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Winter or Spring Cleaning

by whoozhe
October 20, 2006
Every now and then a computer system needs a good clean. I am talking hardware and software. Both are needed if you want that investment to last a little longer. This article will go through the steps you need to take to keep your system in top form.

Make sure you run System Restore and creating a checkpoint before making any changes to your computer!


There are a number of tools you will need so write down this shopping list.
* A brush. Not an ordinary one but an anti-static natural hair type.
* A can of compressed air
* Lint and static free wipes
* Cotton buds
* Paper clip
* Isopropyl Alcohol Cleaning Fluid (Do NOT use household cleaners)
* (optional) Computer vacumn cleaner. If you have one of those small battery operated car vacs with a hose attachment that will do.
* Antistatic wrist band

Ok You got all these items? The first thing to do is disconnect the power leads to all your equipement. Now clean up the desk area using the wipes and the alcohol spary. Avoid using domestic polish at it can attract dust. Wipe down the casings of all your devices using a little spray for stubborn stains.

Next tackle the keyboard. Using the static free brush remove as much debris from the keyboard as possible. Now hold the keyboard upside down and give it a good shake. If you have a the vacuum cleaner you can use it. The hardest part part of a keyboard to clean is between the keys. This is where that paper clip and cotton buds comes in handy. Spray some cleaner os a cotton bud and wipe the areas btween the keys. If you find that the cotton bud is too thick then wet a wipe, wrap it around the paperclip's rounded end so it just fits between the keys. Avoid pushing the clip down too far as not to damage the underlying membrane. Have coffee.



Put on the wrist strap. Remove any fans including the CPU fan. If the fan has any leads connected to the main board take note of what goes where. With the non static brush lightly dust the top of any added PCI cards and your graphics card and I mean lighly just enough to move any debris. Tilt the Computer slighly toward the opened area so debris will collect where is can easily be removed. Grab the can of compressed air and spray in every part of the inside of the system avoiding touching anything. Concentrate on corners, fan grids and partly enclosed areas.

Fans tend to attract more than just dust and can get very dirty. Do not spray them as spraying may penetrate the motors and damage the fan. Using weak solution of household detergent clean the blades of the fan. Allow them to dry before reconnecting them to the case. Put it all back together . Now reclean the surfaces and the monitor screen with the anti static wipes. (do not use window cleaner) Have coffee.



There are two main ways you can do this, manually of by using a cleanup utiltiy.

The manual way:
1. Clean up the desktop. Right click the desktop and choose Properties > Desktop >Customize Desktop > Clean Desktop Now. Follow the wizard. This will remove any unused or dead shortcuts. It may mess you arrangement so be prepared to re-arrange the icons after the process.
2. Remove Programs. Select Start > Set Programs Access and Defaults. Choose Change or Remove Programs and work through the list. Uninstall anything you never use or only use once in a blue moon.
3. Shared files. When unistalling programs select "Yes to all" when prompted to remove shared files. It is very rare that those files are used by any other program.
4. Remove leftovers. So often uninstall applications leave bits behind so navigate to thier old folder and delete it.
5. Clean the Registry. Again bits and pieces of uninstalled application are left behind in the registry. Click Start > Run, type regedit. Export the registry via the File menu as a backup just in case. Now expand HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/Software, delete entries for those uninstalled applications.
6. There may be more bits lying around the registry so in regedit click File/ Find and enter the name of the uninstalled program. Delete references to that program. Click Find next or press the F3 key to find the next entry to remove. Continue through to the end. That's dealt with unwanted applications.

Now have a look at the programs you are using. Do any of them launch at startup and are they neccessary? Often programs add an icon to the systems tray and run a background process all the time. If you need it to run that is fine. Antivirus, firewall and other security measure need to be running all the time. Instant Messengers, Email, and a mass of other applications do not. They can be started and closed when needed. Most applications can be prevented from launching at startup via their own settings.

Others are more persistant and need a push. The push comes with the aid of MSconfig's Startup. Click Start > Run, tyoe msconfig then click OK. Under the Startup Tab, uncheck anything not needed. If you are not sure you can do a Google on each entry to see if it is needed. A list of all known entries that can make it to the Startup List can be found at

Shortcuts can also pop up in other places so have a look and remove any items not needed in the : Documents and Settings\User or All Users\Start Menu\Programs\Startup The last place applications can be launched from and this is where many nasties kick off from, is from the registry. Do as above to open regedit and back it up. Expand HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsift\CurrentVersion\Run or HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SOFTWARE/Microsoft/Windows/CurrentVersion/Run

Ok now that you've managed to rid you system of redundant applications and leftover debris. Have Coffee.

There are many utilties that can do most of what is above and do it well but I am one of those "I Like To See It to Believe" Types so doing a manual clean up leaves me knowing that the job is done. If you are not like me then you can use either a basic free system cleaner or a more comprehensive commercial product. Softes Windows Cleaner is a good freebie. Window Washer is one of the better known commercial applications. TIP: Whenever a program is being uninstalled and you are asked if you want to keep files the only options are Yes/no or yes To All. There isn't any "No To All". To get around this hold the shift key down when selecting "No".

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