Over time computer slowdown is inevitable. Every session on your PC means more files and more chaotic file structure on the hard drive. The information in this article is general – it aims to explain why actions are necessary rather than how to do them on any particular PC operating system or application since, while the problems are common, the location and names of the fixit tools may not be. To carry out the required work your options are:
  • Read the manual and then use the tools bundled into your computer

  • Purchase a disk cleanup software application

  • Sign up with a service provider and have it done for you remotely via your internet connection

  • Take it into a computer dealer or repair shop and have someone do it for you
Which way you go will depend on your level of knowledge of how computers work. While some of these actions are perfectly OK for computer newbies (they are marked DIY safe), others involve hands-on with your operating system and should be left to an expert.

Archive or delete rarely used files (DIY safe)

After a few years your computer is likely to resemble a museum with a large number of files created in the past but now rarely used or completely irrelevant. Others, like the family photo album, movies and music can also be removed and put onto another device to save hard disk space on the work computer. Start by deleting those files that are no longer relevant at all. Then decide which should be archived to a CD-R or memory stick.

The fewer items you have on your hard drive, the quicker it will be for your computer to locate the files you need on a regular basis.

Disk cleanup - delete unnecessary files (DIY with caution)

Over time your PC builds up a storehouse of debris and unnecessary files that can really slow the computer down. The Disk Cleanup utility in PCs can easily determine which files on a hard drive may no longer be needed and allow you to delete them. Select the drive to be cleaned and the utility searches it and then lists a number of file categories that might be cleaned out (Downloaded Program Files, Temporary Internet Files, Recycle Bin and a few others). Now review each category by clicking on it to display more information relative to that category in the Description section of the window. If you're unsure about what sort of files they are or what they do it is better NOT to remove them until you seek advice from someone knowledgeable. Perform a disk cleanup at least monthly.

Where files are removed there will be gaps and empty spaces created on the hard drive, so this is an excellent time to defragment as well.

Defragment the hard disk drive (DIY safe)

Magazine articles are often split between different pages within the publication. Reading would be much faster if the article was all in one place and you didn’t have to flip around finding the next segment. Files on your computer get split up (fragmented) like that with a bit in one part of the hard disk drive and another bit in a different part. When a file is fragmented it takes longer for the computer to read it because it has to skip to different sections of the drive to locate them. The PCs Defragmentation utility improves your computer's performance by bringing the parts of a file closer together. How often you defrag your computer depends on the size of your hard drive, the amount you use your computer, and type of use you give it. Once a month is a good practice for most average users.