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I am currently running Windows 7 x64. I frequently install, uninstall, modify, break, or otherwise alter various programs on my computer (experimentation is fun!). Anyways, over the past six months (how long this version has been installed) I have noticed an obvious decline in my computer's performance. I have been expecting this, so over the past months I have regularly 'cleaned' my computer - removing programs, defragging, CCleaner, and virus scans. I know that it isn't possible to reverse every action that installing or deleting a program causes, but I have a feeling that I can reverse more of these effects and speed up my computer. Lastly, on top of cleaning, I have also disabled all of my startup processes besides the vital ones that I need to run my computer.

So, I guess in conclusion, are there any more steps that I could take my clean my computer more effectively in the computer? I know there are different versions of programs such as CCleaner, and there are uninstallers besides the Windows one, but I don't know if those actually make much of a difference. Would anyone have any recommendations on how to better clean my computer in the future from random junk, settings, etc. That I no longer use or never do?

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most simply, don't install crap ;p. If you need to test, VMs or various forms of application virtualisation works well –  Journeyman Geek May 22 '12 at 0:41
    
@JourneymanGeek That would be helpful if my processor supported 64bit hardware virtualization.. or is it software.. I can't remember =p –  ekaj May 22 '12 at 1:42
    
application virtualisation dosen't need either - svw/svs worked perfectly for this, but its hard to find, and i've been using vmware's thinapp for some things as well. I've also toyed with having a seperate OS partition for testing, using copies of windows i get from MSDNAA ;p –  Journeyman Geek May 22 '12 at 1:44
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6 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

To add to the existing answers. Uninstall with Revo Uninstaller. This will find all files and registry entries associated with the uninstalled program. You choose which of these to actually delete. It will also automatically create a restore point, should you accidentally delete important files.

I also sometimes use WinDirStat. This will create an overview of all the files on your hard drive. It also gives a graphical representation of the used space. This is handy to find large files that are left behind (some iso for a VM, for example).

Do some scans for other malware (you only mention viruses). I use MalwareBytes and Spybot S&D.

If your boot is becoming slower, use Soluto. If you're an advanced user, you might be better off with Autoruns.

Also consider that your hardware itself might have become slower over time. Especially if you're using an SSD, wear can become noticeable in a relatively short time.

You might also want to try and find whether there's any software slowing your PC down. You're best off with Process Explorer for this. It shows all information about all the running processes. (seriously, it shows everything you would ever want to know about a process, and more)

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I've used Autoruns before, but not MalwareBytes on this computer, or Process Explorer even though I've had it forever. I'll give those. Revo Uninstaller and WinDirStat a look. I usually keep my .isos / other large files on my partitions for programs and such, but I'll give it a try. –  ekaj May 19 '12 at 20:14
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If you often install and remove stuff, because you just want to try something out, System Restore is your friend (you can even give it some more gigabyte of space if you can spare, that is). Seriously, that thing really improved since XP. In Windows 7, I have installed a "Lion Theme", which I've seen in an article from Lifehacker. (I thought it's some good stuff, since Lifehacker featured it.)

Instead of something good, my PC couldn't boot up. After a force-reset, it took about 40 minutes to get to my desktop, and my desktop freeze after a few additional minutes. Anyway, I fired up the USB (with the Win 7 installer), and went right to the recovery section. I was surprised, but it restored everything. Correctly. Not a single trace of that crapware, no hassle.

For cleaning? You can find so many applications and questions about this even on this site. Just check the search bar with the keywords.

What can you do if you didn't restore? I know we are over with this stupid "monthly reinstall" thing, but I think you should really do a reinstall. Save your data, and go for it. (But do it the clever way. Save all your data, and write up what applications you used, had installed, and so on.) And next time, don't forget. There is a thing called, Virtualization, that might help. You can just put everything you want into a VMWare guest, and use snapshots. That way, your host OS is protected and safe. (Or VirtualPC, or VirtualBox.)

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I actualy do have a system restore from when I initially set up and configured most of my programs, but even since then I have installed so many it would take hours. But, I still like your suggestion. Also, I have VMs, and they ran fine before my computer bogged down =p –  ekaj May 19 '12 at 6:41
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Windows 7 is pretty quick to install so that's a pretty full proof way of getting rid of junk. Plus next time you re-install, do all the updates and then create a backup image which you can restore whenever necessary.

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What I have written below is a hard road to tow if you are "mid stream" so to speak, with your present computer, but keep it in mind the next time you open that box with the gleaming new laptop/desktop.

This is a bit of an involved "fix," but it is invaluable when you need it. I call it nuke and pave.

  1. Out of the box for your next PC save an image of the existing drive/s. Always have a backup.
  2. Rip out the junkware, make your customizations (change desktop, add applications, setup the browser etc. etc. (I have done this a number of times and have my "list" of changes down pat)
  3. Now image the drive to DVD / CD and save it.

You can use a number of utilites: DriveImage XML, GParted, (I started back when there was a utility called Ghost by Norton, alas it doesn't work the way I want it to now) or Acronis; while cranky Acronis can be beaten to work.

Think of all the "situations" this can fix, get a virus-nuke and pave, crash a drive-nuke and pave. Move to a new computer (often you can work the slight of hand needed to "fool" the OS into accepting the new computer by banging on the software). Slipstream your updates if you want to get really "trick" and impress your friends.

Beware though:

  • Acronis is like a brain damaged dog - you have to make friends with it slowly or it will bite you. I "learned" about its "I got-chas" on an old system I could mess up while learning.
  • GParted is a Linux tool, really slick, but it is like translating between French and English to use it. If you understand Windows-ese you have to translate to Linux-ese and "think" your way through using it.
  • DriveImage XML is like getting a Russian tank in a do-it-yourself kit. READ THE DIRECTIONS and follow them exactly. There is a site called Darkchip with a pretty good tutorial.

Once you pick your poison and learn to tolerate it, the fix for your problem is easy. I started doing this because I would get some gremlin in my computer that would drive me to distraction and take forever to fix so I was looking for a quick sure-fire way to get through these issues. Voila, imaging the hard drive before the roof falls in.

The next time you need to "freshen" up your system, drag the data/info. you need onto a USB drive, then "nuke and pave" the computer back to your customized system using your custom image DVD.

Presto chango you have a fast slick system in about an hour, no muss no fuss. It works every time if you setup the DVD right and don't use it as a hockey puck in the interim.

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When I get my laptop for college, I'm probably just going to reformat it in the first week because my college supplies 7 Pro (or Ultimate, can't remember) free for CS Majors. But, this suggestion is helpful nonetheless =p As for this computer, I actually did back it up, but that was before I installed even more programs =/ –  ekaj May 22 '12 at 1:44
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See this SU post: Reclaiming disk space on Windows - it has a number of suggestions on software and tips that can help reduce disk space usage by Windows.

Other solutions you could check out:

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How about trying out gamebooster v3? It is a great application that enhances your computer for gaming etc. I use it myself. Here is there website: http://www.iobit.com/gamebooster.html

I hope this helped :D

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