Remember when you first opened your computer? It was so sleek, fast, and clean. Now (if you’re anything like me) you probably have all kinds of junk slowing down your system, from malware to duplicate files—not to mention all the fragments of granola bars crushed into the keyboard.
Keeping your computer in good condition takes only a little work and doesn’t require much technical know-how, so it’s well worth the effort. These eight tips can help you keep your computer working quickly and efficiently for as long as possible.
Protect yourself against viruses
It only takes one click on an infected website to get a virus on your computer, and if you’re not a computer whiz yourself, getting malware removed by a professional can be expensive. Protect yourself by installing a good antivirus program. Bitdefender, McAfee, and Kaspersky are popular paid choices, but if you’re on a budget, it’s not necessary to shell out a lot of money to protect your computer. Avast and Avira are two effective and widely used free antivirus programs.
Don’t install software unless you need it
Installing a bunch of programs you don’t need or use can bloat your system and slow down your computer. Only install a program if you’re going to use it, and go through your list of installed programs periodically to weed out the ones you don’t need anymore. Make sure to use the “Add/Remove Programs” feature in your control panel to get rid of programs you don’t want to keep, as other methods of deleting them can corrupt unrelated files on your computer.
Keep your system and programs updated
System updates are easy to ignore or put off, but they’re important to the health of your machine. The same goes for updates to your antivirus program. No software is perfect; even the best programs have bugs and security flaws. This is why software vendors send out updates and patches after the software is released. It’s well worth taking a small amount of time to update your system and antivirus software for the sake of fixing holes in security and eliminating bugs and snags, so check for updates frequently, or better yet, turn on automatic updates.
Perform a disk cleanup regularly
Windows comes with a built-in disk cleanup utility that gets rid of unnecessary files that slow down your computer, such as temporary internet files, downloaded program files, and offline web pages. If you have Windows 10 or Windows 8, you can access the disk cleanup tool from your desktop by pressing the Windows key + X, which brings up the Power User Task Menu. From there, select Run, type cleanmgr, and press Enter. For Windows 7 and earlier, the disk cleanup tool is located under Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools. Mac users can download programs like Clean My Mac to search for duplicate files, scan for junk, and open up free space on your hard drive.
Make sure your browser is current
Browsers are regularly updated for the same reasons other programs are: to fix bugs and improve security. If your browser is out of date, you might be putting your computer at risk for viruses or other security problems, so make sure it’s current.
Take care of your battery
It’s unhealthy for your computer’s battery to stay at full capacity all the time. Unplug your computer and drain the battery to about 50% capacity at least once a week, and try to fully discharge it and recharge it once a month. Be mindful about your battery’s temperature too. Heat is bad for it. Avoid leaving your computer in hot places, and try to use it on a flat, cool surface whenever you can. You might also want to take your battery out when you’re using your computer plugged in, to avoid overheating.
Check your startup programs
New programs that you install may try to start automatically when you turn your computer on. Over time, this can cause your computer to start up sluggishly. Besides removing the software you don’t use or need, you can also manually prevent programs from starting up automatically. One free tool that you can use to easily manage your startup programs is CCleaner. Just make sure you only delete startup programs you know you don’t need. If you don’t know what a program does, it’s probably best to leave it alone.
Keep your hard drive partly empty
Don’t try to squeeze your hard drive to full capacity. Virtual memory requires empty space on your hard drive. As a rule, you should leave about 10 percent of your hard drive empty. This will keep your computer running quickly and help prevent your hard drive from getting fragmented.
All computers will run more slowly with age and use, but by adopting a few good computer habits, you can preserve your computer’s functionality for as long as possible. If you avoid bloating your system with software you don’t need, clean out unnecessary files regularly, keep your system and software up to date, and take care of your battery, your computer will keep running smoothly for a long time.