a
while to run.
- Update existing programs. New versions of popular software are always
being issued. Make sure you have the latest. They're usually the fastest
and most efficient.
- Get your files in order. Use Windows' own file manager to build a
structure where everything is easy to find, or choose another file manager
(see this list: https://tinyurl.com/file-mgrs).
And clean up and organize your email while you're at it!
Alternatively, consider a clean-up program. Yes, you can get software that
promises to do all of the above tasks and much more. See this latest list: https://tinyurl.com/clean-win
But BEWARE! Some of these programs have a habit of removing more that they
should -- so choose one that allows you to undo its work, and do a backup
before you start, just in case.
Clean Up Your Computer's Looks
Research tells us that not only are dirty, greasy computers and keyboards
unsightly, they're also a breeding ground for bacteria. But cleaning them
requires a degree of sensitivity because you're dealing with electronic
equipment and delicate screens.
Let's start with the keyboard: Unplug it (or switch off the PC). Turn the
keyboard upside down and give it a gentle shake to loosen debris. Buy a can
of compressed air (made specially for this purpose) and blow out all the
particles. You might also use a purpose-made mini vacuum and cotton swabs.
Then use a damp cloth (minimal water) or moist household wipes to clean
keys individually -- and the space between them.
If you're brave enough, you can also use the compressed air and vacuum to
clean the inside of your PC, but only do this if you're confident.
Next, the plastic-ware. By this, we mean your computer and monitor case
(but not the screen). Again you can use a household wipe or two, or -- Ta
Da! -- a weak vinegar and water solution used to dampen a cloth.
You can also use a moist cloth to clean your mouse or other pointing
Finally, the screen. First, and most importantly, DON'T use glass cleaners
like Windex or others with ammonia or ethyl alcohol. And don’t use paper
towels. Use your can of compressed air to blow off dust and then a
lint-free cloth lightly moistened with a solution of 1 part water, 1 part
vinegar (there it is again!) and one half part of isopropyl alcohol.
Wipe gently -- don't press the screen -- from top to bottom so that any
debris is collected at the bottom for easy removal. Also, wipe around the
bezel area of the screen for a finishing touch.
Voila! You can be proud of your PC again. It might not look exactly brand
new but at least you won't have to throw a towel over it when company
And it should run smoothly again -- at least until National Computer
Cleanup Month in January 2021!