Software programs (applications) are the whole reason PCs are such great productivity tools today. There are literally thousands of software applications available for the Windows operating system. Using the tips below to manage the applications you have installed onto your PC will keep it working efficiently and ensure you don’t waste valuable disk drive space.

Uninstall unused programs (DIY safe)

Over time you will have installed new versions of software or maybe changed over to an alternative brand product, tried out trial versions and even forgotten about applications you once installed but no longer use. Unused applications don’t just go away, they sit there taking up space on the hard drive until deliberately removed. Simply deleting the folder that contains the program doesn’t actually remove the program itself. That must be done through an uninstaller process.

Almost every application, utility, and game sold today comes with an uninstall program and your computer should have a provision for listing all the programs installed on it with an option to individually remove them. Every two or three months use the PCs ‘Add or Remove Programs’ utility to look over the list and identify any applications you longer have use for. Select the program and choose to remove it. This will free up extra space on your hard drive. You may have to restart your computer after removing the program(s) you don’t use to get the changes to take.

Turn off programs not in use (DIY safe)

Moving from task to task usually means opening up a number of applications. All those you aren’t using still continue to run in the background using up processing power until they are turned off. Unless you intend returning frequently to a particular program you have started up, turn it off after use.

Limit how many programs load at startup (DIY with caution)

The more programs your computer has to start up when you turn it on the slower the boot up process will be. Then, having these programs continue to run in the background consumes processing power. It's a good idea to check what programs are auto-starting and remove any unnecessary ones. They can always be started manually when needed. Windows provides a tool to identify and turn off the programs that automatically launch at startup.

In addition to these items there are other things that start in the background that can only be seen using one of the special utility applications available commercially. Both work the same way - they locate and list those programs that begin at startup. The trick is to know which it is safe to turn off. A quick search on the internet for any file name you can’t identify will generally turn up lots of pages explaining what the file does in your Windows operating system environment.

Never turn off an item in the Startup window unless or until you know what that file really does in relation to how your computer’s operation will be affected. Many programs may launch on startup through default settings in their install instructions. When installing a new piece of software check the default installation choices carefully and turn off the option to begin running at startup if you aren’t going to be making heavy use of this application.

Remove unnecessary shortcuts (DIY safe)

Do not clutter your Desktop with a lot of shortcuts. Each shortcut on the desktop uses up to 500 bytes of disk memory. You can delete any shortcuts from your desktop that you don’t want by dragging them to the Recycle Bin. Deleting the shortcut does not uninstall the program.

Turn off unnecessary features (DIY safe)

Many applications come with added features that could be quite irrelevant to you. For example, Google comes with a sidebar full of applets that displays news headlines or stock quotes and Windows Vista includes a nice looking, but mostly useless sidebar. It’s usually possible to turn off these add-ons to save some precious memory.