17 tips to thoroughly clean your Windows PC

In the beginning, a new PC still runs smoothly, but as the years go by and you have installed more programs, a computer can become a bit slow. In this article, we'll cover 17 tips that will make cleaning your PC a breeze.

Does Windows feel slow, do you have no overview in your files or does it take a long time for your computer to start up? Then it is high time for a thorough cleaning! You don't necessarily have to follow all the tips in this article to optimize your computer. Do the things that have annoyed you for a while. Some optimizations and cleanups can take a lot of time the first time, but can be done faster or even more routine in the future so that you always keep your system in top condition.

Before you clean up, it is also wise to make a backup of your important files. If something goes wrong during the big cleaning, then you won't lose it in any case.

Tip 01: Free or pay?

If you want a faster computer, you can buy all kinds of commercial programs for this. To get straight to the point: this is not necessary. With tools that come standard with Windows and a few free utilities, you can quickly rid your computer of unnecessary clutter and improve its performance. Some commercial solutions are even harmful. The rule 'if it doesn't help, it doesn't hurt' certainly does not apply to cleaning programs and optimization tools. All programs in this article are safe to use, as long as you don't ignore your common sense and do not perform cleaning actions or optimizations of which you do not know the effect.

Tip 02: What not to do

All the tips in this article are safe to do. We have deliberately left out a few tasks that you might expect in a cleaning article. For example, cleaning and optimization programs for the Windows Registry can cause serious damage and prevent your computer from starting.

Defragmenting a storage medium may have been useful in some situations during Windows XP, but now it does not provide a significant speed improvement. For people with an SSD, defragmenting is even not recommended because it can cause extra wear and errors.

Dive deeper into Windows 10 and take control of the operating system with our Tech Academy. Check the Windows 10 Management online course or go for the Windows 10 Management bundle including technique and practice book.

clean windows

Tip 03: Download CCleaner

If you want to keep your computer in good shape, one basic program has always been essential: CCleaner. We could name all kinds of other (often less good) programs, but that is of no use to you. CCleaner is still the best program to quickly clean your system of unnecessary clutter. Download CCleaner here. We'll go over some of the program's expert settings below. If CCleaner does not start with the Dutch language, choose it at Settings / Language.

Tip 04: Analysis and cleaning

For the fastest cleaning action, launch CCleaner and click To clean. The program searches for temporary files from Windows and your browser(s) and cleans them. Afterwards you can see how much disk space was freed up. Usually you get many GBs back in one go, for example because all kinds of temporary files are deleted and your overflowing recycle bin is emptied.

First click Analyze if you want to see how much is being released first. This costs one extra mouse click, but gives beginners the opportunity to check the parts that are being cleaned in advance.

Beware of System Locations

An extra warning applies to manually cleaning up files: never delete files or folders that you don't know what it's for. For example, with a utility like TreeSize you will encounter large folders in system locations like C:\Windows. Leave these and other system folders alone, as long as you're 100% sure what you're doing. Experimenting with system files usually results in severe Windows crash with data loss.

Clean up browser

Tip 05: Empty cache

Your browser stores a lot of information while surfing the internet. Some cookies are very annoying if they are used for 're-marketing'. These ensure that you are haunted by the same advertisements for a long time. Use the key combination in your browser Ctrl+Shift+Del and sweep through stored information. The key combination works in all major browsers, except Safari (which uses the key combination Ctrl+Alt+E). On this website you will find information about clearing cache files.

You can easily automate the cleaning action of your browser cache and other temporary files with CCleaner. Launch CCleaner, go to Options / Settings and put a check next to Automatically clean computer during startup. An additional advantage of this setting is that the cleanings are done quickly because they are performed regularly.

Tip 06: Remove toolbars

Browser extensions can be useful if you choose them yourself, but sometimes they get installed just like that (without your knowledge and permission) and can even be a nuisance. Think of a custom search engine toolbar or extra toolbar of some program. Some extensions even unintentionally monitor your surfing behavior. You can remove the extensions and toolbars via your browser, but this is difficult because the settings are often too deeply hidden.

IObit Uninstaller has a handy option on board to easily remove the extensions. The options can be found in the tab Toolbars and Plugins. Note: some extensions are necessary for your browser to function correctly. Think of Java, your security program or an internet banking verification program. Don't remove parts you don't know.

Tip 07: Auslogics Browser Care

IObit Uninstaller only supports the extensions of Internet Explorer and Firefox. The ability to manage the browser extras seems to be a side function of this program. Auslogics Browser Care specializes in this! The program supports Internet Explorer, Chrome and Firefox. Please close your browser before using Auslogics Browser Care. Check per browser which extensions are installed. Click the trash can icon to remove the extension. If this is not possible, place a checkmark and disable the extension with the button Disable selected.

Tip 08: Additional software?

The programs discussed in this article have been extensively tested and are safe to use. Unfortunately, as we see more and more often, programs are bundled with extras that you don't need. Unfortunately, this also applies to the software in this article. If you don't pay attention, for example, you accidentally install a trial version of a commercial package from software makers. The unnecessary extras can easily be avoided by always being alert during the installation.

Take a good look at which components have a check mark and are therefore installed or changed. Uncheck the boxes you don't agree with. Are you asked to accept something with the button Accept or Agree? Read carefully what you accept and refuse (via the button Decline) if you don't agree.

Cleaning up personal files

When cleaning up temporary and unnecessary files from programs and uninstalling software and apps you no longer use, the risk is limited. This is not the case with your own files, such as documents, photos, music and movies. We discuss some clever tricks to get through this or at least create order in overcrowded folders.

Tip 09: Download TreeSize Free

We'll start by locating large files. For example, you once experimented with a video editing program to create a DVD. You may have saved many GBs of project files without noticing. The exact location is unknown, where do you start looking? With the programs SpaceSniffer, WinDirStat and TreeSize Free you quickly get insight into the space that your files take up.

TreeSize Free is our favorite because the overview is slightly better. Have a folder or disk examined. The folders are automatically sorted by size. TreeSize Free will not clean your files, you can do this yourself via Windows Explorer.

Tip 10: Disk Cleanup

Windows has a standard utility on board to clean up unnecessary files. The part is called Disk Cleanup and you can find it in Windows 10 via the search function. In previous Windows versions, look at Start / All Programs / Accessories / System Tools. The cleaning options are less extensive than specialized programs, but on the other hand you don't have to install anything.

You can indicate per part what you want to have cleaned up. Windows will then show you how much disk space you get back with the setting. Of Clean up system files in Windows 10, you can sweep through old restore points and remove leftovers from Windows Update. Similar options can be found in Windows 7 behind the tab More options.

Tip 11: Archive folder

Sorting out personal files and folders, for example in your Documents folder or on your desktop, is a time-consuming task. You have probably collected many tens if not hundreds of folders. If you can throw something away, throw it away. However, only do this if you are 100% sure you can miss it! At the slightest doubt, we have a great tip. Create an archive folder called C:\Archive. Here you dump everything you come across, don't want to delete but also don't need (often) anymore.

Don't think about a neat folder structure within C:\Archive. Have you lost something? With the Windows search function or a program like Everything you have quickly found what you are looking for. Thanks to the archive folder, you will not lose anything and you will still quickly get an overview in your personal folders.

Tip 12: Clean up download folder

Your browser's download folder collects everything you've ever downloaded. As a result, this folder can contain a very large amount of files. For example, the files come from email attachments (webmail) or programs you've ever installed. The folder is called Downloads and can be opened quickly. Use the key combination Windows Key+R and enter %USERPROFILE% followed by Enter. Now open the Downloads folder.

If you've never looked here, the chaos is probably complete. You can select everything at once with the key combination Ctrl+A. Delete all files and folders with the Del key. When in doubt, move all files to the archive folder from the previous tip and your download folder will be empty again.

Tip 13: Run Windows Updates

A clean PC or laptop is of little use if the system is not secure. Take the opportunity of your cleanup to make sure that all Windows Updates are installed and that your security software is still up to date. You can view the latter via Control Panel / System and Security / Action Center or of course through the security software itself. Windows Update can be checked manually via Control Panel / System and Security / Windows Update. Get all updates, restart your computer and check again until all updates are installed.

Other tasks

Tip 14: Automatic start

When we think of a Windows cleanup, we often think of files and disk space, but auto-starting programs are also worth checking out. Some programs that start automatically are necessary, such as your security software and cloud services like Dropbox and Google Drive. You can usually safely deactivate other programs.

Windows 10 users have access to the key combination Windows key+Shift+Esc. Check the Startup tab and disable what you don't need with the right mouse button. Don't disable programs that you don't know what it's for. Need more options? Then try the tool Autoruns, which also works on older versions of Windows.

Tip 15: Updates

More and more programs update themselves automatically via the Internet. This way you always have the most recent version at your disposal, but you also benefit from resolved security vulnerabilities. You can also have your programs examined by an automatic updater, such as Secunia PSI or FileHippo App Manager. These software helpers check your system for outdated program versions and quickly download the updates.

Tip 16: Snapshot

You can complete the cleaning of your PC or laptop perfectly by taking the time to make a good backup. Is there something wrong with your system from now on? Then you can go back to this clean, tidy computer. All you need is an external storage medium, such as a USB hard drive, and a free program like Paragon Backup & Recovery Community Edition or EaseUS Todo Backup Free.

Tip 17: Duplicate files

We have deliberately left out the search and cleaning of duplicate files from this article. We have not yet come across a program that allows you to do this without risk. If you don't pay attention and accidentally make a wrong decision, you can just lose data. This is especially annoying with photo files. If you still want to get started with this, you can try CloneSpy or Duplicate Cleaner, but caution is advised.

New PC?

If you have bought a new PC, it is important to get off to a flying start. That is why we have also collected some tips that prevent your PC from becoming very slow. For example, by removing some programs that you don't actually need when you install Windows 10. Read more about this in this article.

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