How to keep your PC clean, optimized and virus free

In Windows keeping our computer working as if it were the first day is not an easy task, especially if we usually install and uninstall programs commonly, or we use it a lot. Although there are no native Windows tools that allow you to clean and optimize the entire system at once, luckily we do find multiple diverse tools -and free- that will allow us to successfully restore speed to our operating system.

Windows Update, or how to update our system to its latest version

First things first. As with mobile phones and tablets, OS version changes over time. The world advances, technologies improve, the way of processing information becomes more complex, and new hardware always requires specific drivers, optimized for its components. So, is your Windows system up to date? If it isn't, Windows Update is the native tool that accesses Microsoft HQ to download new versions of your entire OS. The benefits of this are many and the main ones are worth mentioning:

  1. Improve Windows compatibility with your hardware, whether it's new or old.
  2. Improve the security of the entire system including internet browsing.
  3. Improve the speed of many internal Windows processes.
  4. Increase the number of functionalities of your system, and for free.

So, the first thing we should do before wanting to optimize or clean our computer is to verify that our operating system has all the security updates, internal programs and hardware drivers up to date. To do this, we must click on the Start button (the one with the windows logo, see image) and select the option to search for updates). Simply, in the search box (which in Windows 10 is activated as soon as you start typing after activating the start button), type “windows update”.

Depending on whether we had already allowed Windows to install critical updates or not, updating the system can take a few hours or a few minutes (It also depends on the speed of our internet connection). Remember: it is essential to install critical updates, since this genre includes solutions to security problems or improved drivers. In addition, from time to time Windows gathers what it considers to be essential updates in its so-called Service Packs, packages of improvements that speed up the startup, processes and normal handling of our computer.

Don't panic if your operating system reboots in the middle of updates: many enhancements require to be installed "offline", so to speak (in other words, before normal windows startup).

antivirus

Once we have our updated operating system, we must make sure that we have our preferred antivirus running (and up to date!). If your system is Windows 7 or earlier, we recommend the use of Microsoft Security Essentials, the free antivirus microsoft (Note: In 2020 Microsoft is discontinuing support for Microsoft Security Essentials.)

If you have Windows 8 or Windows 10, a more modern version of the same program, albeit under the name of Windows DefenderIt comes installed from the factory. As he Security Essentials As the Defend they offer constant protection against viruses, malware and spyware, and they are very good programs that, among other things, do not slow down our operating system unlike third-party antiviruses.

How to know if Windows Defender is activated?

If you have Windows 8 or higher, we recommend that you check that you have Windows Defender activated (view image). This is the version of Security Essentials for modern Windows, offering the same security at the highest speed, with low resource consumption.

If, on the other hand, you already have a third-party antivirus or want to incorporate a anti spyware, we recommend the use of the SpyBot Search & Destroy. It is a program that has a free version, widely recognized and used.

What is Spyware?

A spyware, or "spyware", is an application that is installed on our operating system without our consent (we do not know when this happens).

These programs are made to collect information about our habits and activities carried out with our computer, in order to compile databases that can be sold to advertising companies. Spyware keep track of our internet activity, the programs we use, and some can even read our emails and copy our contacts. In some even more severe cases, they collect absolutely everything we write (site passwords, messages on social networks, chats, forms, emails...) so Spyware can also be used for more serious crimes, such as theft of card numbers credit, or information from our bank accounts.

registry cleaning

The so-called "registry file" is a crucial part of the Windows operating system. It contains hundreds of entries (addresses to files and settings), which can become invalid or empty (it happens when you delete a program but it doesn't clean up properly).

Registry cleaner programs find and delete obsolete entries, or redirect them to the correct file. A program that can perform this task for you is the system mechanic, and you can download it for free from here.

Defragmenting the data

If you have a new SSD (or Solid State Drive), skip this section. But, if you don't know what SSD is, almost certainly you have a conventional hard drive, better known as HDD (Hard Disk Drive, or "rigid disk"). The common and current HDD, in addition to being slower than the new SSDs, have an extra drawback: the information they contain is likely to be fragmented. What does this mean? That read/write operations on the disk do not occur linearly (at least not after a short time of use). What the disk does when it needs to record information is look for gaps in free space, and these gaps can be very large or very small. Free space gaps?

How are these holes formed? Well, they occur when a file is deleted (for example, you download a file to the desktop, run it, and then delete it... but in the middle you downloaded other files that were recorded after the first one, so deleting that file leaves a " gap” between the data, like removing a brick from the middle of a wall).

In the infinity of operations that occur on the disk every day, many files are created and deleted by the same system, when browsing the Internet, or while working with your favorite image editor. That is, many "holes" are produced. And every time the disk needs to record a new file (a photo that was sent to you by email, for example), it looks for the free space (hole) that there is first; when filled, it looks for the next, and then the next. Conclusion, the photo that you copied to your disk is partitioned into ten pieces, although this will be inapparent to you when you open it. However, the more times a file is split, the more time it takes for the disk to load it (since the read heads must jump to different sectors of the disk to find the next part). This is it folks the most critical bottleneck affecting a computer, but don't worry, we are going to explain how to keep the disk as defragmented as possible (if you want you can see on wiki defragmentation).

The default option, or the most used to defrag our disk, is to opt for the application that comes with our Windows. However, we recommend using more developed and professional software, and the best option, free, is Defraggler. This software is really good, and although the page we are referring to with the link is in English, Defraggler disk defragmenter can be installed in Spanish. If you are interested in trying it, go to the link and press the green button that says “download free version”.

If, on the other hand, you prefer to use the native windows tool, click the Windows start button and search for “defragment and optimize drives” as shown in the image below:

A window will open showing all the physical drives available for defragmentation, from pen drives and external drives to internal drives. Usually you will want to defragment your primary drive i.e. C:

You will notice that it is already selected by default, and therefore it only remains to press the “optimize” button.

The defragmentation process can take anywhere from minutes to hours; it all depends on how much the disk needs to rearrange its data.

When the process finishes, you will notice the difference as soon as you start a new session of your Windows. So, enjoy the speed and the time gained!

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