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10 spring cleaning tips for your Windows PC

A laptop sitting on a table outside on a sunny day.
Leigh Prather / Shutterstock.com


7;t forget your computer when you’re cleaning all your stuff. From the software to the hardware, there are some easy ways to get your Windows 10 laptop or desktop in order and running in top shape.

Remove applications you are not using

This tip may seem obvious, but it’s a good place to start. Many apps you install add startup programs or system services in the background, making it take longer for your PC to start up and use those resources in the background. Some programs make File Explorer’s context menus cluttered with options. Others – especially PC games – can just use a lot of disk space.

That’s fine if you use these applications and find them useful, but it’s easy to install a large number of applications and find yourself not using them at all. To clean things up, delete the applications you are not using.

In Windows 10, you can go to Settings> Apps> Apps & features to see a list of applications that you can uninstall. You can also access the traditional “Uninstall or Change a Program” panel in the Classic Control Panel.

As you go through the list, keep in mind that certain programs in it are “dependencies” that other programs need. For example, chances are you will see some “Microsoft Visual C ++ Redistributable” items here. You want to leave this one.

If you don’t know what a program is or what it does, search the internet for it. For example, the program may be a necessary and useful utility for your PC’s hardware.

RELATED: How to get to the old Uninstall programs panel in Windows 10

Remove browser extensions you don’t need

Browser extensions are similar to apps. It’s easy to install a bunch and find yourself not using them. Browser extensions can slow down your web browsing, however, and most can access everything you do in your browser. This makes them a security and privacy risk, especially if they were created by a company or person you don’t trust.

If you’ve installed the official browser extension created by the password manager company you already trust, that’s one thing. But if you’ve installed a small extension that occasionally provides a useful function, and it was created by an unknown person, you may be better off without it installed.

View the installed extensions of your web browser and remove the extensions you do not use or trust. For example, in Google Chrome, click menu> More tools> Extensions to find them. In Mozilla Firefox, click menu> Add-ons. In Microsoft Edge, click menu> Extensions.

RELATED: Did you know browser extensions look at your bank account?

Customize your startup programs

We recommend that you remove programs you don’t need and don’t use. But you may sometimes want to leave a program while not starting it at startup. Then you can start the program only when you need it. This can speed up your boot process and clean up your system tray or system tray.

To find the launcher controls in Windows 10, right-click on your taskbar and select “Task Manager” (or press Ctrl + Shift + Esc). Click on the “Startup” tab and if you don’t see it, click on “more details” first. (You can also find a similar tool at Settings> Apps> Startup.)

Disable any programs that you do not want to run during startup. Many of them will not be necessary. Be aware that this may affect functionality. For example, if you choose not to run Microsoft OneDrive or Dropbox at startup, your files won’t start and sync automatically. You need to open them after your computer boot process is complete for that to happen.

RELATED: Manage startup applications in Windows 8 or 10

Organize your desktop and files

A clean, blank Windows 10 desktop and taskbar.

Spring cleaning isn’t just about making your PC run faster. It’s also about being able to use it faster. Having a well-organized file structure will make it easier for you to find the files you need without interfering with the files.

Cleaning up your cluttered desktop is a big part of that. And if you don’t want to clean up your desktop, consider hiding your desktop icons, which you can easily do by right-clicking on your desktop and unchecking View> Show Desktop Icons.

In addition, consider opening File Explorer and organizing your personal files and folders. There’s a good chance that your Downloads folder in particular needs a cleanup – or just some quick deletion of old downloads you no longer need. Whatever folders you use often, consider pinning them to the Quick Access sidebar in File Explorer for easier access to your files.

RELATED: How to Organize Your Cluttered Windows Desktop (and Keep It That Way)

Clean up your taskbar and start menu

Now consider pruning or reorganizing your taskbar icons. If your taskbar is full of icons for applications you don’t need, unpin them by right-clicking on them and selecting ‘Unpin from Taskbar’. Rearrange them with drag and drop to move them wherever you want on the taskbar.

Also check out customizing your Start menu. Windows 10’s default Start menu is full of shortcut tiles that you probably don’t use. If you’ve never tweaked it, now is a good time to make sure that only the programs you actually use are pinned to the tiles area.

And while you’re at it, there may be a variety of programs running in the background with a system tray icon. You can hide notification area icons by quickly dragging and dropping them, which keeps the program running while taking the icon off your taskbar.

RELATED: 10 ways to customize the Windows 10 start menu

Clean up your browser and its bookmarks

You probably spend a lot of time in your computer’s web browser. If you’re using the bookmarks feature, consider taking a moment to reorganize your bookmarks in a logical way.

It’s easiest to do this from your browser’s bookmarks manager instead of messing around with the bookmarks toolbar. In Google Chrome, click menu> Bookmarks> Bookmark Manager to launch it. Consider backing up your bookmarks before proceeding, in case you want to get them again in the future. We have many tips for organizing your bookmarks.

RELATED: How to Decrypt Your Web Browser Bookmarks

Run Disk Cleanup to free up space

If you want to clean up some temporary files and free up some disk space, try the Disk Cleanup utility built into Windows. In Windows 10, open the Start menu, search for “Disk Cleanup” with the search box and click “Disk Cleanup” to start it. Click the “Clean up system files” button to ensure that you clean up your Windows user account files as well as system files.

Depending on how long it has been since you last ran this tool, you may be able to free up gigabytes of unnecessary files, such as files related to old Windows Updates. Carefully review the list of things Disk Cleanup wants to remove to make sure the tool doesn’t delete anything you want to keep.

RELATED: Is it safe to delete everything in Windows Disk Cleanup?

Dust your PC

A dusty fan in the housing of a PC.
MelnikovSergei / Shutterstock.com

If you have a desktop PC, you should open it regularly and get it dust-free quickly. (Make sure to turn the PC off first!) You may also need to dust your laptop.

Dust often accumulates in your PC’s fans and other components, making cooling less effective. As a result, your PC may get warmer, or at least the fan will have to work harder to provide the same amount of cooling.

While you don’t have to go crazy cleaning every part of your PC thoroughly, we recommend shutting down your PC and cleaning it with compressed air (such as Falcon Dust-Off or a similar brand). Never use a vacuum cleaner for this!

An essential tool

Falcon Dust-Off Electronics Duster

Compressed air is a great, safe way to remove dust from the inside of your PC. It can also help clean other components, such as your keyboard.

RELATED: How to Thoroughly Clean Your Dirty Desktop Computer

Clean your dirty keyboard, monitor and more

Dust on the inside of your PC can affect performance and cooling. But there is probably dust elsewhere too: on the computer monitor screen, between the keys on your keyboard and more.

Spring cleaning is a good time to do a nice, deep clean. To clean your monitor, all you really need is a standard microfiber cloth, the same kind you would use to wipe glasses.

In general, to thoroughly clean your keyboard, you can remove the keys and use compressed air or a vacuum cleaner to clean up the build-up of debris.

We also have tips for cleaning up all your other PC peripherals. You can buy a wide variety of different products that promise to speed up the cleaning process.

RELATED: How to clean and disinfect all your gadgets

Optional: Consider “resetting” Windows 10

Let’s end on a geek tip: If you feel like you want to start with a fresh, clean Windows installation, consider resetting Windows 10. Don’t confuse this with restarting your PC – it’s more of a factory reset on other devices.

In Windows 10, “resetting” Windows is similar to reinstalling. You get a factory environment, without the programs you installed and the settings you changed. You can then start over. (You can choose to keep your personal files while you go through the reset process.)

While resetting Windows, you can choose to perform a “fresh start”, which will erase any bloatware installed by the manufacturer and give you a fresh, straight-from-Microsoft Windows 10 system. If your PC came with a lot of manufacturer-installed junk, this is a great option to try.

Warning: If you try this, be aware that afterward, you will need to spend time reinstalling your software and configuring Windows 10 the way you want. We also recommend backing up your files before going through this process just in case: the reset process can keep your files if you select the correct options but better to be safe than sorry . It is always best to always have an up-to-date backup.

Don’t want a fresh Windows installation? Skip this step! If you’ve followed our other tips, your PC should already be up and running.

RELATED: How to Use Windows 10’s “Fresh Start” in May 2020 Update

Now your PC is cleaned up and ready to use. Why not wipe everything else clean? Take on LifeSavvy’s Spring Cleaning Challenge to spruce up your home in 30 days.

RELATED: Spring Cleaning Day 1: Reclaim Your Kitchen Sink

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