As we get close to the year’s end, people will soon being to think about their New Year’s resolutions. Quite often the number one item on the list is to ‘get in shape’. In the coming year, you can be sure to achieve this goal if you vow to get into ‘tech shape’.

Here are three free software programs that can help you keep your computer running at its best.

CCleaner

I have been using CCleaner for years and thought that is was just a great little find (that I learned from one of my former tech guys). Recently, however, I realized how ‘mainstream’ and well respected this program really is. I had to call Google tech support and, as they were walking me through the resolution to my issue, they told me to download CCleaner and run its’ registry cleaner. (I have to admit, I was pretty impressed that my ‘secret’ little program was being used by Google!)

CCleaner has several features that I use on a regular basis:

• Cleaner
• Registry
• Tools

Cleaner
The Cleaner section of the program allows you to clean out all of the accumulated ‘stuff’ that is hidden in the back-end of your system. In my tech tip “Get More Cache for the Holidays” I outlined how you can clean out your Internet browser’s cache to speed up your system. CCleaner does this automatically (for all of your browsers at once), as well as cleaning out all of the accumulated ‘cache’ (temporary system files) that accumulate on your computer’s hard drive.
To use the Cleaner tool, just open CCleaner and click either ‘Analyze’ or ‘Run Cleaner’. By analyzing your system, you can review what files will be deleted when Cleaner runs before you actually delete them. If you just click ‘Run Cleaner’ the software will run and delete the files before you review. I would advise running the analysis the first few times you run the software, just to see if there is anything that is scheduled for deletion that you don’t want deleted. After that, you can simply click ‘Run Cleaner’ to quickly clean out your computer.

I have a few recommendations on the default settings. By default, running Cleaner will delete your Recycle bin. I like to keep my files in the Recycle bin for a while, so I unchecked that as a default. Also, under the Windows Explorer options, “Jump Task Lists” is automatically checked. I uncheck this as well. The Jump Task Lists are the quick shortcuts that you can create from your main navigation bar in Windows. If you use them, clearing them out is frustrating. If you don’t know what they are, just disregard. Your first run should take just a few minutes.

Registry
The Registry section helps you keep the core operating systems of Windows running well by eliminating items that you no longer need. Any time that you install software a registry entry is created. By installing and deleting software we leave behind registry entries that are old and can clog up the system. The registry cleans out unwanted items and keeps the registry fresh (this is the section that Google had me use). BE SURE that when you are given the option to back up your registry that you do it. It saves a file to your ‘My Documents’ folder that you can use to restore the registry if something causes operational issues (in over a dozen years I’ve never had an issue, but the one time that you don’t back up …). I run this quite often and usually get 20-40 items showing up. If you are running this software for the first time, you may get 100+. Don’t let that alarm you. Run the registry section over and over until you get ‘no errors’ (typically it only takes two runs, but I’ve had it take as many as four). After the initial run, it only takes a few seconds, so it’s not very time consuming.

Tools
If you need to uninstall software, you can go into the Tools section and select the item you want to uninstall. This will uninstall all items (including registry items) for the software. It is easier than trying to navigate through the Control Panel of Windows.
You can download CCleaner here (http://4spotmarketing.com/piriform).

Defraggler

Defraggler is another piece of software by the same company that created CCleaner. It is an alternative to your default Windows Defragmenter. This program will ‘defrag’ your computer, which simply means that it will arrange the data on your hard drive in a logical manner so that your computer doesn’t have to work as hard to get the data it wants.

Think of your data as individual seats in an auditorium (signified by blocks below). When you save anything (software programs, emails, word processing files, pictures, etc.) it puts the data into a seat or multiple seats. It fills up the seats in a nice orderly fashion. However, when you delete a file, email, photo, etc. it leaves an empty seat in the auditorium, and they aren’t necessarily next to one another. The next time you save a file (let’s say it’s a 10 seat file), it will save part of the file in the first empty seat, the next part in another empty seat six rows away, the next part in another seat 25 rows away, etc. This means that your data is being scattered all across your hard drive and each time you try to retrieve that file, your computer needs to search all over for the data. Replicate this process for thousands of files, emails, etc. that you save and delete and you can see how scattered your data can become and how much work your computer has to do to access your files.

When you defragment, you aren’t deleting anything in your system; you are simply rearranging the data in your computer. That way the computer just has to go to seats 1, 2, 3, etc. to get the data for a file, making the data retrieval process much faster (which in turn makes the computer run much faster for you). I typically defrag at night and select “Shutdown after Defrag” so that my computer will be fresh in the morning!

You can download Defraggler here (http://4spotmarketing.com/piriform).

Duplicate Cleaner Free

This is a great little gem that I just found this month. As you may imagine, I save everything to my computer. All of our family photos are on our home server, and backed up on multiple hard drives. Throughout the years, I have honestly forgotten which drive had the ‘original’ files, so I was afraid to try to remove the duplicates for fear of deleting something original. When working with photos and videos, I would have the original data file (e.g. IMG001.jpg) along with the renamed version (e.g. Disney-trip-1.jpg). This created dozens of gigabytes of duplicate files.

With Duplicate Cleaner Free, you run this software against the files in your system to identify the duplicate files. It not only looks at the file types and sizes, but looks at the more detailed META data that sits inside photos to identify them as duplicates or originals. I found it to be extremely accurate.

After you run the software to identify the duplicates, you can either select the individual files one at a time to delete, or you can use a great feature called “Mark – All but one in each group”. With this feature, you can automatically select only one of each of the duplicate files across the board, so you can clean all duplicates with just one mouse click.

Since you are working on deleting items when working with Duplicate Cleaner Free, I would advise allocating enough time to review your duplicate files thoroughly – especially when working with original photos, etc. You don’t want to accidentally delete anything important.

You can download Duplicate Cleaner Free here (http://4spotmarketing.com/duplicate-cleaner).

Best Usage Suggestions
If you are planning to run the ‘trilogy’ to clean up your computer, I would recommend running them in this order:

  • Duplicate Cleaner Free – this cleans up the duplicate content on your system
  • CCleaner – run the Cleaner section (to delete all the old cache and temporary files in your system)
  • CCleaner – run the Registry section several times (until you get a ‘no errors’ result) to clean up all the registry items in your system
  • Defraggler – Once you’ve cleaned out all the excess stuff on your hard drive, this will put it all in a nice, organized order so that your system can access it faster.

Then, on a weekly basis, run the CCleaner system (both Cleaner and Registry – it only takes about 3 minutes), and then Defraggler on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. You only need to run the Duplicate Cleaner Free periodically if you think you are creating a lot of duplicate content.

You don’t need to run on the treadmill to get in shape, just ‘run’ these programs and you’ll be in the best ‘tech shape’ of your life. SSA

Jeff Arnold HeadshotJeffrey Arnold is the President of 4Spot Marketing, and has been involved with Internet marketing for the past ten years. He combines 25+ years of business management experience with his expert knowledge of search engine optimization and Internet marketing techniques to provide companies with comprehensive Internet marketing services. His success is evidenced by his clients’ top Google rankings time and time again. Mr. Arnold can be reached at (702) 721-9763, via email at [email protected], or via his website at www.4SpotMarketing.com.