How to Clean Up Windows

A slow PC or laptop can be incredibly frustrating, especially if you’re relying on it to stay productive.

One of the reasons why the device is running slow could be because the hard drive is almost full, but it is very unlikely that you need all those large files.

Luckily, Windows 10 has some built-in tools to help you get rid of clutter. Without further advice, here are five easy ways to clean up your PC or laptop.

Clean up your hard drive

As any computer ages, data fills up the hard drive. This in turn slows down performance, as your PC has to travel further and work harder to find the files and programs it needs to access. This doesn’t apply to SSDs, as they behave differently, but if any hard drive is completely (or nearly full) then Windows won’t have the space it needs to run properly. You should always aim for a few gigabytes of space (ideally 10-20GB).

Removing as much junk as possible will help restore the device’s responsiveness. Windows has built-in cleaning functions to make more space: they do so by emptying the Recycle Bin and deleting temporary and other files that you no longer need. Type only Disk Cleanup in the search box next to the Windows Start button.

Choose Disk Cleanup at the top of the list, then select the drive you want to repair. Disk Clean-up will now check the drive and give you options for what to erase. As we said, it is usually a mixture of downloaded files, temporary internet and other files that are in the Recycle Bin. Just tick the tick boxes to select the ones you want to remove, then click ALRIGHT.

5 Free Ways to Clean Windows

Remove programs you don’t use or need

Next, remove any programs you don’t use – again Windows has its own tool for this. Just open the Windows Start Menu and search for Add or remove programs. Select the top option and then you can use it to sort the list of installed programs by size to quickly find the apps using the most disk space.

If you see a program in the list that you no longer need, click it, then select Uninstall right to buy. Remember that you only want to remove programs you don’t use. If you’re not sure what it is, wait until you can find out if it matters.

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5 Free Ways to Clean Windows

It is not always possible to completely remove all traces of a program using a Windows utility. For this, you need a third-party tool that can dig a little deeper, so check out our guide to the best free uninstallers.

Defrag your hard drive

Once you have removed unnecessary files and programs from your PC, a good next step is to compact the remaining data so that your PC can access it in the most efficient way possible.

Defragmenting your hard drive is one way to speed up your PC or laptop in Windows – at least in principle. The idea is that when data is saved and saved to the spinning disk in your hard drive, small packets of information are sent in random locations throughout the disk. This process will take longer to read, as Windows calls your hard drive for information.

Defragmenting or compressing that data, the operating system removes the gaps between data packets, moving all that data closer to the center of the disk. This in turn makes each access to the hard drive (and thus runs your PC) a bit faster.

Do not defrag if your PC has an SSD. Defragmenting an SSD makes no sense because the technology is completely different, so don’t do it!

In Windows 10 defragmentation is automatic and your computer will sort itself weekly thanks to a scheduled task: Optimize drive. So if you haven’t changed any settings, you don’t need to defrag. But if you are unsure and you want to check the status of- or manually defragment your drive, open Search and type in Defragment. One of the results will be Defragment and optimize drives. Choose this one.

5 Free Ways to Clean Windows

You’ll see a dialog box with a list of the hard drives in your PC or laptop, their media type, when they were last defragmented, and how they were fragmented. You really only need to defragment if the drive is more than 10 percent fragmented. If you can’t see a number in Current Status, to find out if a particular drive needs to be optimized, highlight it and press Analysis. Then confirm your selection. This will update the Current Status column.

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If any of your drives are 10 percent or more fragmented, highlight it and press Optimization. Confirm your selection.

Stop the autostart program

You don’t have to remove a program from your PC to speed it up. You can only prevent them from automatically loading at Windows startup. Many programs start with Windows by default, so you don’t have to wait until you want to use them later. But some are really unnecessary and you may never use them.

You know how your old Windows PC takes a while to boot up? Removing startup programs would be helpful.

To find the culprit, you need to open the Task Manager. So open the Windows Start Menu and type Task Manager, then select Workflow management icon appears or you can just press Ctrl + Alt + Delete and select Workflow management.

Once you have opened the Task Manager, you need to select Start up navigation. This list lists all the programs that launch with Windows. It also tells you the publisher of each app and the impact on startup performance is listed as ‘low’, ‘high’ or ‘medium’.

5 Free Ways to Clean Windows

Now click on the program you don’t want to start with your PC, right click and select Disable. You can reverse this process at any time by clicking the item and right-clicking, then selecting Allow.

Clean and organize your screen

Finally, here are some tips to make your life easier while using Windows. They will help you find files and folders faster, regardless of the state of your PC- or laptop’s hard drive.

Find files:

If you need to find a file urgently, type its name in the Start menu’s Search box. With Windows 10, search is great, because the box is right above the Task bar.

Keep documents offscreen:

Documents should be stored in the relevant folders, not on the desktop. To make sure this happens, open File Explorer, go to Documents folder and create a new folder by right clicking on some white space to the right and selecting Newafterward Folder. Named New Folder by default, you can rename your archive just by typing up the highlighted text. Finally, drag and drop the relevant files into your folder.

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Remove shortcuts:

Remove unused shortcuts from the desktop – this won’t uninstall the programs they link to, but will keep things neat and organized. Next, right click on the desktop and select View>Automatically arrange icons. This will force the remaining shortcuts into a neat grid on the left side of the screen.

Name the folders correctly:

You can determine the contents of a file from its name without opening it. Adding a location to a holiday photo filename is a good example. It can also be useful to include the date. If you have multiple similar files that need to be renamed, copy and paste the common information into each renamed file.

Use Keywords:

Keywords, shown when you right click on the file and select Characteristic, which makes it easier to find files. In Word, go to File > Propertiesfill in the Keyword field and press Okay. For photos, tags are equivalent to keywords; click Card at the bottom of the Windows Explorer pane to add them.

If none of these give your device the desired effect, try some of the tips in our dedicated guide on how to speed up Windows. Also, here is our roundup of the best PC cleaning software.

Of course, for an older device, it might be worth considering replacing. Check out our best laptop rankings for the models we recommend.

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