The Ghosts of Computing Past – Part 1

October 1, 2009 at 2:22 pm | Posted in Backup, Computers, Security, Software | 2 Comments

If you’ve been using your computer for any period of time, you’ll find it tends to collect stuff, just like your home. And just like your home, you have to take out the trash and recycling, do some cleanup, and every so often, do a larger purge.

The challenge with computers is that unless you store everything on your desktop, the load is hidden away. Over time, it will begin to slow your computer down and create problems.


In the latest Windows Secrets newsletter, Scott Spanbauer reviews the steps for preparing a computer for Windows 7. Largely, this is preflighting and some more serious maintenance. I add a few other bits for a good seasonal cleaning. Work through the list step by step.

1- Update – get your software current. This gets you bug and security fixes. Secunia makes a couple of great free tools – you can use the basic Online or download the more advanced PSI. They’re reviewed here.

Don’t be surprised if you have some programs that are creating security issues for you, including ones you’d forgotten about.

2- Uninstall unused programs. You may have lots of drive space, but many add junk to the startup, filling memory and slowing your computer. Tools like the mentioned Revo Uninstaller can help with problems or hidden things.

3- Manage what’s starting with your computer. Do you really need all that stuff running all the time? This will help unbog the system and empty some of the taskbar. Use a Startup Manger like these or if you’re a little geekier, try Autoruns.

4- Run Disk Cleanup in Accessories, System Tools. This gets not just your trash, but a variety of other Temporary files that may have been left behind.

5- Run Scandisk. This is a little more hidden. In My Computer, right click a drive and select Properties. On the Tools tab, under Error Checking, click Check Now. Select the first checkbox to fix errors, the other for a more through scan. It may want you to run on a reboot.

6- Run your AntiVirus and Antispam tools to ensure nothing snuck in.

7- Defrag the drive (also System Tools). This can take a little time if you’ve not done it for awhile. Some reboot into Safe Mode and run it there, unencumbered and faster. You could also choose a free tool like MyDefrag, reviewed here.

8- Set up a backup routine. Without a backup, you could become more virtual than you planned. I have suggestions here.

If you’ve never learned to file digitally, take a look at The Digital Filing Cabinet.

Next we explore Hardware ghosts – Part 2

[NOTE – see comment on Boot log and startup below]


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  1. […] For software cleanup, see Part 1 […]


  2. A couple of notes on #3 startup.
    You can boot your computer with F8 and Enable Boot Logging. This records the loading drivers to ntbootlog.txt in the Windows directory.
    reviews how to use it to fix drivers that are hanging your computer during boot. It also helps for removing some malware. And you can simply run it to see whats not loading.

    A couple of things about this:
    Autoruns (linked above) will show some of the same things not loading, with tricks for researching & managing them. It also shows some different ones. Some of them are Windows defaults, available for example if a Citrix client or SCSI CD drive is installed. Some people delete or (better) disable them with Autoruns but one has to remember such tweaking. Like disabling Services, such changes can cause surprises in future updates as you have a non-standard configuration. If you forget you’ve done this, things that should work may not. The more tweaked you are, the more it is to maintain.

    As this forum post reviews – some remove all ‘not load’s with no issues, some advice against messing with some of them.

    Always make a registry backup before you play in that sandbox.

    I wrote a whole article on cleaning up the boot log but this is an area where a lot of research is required or you can cause hard to trace issues later. Sometimes, the best things is KISS


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