This task primarily cleans up the temporary files that get stored on your computers. When you surf the internet, temporary files, graphics and cookies get stored on your computer. Disk Cleanup removes those things. It also empties the recycle bin and removes temporary history logs, etc. You run disk cleanup at least quarterly (and more if you like). You should also run disk cleanup BEFORE you run Defrag. It only takes 5-10 minutes to perform. For help in running disk cleanup, click here.
Short for Defragmentation, defrag is another maintenance routine that should be run regularly on computers. This task reorganizes the data on your computer to make it work more efficiently (and quicker). Over time, as you create and delete files, the computer tends to slow down as it has it work harder to find your files. This task helps to keep those files nicely organized on the hard drive so the computer find them more quickly when you ask for them. Defrag typically takes 1-2 hours to run and you shouldn't do anything else on the computer while it's running. Running defrag once a quarter is usually sufficient. For help running defrag, click here.
Please note that if you are running Windows 7 or Vista on your computer, that you do NOT need to run defrag anymore (unless you want to). These two operating systems have changed the way defrag works. In the past (WinXP and earlier), you had to stop what you were doing and run defrag. With Win7 and Vista, defrag works continuously in the background while you are on the computer. Of course, having said that, you can still run defrag on Win7 and Vista if you want to. And if you're computer is slowing down, it might be a good idea.
Scan Disk (also called, Error Checking)
In earlier versions of Windows, this feature was called Scan Disk. In Windows XP and later, the task name was changed to Error Checking. Regardless of name, it does the same thing in all versions of Windows.
Scan Disk checks for errors in File Allocation Tables (system files) and for bad sectors on the hard drive. This task can fix little corruptions before they become bigger problems and it can give you and indication of if your hard drive is about to die (when bad sectors are found). Scan Disk should be run quarterly (and when a problem is suspected) and take one to several hours to run.
It takes a lot longer to run on Vista and Win 7 computers. When running Scan Disk, you will be locked out of your computer while the scan is running. For this reason, I recommend running it at night while you're sleeping or when you know you won't be on your computer for a while. For help running Scan Disk, click here.
This is one of my favorite programs for removing junk off computers. There is a free and paid version of MalwareBytes Anti-Malware and the only difference between them is automation. The paid version will update itself and run the scans automatically. You have to do these two things yourself in the free version.
I update and run MalwareBytes Anti-Malware on my computer once a week in order to keep my computer free of junk. Anytime I suspect a problem, it's also one of the first programs I run. If you're using the free version of MalwareBytes, be sure to update it first. Updates are available daily and you should always update it before running scans. For help running MalwareBytes, click here.
Hopefully, you're running some kind of Anti-Virus software on your computer and you're keeping it up to date. A lot of folks have a tendency to install AV software and then ignore it (assuming it's doing its job in the background). Don't make this mistake. Be sure to open your software every week or two and checking for updates. After doing so, you should also run a virus scan to make sure your computer isn't infected.
If you don't have any Anti-Virus software on your computer, I highly recommend Norton Internet Security. It's still the best Anti-Virus software available.
If you're running Norton 360 on your computer, it has a special scan feature built in. It's a good idea to run the comprehensive scan once in a while. I also like to choose my own scans to run, which allows me to scan the registry for errors (a good thing to do).
No software is bug-free. Hackers and those folks creating computer viruses have a way of finding security vulnerabilities in Windows, which Microsoft is always providing security patches (through Windows Updates) to fix. While most of the time, Windows Update runs in the background and takes care of itself, it's a good idea to check once in while to make sure you have the latest updates.
You definitely want to make sure you have all the important (or critical) updates installed on your computer. The others are optional (though some are recommended).
If you're running WinXP or earlier, you can easily run Widows Updates by opening Internet Explorer and selecting TOOLS and WINDOWS UPDATE on the menu.
If you're running Win7 or Vista, you can run Windows Update by clicking the START button and then ALL PROGRAMS and then clicking the Windows Update link in the list of programs. You will also see a Windows Update icon in the control panel.
At the very least, these are the tasks that every computer user should be running on their computer at least quarterly. You may have other diagnostic and maintenance programs on your computer which can be ran as well. If not, that's okay. Just run the tasks mentioned above.
When I work on client computers, there are other special utility tools that I run to help fix problems in Windows. I also like to update various software programs like Java, Flash, QuickTime, Adobe, etc. Keeping these free programs up to date will help ensure you have their latest security updates too (since Windows Updates doesn't check these programs).