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Hunter Bonner: Spring cleaning in the digital age

While you’re clearing out clutter, don’t forget your computer

By the time this article is published, it officially will be spring. With the harsh winter we have had this season, warmer temperatures will be a welcome change.

With spring time comes the traditional spring cleaning. When considering spring cleaning, do not forget to spring clean your PC. Here are some helpful things that should clean things up, and get you on the road to a faster, leaner and meaner machine.

First, start with the basics. Run a disk cleanup, which is a built-in Windows utility. Simply go to Start/Computer. Once there, right click on your C: drive and go to Properties.

On the General Tab you will see the Disk Cleanup button. Click that button and your machine will begin to scan the C drive for junk files, etc. Another screen will display a list of things you can delete. My recommendation is to check everything and dump it all.

WARNING: One of the options is to delete everything in the Recycle Bin. Make sure you do not have anything in there that you do not want deleted. (Psst! Recycle Bin is not a filing cabinet.)

Next, your hard drive needs to be defragmented. Defragmenting is a fancy way of saying, getting all your information lined up in a neat row, versus having it spread out all over the hard drive. The latter slows down your machine greatly, and eventually leads to file corruption.

In the same area where you went for Disk Cleanup, click on the Tools tab, and then click on Disk Defragmenter. Run this on your C: drive. This could take a long time, so while you can still use your computer, it will run much slower during this process. If you have a solid-state drive (SSD), please do not attempt to do this.

Second, look at your desktop. It’s because I care enough that I will tell you the truth by saying it looks like the Mount Vesuvius of desktop icons exploded all over your Windows desktop. Another part of spring cleaning is about getting organized. Look over those files you have on your desktop and start moving things like pictures to My Pictures and documents to My Documents.

In those folders, you can organize your images with subfolders by simply right-clicking and going to New/Folder. The reason you do not want them on your desktop is that every time your machine starts, it’s loading every one of those files into memory. Organizing the desktop will greatly speed things up, and also spruce up your desktop so that you can actually see that image of your kids you set for your wallpaper.

In the same vein of organization, we all eventually run into the problem of having duplicate files and what to do with them. This is a project that often never gets resolved because of the time it would take to go through each folder, compare file names and see which ones to delete.

Fortunately, there are some free tools out there for you to use. One of them is called Fast Duplicate File Finder. The nice thing about this file is that it has an awesome preview function, so you can double-check that the picture of your kid’s first steps you are deleting actually had duplicate file names and you are not deleting the only copy.

Finally, go through your installed programs and see what things you use and which you do not. Get rid of programs you never use because they take up hard drive space. Consider using the freeware PC Decrapifier that I have mentioned in previous articles. Also, while in the Control Panel, head over to Windows Updates and make sure your machine is fully patched with the latest updates from Microsoft.

Spring cleaning your PC is something that will help breathe some new life into your system, and may get rid of some problems you have been experiencing. There are some other things you can do to clean up and clean out your machine. Should you have any questions on this, please contact me.

HUNTER BONNER, an information technologist, can be reached via his blog at and on Twitter at @HunterBonner.