This is the third part in my series, on giving recommendations for free software, that every PC should have. In Part 1, I wrote about security software, in Part 2, I wrote about productivity software; in this article I will gives suggestions on software that keep your computer running smoothly. When you first buy a new computer, it runs very fast, but over time it begins to slow down. There can be several reasons for this. Firstly, as more and more software is installed and uninstalled, the Windows Registry (a database of computer configurations and user settings), become large, and possibly full of errors. Secondly, the hard drive becomes full and data gets fragmented. Thirdly as some software gets installed they install background services, that although may not be really needed, start up every time your computer starts, and use up valuable memory and processing power. There are many software utilities to help with these problems, they generally fall into the following categories:
Registry Cleaners search through your Windows Registry, and try to find any data this is no longer needed, or has potential errors. It then tries to fix the errors and remove any unnecessary data. Warning: The windows registry is essential for your computer to run properly, and if it gets corrupted it can cause your computer to stop working. It is, therefore, important to be careful whenever you deal with the registry; and ideally your registry cleaner should make some kind of a backup before attempting any cleaning.
As data gets written to, and deleted from your hard drive, gaps can occur and then as new data gets written the data for a particular file, doesn’t always end up together. So then when this data is read, the data may need to be taken from several places on the hard drive causing it to work harder. This can lead to slowness, and also shortens the life of your hard drive. A Disk Defragmenter goes through your hard drive and looks for all the different fragments that belong together and then puts them back together.
As software gets installed and run on your computer, temporary data and files often get written. Over time, these unneeded temporary files can begin to take up significant space on your hard drive. Disk Cleaners will search your hard drive for any potential unnecessary files and give you a chance to remove them, freeing up valuable disk space.
These tools provide basic information about your computer, including what hardware is installed, what software is installed, what is currently running, memory and CPU usage.
Over the years, I have tried various utilities that accomplish the tasks above, and below are my recommendations (all are free):
CCleaner is both a Disk Cleaner and Registry Cleaner. It scans your Hard Drive for potentially unnecessary files and also scans your registry for any problems. Both scans are configurable so you can exclude certain items that you may want to keep. The registry cleaner gives you the option to backup your changes before you apply them, in case there are any problems. CCleaner also lets you examine which applications and processes are automatically started when your computer starts up. It is a good idea to look over this list and disable anything you don’t need running. In addition CCleaner also lists all of the software installed on you computer and allows you to uninstall any software you no longer need.
Defraggler is a Disk Defragmenter. It is pretty basic, but it gets the job done. You can first analyze your hard drive and get a report of how fragmented your hard drive is, and then choose to defragment it.
Speccy is a simple little System Information tool. It provides detailed information about your computer. It includes a summary and information about the following:
- Operating System
- Hard Drives
- Optical Drives
This information can be very useful when trying to troubleshoot potential problems with your computer.
procexp (process explorer) is like a beefed up version of Windows Task Manager, and gives detailed information about the current CPU and Memory Usage, as well as which processes are running. Again, this information can be very useful when trying to figure out a problem with you computer.
Hopefully you find these recommendations useful, and that they will help keep your computer running at peak performance.