Faster, better, stronger: Get your PC in tip-top shape

Is your PC bogging down? It's time to purge the junk, protect your precious files, and ultimately improve performance!

Trying to keep your PC running smoothly sometimes feels like an impossible task. Windows is prone to all kinds of bloat, which can bog down your PC or--in severe cases--even render a system functionally useless. Over time, it's almost impossible to prevent unsavory apps and other files from infiltrating a Windows PC, regardless of how careful a user you may be. There are simply too many ways for junk to seep its way in.

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With regular maintenance and a bit of effort, however, it's possible to keep a Windows system relatively clean and performing at its peak. Some of the things we're going to cover here may be second nature to long-time PC aficionados, but these tips should come in quite handy for casual users. At the very least they'll help you keep your system clean, updated, and better protected from potential threats.

Update, update, update

Vulnerabilities in Windows and many popular applications are quite common. To mitigate the possibility of such vulnerabilities being exploited on your system, it's important to keep your OS and all of your applications patched and up to date. If you haven't already set Windows to automatically update, do so now by opening the System and Security settings in the control panel, clicking Windows Update near the bottom-left of the window, and then clicking the Change Settings option. Should you want to install updates manually, remember to do so about once a week. Microsoft tends to release most updates on "Patch Tuesdays", but if a severe vulnerability is found and fixed quickly, MS may release a patch at any time.

It is also important to keep your antivirus and antimalware utilities patched and updated. Nefarious malware programmers tend to be a couple of steps ahead of the good guys, so it's important to keep your digital defenses as current as possible. Antivirus and antimalware apps should update themselves daily (or even hourly), but if a problem has occurred (or your system is already infected), auto-updates may have been disabled. Check the status of your antivirus and antimalware apps often to ensure they're updated and enabled.

Many other applications and plug-ins, such as Office or Adobe Flash, can be prone to vulnerabilities as well. Keep those apps up to date too; the option to check for updates is often listed in their Help menus.

Uninstall unwanted applications

Even if you're extremely careful about which websites you visit and the applications you install on your PC, unwanted apps or programs will inevitably creep their way in. Whether through unpatched exploits in the OS or commonly used applications, user indifference, or an unintentional "OK" click in a dialog box, over time, numerous unwanted programs tend to appear on Windows-based systems.

Removing these unwanted programs will free systems resources--and we're not just talking about disk space. Any program that launches with Windows or with a regularly used app (such as a browser) will also consume memory and potentially CPU resources as well. Getting rid of those programs will free up all of those resources for other things, which will ultimately improve the responsiveness and performance of your PC.

There are a few ways to remove unwanted programs. The first is to simply navigate to your control panel, click 'Uninstall a program' to open up the Add/Remove programs menu, highlight the application and select the option to uninstall it. That can take a lot of time if you're deleting several applications, and some applications--especially malicious ones--may not be listed in the Add/Remove programs menu. An application removal tool like PC Decrapifier can help in those scenarios.

Using PC Decrapifier couldn't be easier. Simply download and run the small app and follow the on-screen prompts. The program will walk you through the process step by step, identifying and explaining what many apps do, and then giving you the option to remove them en masse with just a few clicks.

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