Cleaning up Windows 10: this is how you keep Windows fast and clear

Is your PC starting to slow down? Then it may be that you have not properly maintained your computer and that you have let it fill up with programs that you no longer use. Time for a major clean-up. This is how you clean up Windows 10.

Tip 01: Physically clean up

In this article we focus entirely on cleaning up your computer using software, in other words: Windows. However, we cannot write this article without also paying attention to the hardware of your PC. You can keep Windows completely tidy, but if the inside of your PC is a dust nest, it also has consequences for the performance of your PC. For example, the cooling can become clogged, causing components to overheat and even melt. It doesn't even take that much to make your graphics card die. These kinds of things can easily be prevented by opening the cupboard once in a while (for example twice a year) and removing some dust. If that's too much work for you, you can also just hold the vacuum cleaner against the fan at the back of your PC to remove dust. That doesn't do much for the dust in your PC itself, but at least the fan can run properly. Keep in mind that a graphics card can also have a cooling that can become clogged with dust.

Tip 02: Desktop folders

We have all seen the horror pictures on the internet of people who have thousands of icons on their desktop. You probably didn't get to those kinds of scenes, but there's a good chance that there are quite a few icons on your desktop. Interesting fact in this regard is that iPad and iPhone users have long complained about the lack of the ability to drag icons into folders. That functionality has been around for several years now. But the possibility to create folders on the desktop of the PC is hardly used. A shame, because it's childishly simple. Right click on it desktop, click on New and then folder. Give the appropriate folder a name and press Enter. You can now simply drag the icons of programs and files into the folder and structure it that way. The nice thing about this is that, once you've done this, an icon added by a new program suddenly becomes very noticeable, making you more inclined to drag it into a folder. This way, keeping the Desktop tidy from now on is almost automatic.

Want more tips for a tidy desktop? Then read the article How to clean and keep your desktop.

Smart wallpapers help you segment your desktop conveniently

Tip 03: Smart wallpapers

Some solutions are as simple as they are brilliant. Your desktop background is one whole; it is not possible to create special planes for certain apps. You can, however, pretend, with segmented desktop wallpapers. These wallpapers have different areas with a text frame. When you use such a desktop background, the desktop is suddenly divided into all kinds of segments. Those segments are only visual, of course, but it doesn't matter because as long as you place your desktop icons neatly within these segments, this visual framing works great. You can of course make these desktop backgrounds yourself in a photo editing program, but of course there are always people who have already done this work for you. An interesting collection of smart wallpapers can be found at Moritzfinedesigns.com. The nice thing about this site is that the backgrounds have segments with space for headers (such as productivity, games, and so on), but those texts themselves are not yet filled in. So you can do that yourself in a photo editing program, just as convenient for you.

Tip 04: Start menu

There was a time when we didn't have much influence over the appearance of the Start menu. That is different in Windows 10, but we all use it far too little. Click on the menu Start, and take a good look at it. You will see that there are all kinds of parts that you do not use, while parts that you do use are nowhere to be seen. And that while it is so easy to adjust that menu. You can adjust the titles of the segments by clicking the icon with the two dashes next to the title. You can remove a tile that you are not using by right-clicking on the relevant tile and clicking Unpin from Start. You can add a program by searching for the program in the Start menu, right-clicking on the icon found and choosing Pin to Start. You can then simply drag the icon to the desired segment. If you drag the icon onto another icon, a folder will be created. By right-clicking on a tile and choosing Resize you can make the tile more prominent.

Uninstall programs

Of course you immediately remove a program that you no longer use, right? New? Understandably, we don't either. However, it's definitely worth checking the list of installed programs every now and then to see if there's anything you can remove (the answer is almost always yes). The reason for this is simple: programs you don't use are unnecessary ballast. And remember, if you ever need the program again, you can install it right away.

You can remove programs by going to the settings of your PC and click on apps. below Apps & Featuresfind the apps you can uninstall. You can then sort the apps by installation date. Then scroll all the way down and you'll find the apps you installed the longest ago. Do you still use them all or can a few be removed? If you want to completely remove apps without leaving any traces on your PC, you can use Revo Uninstaller.

Tip 05: Quick access

The taskbar in Windows 10 is also a part that you can fully customize to your own taste. When you right-click on the taskbar, you will immediately see all kinds of options that you can disable. This makes the taskbar quieter. When you click Taskbar Settings you have much more control over the appearance and behavior of the taskbar. What we are mainly interested in for this article, however, is the ability to Quick access to add to the taskbar. Search for File Explorer in the Start menu, right click on the icon and choose Pin to taskbar. Now when you right-click on the Windows Explorer icon, a menu will appear containing all the folders pinned to the menu Quick access. This saves you a lot of searching and ensures that you can work a lot more efficiently.

Virtual desktops provide peace of mind and overview on your PC

Tip 06: Virtual desktop

Finally, one last visual aid to make Windows a little clearer and more organized for you. Since the release of Windows 10, we finally have the option to use virtual desktops in Windows (Mac and Linux had that option for much longer). This feature is super handy if you do a lot of different things. For example, if you want to have Facebook open but do not want to be distracted when you are doing other things, this function comes in handy. You can create different desktops for this, where you determine which window will be placed in which desktop. So you can have a desktop with all kinds of productivity apps open, a desktop with things you do on your break, and so on. You create a desktop by clicking the icon in the taskbar that most resembles a plaster (Task view, right next to the button Start). At the bottom you see a desktop, and on the right side a plus sign. Click to add more desktops. You can now simply drag the open windows to the desired desktop.

Tip 07: External Storage

We've given you tips on keeping Windows clear and organized, but of course that won't make your computer any faster. So here are some tips that will help you improve your computer's performance. The first, and in our opinion a very important tip, is to use external storage. By saving files to an external hard drive, the load on the system disk is relieved and that improves performance (although this is especially true for the traditional hard drive and less so for SSD). Windows will always have enough space to do what it needs to do, while allowing you to access the files on your external drive as easily as if they had been on the system drive. External storage also offers another great advantage: your data becomes portable. You can easily connect the drive to another PC and should your PC crash, your files are not locked in a system that you can no longer access. Of course, it doesn't necessarily have to be an external drive: storing on a NAS (a network drive) also works great, but is more expensive and requires more management.

Tip 08: De-doubling

You may be dealing with a full and slow hard drive, but you really have no idea how and where you can gain space. Chances are that you have quite a few duplicate files on your hard drive, and that is of course a waste of space. Unfortunately, Windows does not have a good built-in method for detecting duplicate files, but fortunately there are useful programs for this. A program that we have liked to use for years is Fast Duplicate File Finder. Once you have installed this free program, drag the folder you want to scan for duplicates (could also be just C:) onto the panel leaflets. Then choose at Method whether you are looking for identical files (i.e. name and content) or, for example, files that are identical, but whose names differ slightly (which will take longer). After the scan, you can immediately see what has been found and how much space those files take up. You can then easily remove the duplicates.

Windows knows it's messy, so it has built-in Disk Cleanup

Tip 09: Disk Cleanup

The first step to solving a problem is realizing that you have a problem. Microsoft knows that too, and the company is well aware that Windows itself can sometimes make quite a mess of it. For that reason, Windows now comes with a program that is specifically intended to clean up your hard drive. You can find this program by Disk Cleanup typing in the Start menu, and clicking on the icon found. A small window will now appear in which it immediately becomes clear what else can be cleaned up within Windows. When you have just done this, this will probably be a few MBs, but if you run this program for the first time or after a long time, you will see that with one mouse click you can save up to tens of gigabytes of space. Check the items you would like to remove and then click OK. You don't have to worry about throwing away parts that are essential for the functioning of Windows: those parts are not shown in this window.

Tip 10: Defragment

“You need to defragment your hard drive”: It used to be the magic phrase of the PC connoisseur to help people with a PC that suddenly became slower and slower. Nowadays, we don't really need to do that anymore, not (only) because the technology has improved so much, but also because Windows 10 automatically runs a weekly defragmentation session. However, if you still want to defragment your disk yourself, you can do this by right-clicking on it in Explorer C: drive and then clicking Characteristics. In the window that appears, click Additional and then Optimize. You will then see an overview of when a defragmentation and optimization session was last performed and by clicking on the button Optimize you can start such a session yourself immediately. Don't expect miracles, but it can make a difference. If your system has an SSD drive, defrag is not recommended. Windows will not do this on its own. It is better not to start a defragmentation manually.

If we have to optimize, nothing is better than just going through with the broom

Tip 11: CCleaner

CCleaner calls itself the most popular cleaning software in the world, and while we think that's quite a statement, we do know that we have been using this software ourselves for years. When you have downloaded and started the program, you will immediately enter an extensive interface. The Cleaner component looks for files in Windows that can be deleted (eg temporary files and cookies). Register looks for errors and duplications in the Registry. The Windows Registry is the heart of Windows, errors in it can cause many problems. Finally, under the heading Tools all sorts of useful extra tools to clean up your system, such as disk analysis, an overview of browser plug-ins, and a tool to detect duplicate files (albeit not as comprehensive as the program we discussed above). The basic version of CCleaner is free and allows you to do the most important things. If you really want to turn your system inside out, you have to take the Professional version for 24.95 euros, but so far we have not really felt that need with CCleaner.

Tip 12: Automatic start

Elsewhere in this article, you can read a tip about removing programs you no longer use. Sometimes programs start automatically when you start Windows, affecting the performance of the operating system. You don't have to completely remove such programs right away, you can also just make sure that they no longer start automatically when Windows starts. You do this by typing Task Manager in the Start menu and then clicking task management. In the window that appears, click Startup. You now see an overview of all programs that start automatically when Windows starts and there are probably a lot more than you thought. Click on the programs you want to prevent from starting automatically and then Switch off. The program will simply remain on your computer, but now only start if you want it to. By the way, pay attention to what you disable, there are probably also programs that are useful (when you disable Dropbox, you also disable synchronization, for example).

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