A Complete Tune-Up for Your Ailing Computer — Free


You know the routine. That computer you bought two years ago was a speed demon and never encountered problems. Now, it’s slow as molasses and ties you up in bizarre, inexplicable routines for which you have no idea what the cause is. You need a tune-up, pal. In this post, I’ll round up some simple steps that Windows users can take and a bunch of free downloads you can get that will turn that computer back into a speed demon in less than an hour. I’ll follow up with a post for Mac users.

Clean Your Registry. Not only is it important to clean your registry, but it’s important to do so regularly. Your registry becomes a litterbox over time as you cycle through installed and uninstalled software, new and old drivers, and collect spyware and adware. Windows users can do a registry washing with Glary Utilities in about 10 minutes, typically. I ran this free suite on a friend’s PC the other day and it found and repaired 129 registry problems.

Scan for Malware. If you don’t run and regularly update anti-virus software, you absolutely should. Still, many busy people either don’t run it or don’t update it. Among the free programs that can eighty-six malware from your system, the Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool is good. Also run PC Tools Anti-Virus.

Remove Temp Files, Optimize Your Drive. Glary Utilities also has good options for removing temporary files that slow performance and for optimizing your hard drive. If you really want to improve the speed of your hard drive, defragment your drive (Windows has a utility for doing this), but that takes a long time and this post is about fast solutions. The temporary file removal tool and quick scan option for cleaning up a hard drive in Glary Utilities are both fast, one-click options.

Boost Your Boot Time. You can radically improve the amount of time it takes for Windows to start up with free utilities that let you remove programs you don’t want to be loading at startup. The free one I like is called, well, StartUp.

Remove Spyware and Adware. My favorite free tool for jettisoning the adware that slows systems down is AdAware. It’s no accident that this program has over 265 million downloads at Download.com. It rocks, and you can even use it to scan your RAM and external drives. Among the free spyware removal tools, I like Spyware Terminator.

Update Your Drivers. You can do a free scan to see if your drivers aren’t outdated at Version Tracker, and let it help you upgrade. You can also get updated drivers for your graphics card at The Guru of 3D.

Use a Desktop Search Tool. There are several free desktop search tools that can save you tons of time trying to find e-mails and files. My favorite is Copernic Desktop Search. It lets you instantly retrieve e-mails, music files, photos, documents, spreadsheets and more. You can narrow down your searches to find anything in a few seconds.

Speed Up Your Downloads. You can radically improve the amount of time it takes to download programs and application updates with Download Accelerator. It’s also good at downloading multiple applications at once.

Finally, this post covered free tune-up options, but, especially if your computer is older, a RAM upgrade can make a huge performance difference. So there you have it—a free weekend project that will save you lots of headaches.

Do you have any good tips on how to tune-up a bogged-down computer?


Bill Kruse

Before you run something that’s going to tinker with your registry, install and run in auto mode the program ERUNT for a few days. It’ll make backups of your registry and you should be able to have someone techie restore your machine using Barts if it won’t boot or whatever after you’ve been fooling around with registry cleaners. Really, though, anything past 98 and you shouldn’t be using a registry cleaner at all. I found out the hard way!


Joanna Hodges

Great post – finally help for the infinite hand-me-down PC issues my family puts me through. Happy to help out, but what a pain in butt cleaning my old computers up, removing stuff, etc! To keep them from coming back to me every time the have a problem, I dumped this great tool on each (let’s them clean up their own problems!). Anyone else using TuneUp Utilities? There’s a 2008 version out now that I haven’t tried: http://www.tune-up.com


To the poster a few posts above: use an automatic defragger if you dont find time to schedule a defrag. Automatic defragmenters run in the background and automatically defrag (if necessary) whenever the system is idle without you having to do anything. They are also very light on resources, so you wont notice them running in the background.


Interesting suggestions, however, always accompany any cleanup software suggestions with “USE AT YOUR OWN RISK!!” I am a “non-techie”, so cleaning up a computer becomes a trial + error exercise. Clary Utilities + Registry Mechanic went too far on my computer, removing too many things, resulting in having my computer techie re-install Win98SE. I use the following to clean my computer (Avast AntiVirus, Sygate Personal Firewall, CCleaner (main cleanup tool, in default setting), AdAware, Spyware Blaster, MRU Blaster, Hijack This, RegSeeker, Diskeeper Lite (excellent free Defrag software. After running these on a P3 600, 256 megs computer on a regular basis, my machine runs at peak efficience, just my experience of course.


Maybe my computer is just trying to tell me something, but I downloaded and ran Glary Utilities after reading this post. And it had a nearly complete meltdown. It would begin to load Windows, put my desktop background on the screen and then do nothing else. Had to start it in Safe mode and then use Windows’ system restore. Now I have my computer back but at about half the speed as before and have noticed some quirky things happening. I’m guessing some of the registry entries that Glary found and deleted were things that I actually needed. Learned my lesson there. Maybe I’ll get a new computer out of all of this …

For a larger lesson for Web workers, this underscored the importance of being able to provide your own tech support. My office is 400 miles away – so our IT department can’t do a thing for me. In fact, I’m fairly certain they don’t know I exist.


Whenever I start having the problems that seem to get me chasing my tecno tail, I just take a deep breath, walk away , and when I return, start a virus scan . This always chases the funk away. It’s with my security software, and offers complete reporting , and analysis at the end, including the name of the malware , and the owner. I have’nt run a hardrive sweep or de-fragment in a while , and I definately notice a slow down . This article has reminded me to do that. Now…if I can just find the time.

Doug Woodall

I’ll give Glary a try. Ive been using the Tune-Up Utility for most of this year, but Im always willing to check out a product that may be better.
Take care,


Some good tips, but I’m curious, you mention Glary Utilities for registry cleaner and temp removal, and StartUp for cleaning out your startup programs. I believe all these functions are covered equally as well in CCLeaner. Are you aware of this program, or simply prefer the other two to this one?

Amie Gillingham

Thanks for this post–lots of good solutions I wasn’t aware of yet. You thought your friend’s registry was bad? Glary just found 918 problems with mine!

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