We used to think about computers as insensitive robots which can run without any problems for days, weeks or even months. However, even machines that consist only of electronic circuits and wires need to be cleaned. The problem is much more complicated than you may think of – each type of cleaning is preferable for a certain user type, depending on the sort of activity he or she conducts on the computer.
Why do I need to clean my PC?
First, let’s talk about hardware cleaning. The components you have on your motherboard are not just a plate with pieces of silicon on it. Each detail has the recommended temperature range. Some parts may be sensitive to extreme vibrations, or must be mounted in a certain position. But most of these things are basic and easy to follow, in contrast to a main enemy of each cooling system – dust.
If you have a pet at home, you likely know how much fur they lose during the spring or autumn molt. Pets which live indoors, for example, may molt the whole year, so taking and hugging them is a simple way to make your clothes covered with their wool. And then just imagine that all cooling mechanisms (at least 2 fans) suck all this wool. It sticks to your GPU/CPU and power supply, covers the motherboard and disk drives. That struggles the heat sink, forcing the cooling fans to rotate faster, and increasing the risk of the fan failure – no heat sinks are designed to withstand the dust wrapped on its shaft.
Using a vacuum cleaner, you can easily clean all dust you have inside of the computer case. You usually can open the computer case with a single screwdriver. 10 minutes of simple dust cleaning procedure will endure the lifespan of your computer. This action is recommended to perform three times a year for a simple user. Perform it more often if your PC is used heavily for gaming, 3D-modelling or other resource-intensive activities.
Cleaning the system
The majority of modern operating systems have their own, embedded tools for system cleaning. However, Windows does not have automatic cleaning facilities. Moreover, the embedded tools for system cleaning are not able to remove all junk files. Browser logs, error reports, cookies – all these things are stored on your disks, but have no application. Here is the description of how to get rid of them, and how to distinguish them from ones that may be used in future.
First of all, let’s take a look at how to clean the junk files left by the system. Windows leaves a lot of garbage while operating. Each update you install also creates a backup copy, for the case if you dislike the changes and want to roll your system back. However, modern Windows releases can barely contain something that will force you to rollback. It is recommended to remove a backup file, which may take more than 10 GB of your disk space.
Open Control Panel (Search → type “Control Panel”). Go to System and Security, and choose the Free Up Disk Space option (at the bottom). Choose C: drive, and after the primary scan click on “Clean up system files”. After pressing this button, this cleaning mechanism will show you not only the programs’ junk files, but also the garbage generated by your system. Then, you can clean it in one click. This procedure may take a while, especially if the backup file is large (>10 GB).
Clean up the browser cache
Cache is used by web browsers to increase the speed of website loading. It is kept in a separate file, among other files of the web browser. It is a useful feature that allows you to save the traffic when you use metered connections, and make the websites open faster when you use a slow connection. Nonetheless, after several months of use, cache size may grow to hundreds of megabytes. Another unwanted consequence of caching is that some websites will not show you the updates, since the browser loaded the page from cache.
Each browser has its own way of cache cleaning, but in major this option hides in the Settings.
Turn on swap file
Disk space is used by operating systems not only as a storage device. While operating the programs, OS sometimes gets into the situation when the application asks for a bigger RAM amount than the system can currently offer without closing other programs. In such a situation, Windows, MacOS or Linux will offload the files of currently unused apps into a swap. Swap is a separate memory pool on your disk, created specifically for keeping the data of unused programs when another program needs more RAM.
Enabling the swap file may significantly increase the performance of the systems with relatively small amounts of RAM (<8 GB). If you use the programs that consume a lot of RAM - 10-15 GB, it is recommended to enable the swap file, too, even if you have the 20+GB of RAM.
Keep your disk drive clean
By default, Windows has the dynamically allocated swap file enabled. As I have described in a previous paragraph, swap files can make your system much faster. Dynamic swap files have a single disadvantage – in case when your disk is full, swap has no place to expand. Hence, you may hope that your system will offload the unused apps, but oops – there is no free space for that action. Leaving the amount of free space which is close to your RAM amount will be enough to avoid such situations.
Another useful function that requires free space is hibernation. In this mode, your PC copies the data from RAM on your disk, and then suspends. In that mode, desktop or laptop does not consume electricity, but you will be able to operate with the programs exactly after the system starts, right from the place where you stopped.
Don’t forget to install OS patches and driver updates
The developers of each operating system are interested in having more users. They are doing their best to optimize the system, in order to avoid sudden lags, freezes or other problems which harm the user experience. Installing a fresh patch on your Windows may increase your performance significantly. You may feel the difference using the scaling: install the post-release Windows 10, use it, and then update it to the last Windows 10 version. You will surely be amazed with the speed-up.
Drivers can make the situation better for a certain element of your computer. Some drivers just add new functionality, but some of them fix critical problems or improve performance. Installing a new driver for your GPU, you may see a 15-30% increase in FPS in various games. 3D-modellers may suffer from bugs that can be fixed only by driver updates. New is likely the best!
Important note: don’t use the third-party driver installers for driver updating. 90% of these programs are potentially unwanted, and may carry severe hazard for your system.