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Are Online Hitchhikers Taking Your Computer for a Ride?

By Carl Weiss
Courtesy of Flickr

Nobody likes freeloaders, particularly on their computers.  The problem is every time you upload a free game or trial program you can also upload other applets and toolbars that you don’t necessarily want.  Not only do these unwanted hitchhikers take up valuable space on your computer, but they can also cause conflicts with other programs, slowing down or even causing your system to crash.  Below are a number of ways to clean up and speed up your system.

The Brute Force Approach

Brute Force (video game)
Brute Force (video game) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
From time to time it is necessary to take an inventory of the software on your system in order to decide how to lighten the load.  On Windows 7 this means either hitting All Programs on the Start Menu or the Programs and Features option on Control Panel.  Take a few moments to scan the list of programs for unused or unwanted programs to uninstall.  Don’t make the beginners mistake of merely erasing the icon from the desktop, as this will delete the shortcut only.  When uninstalling you may receive a message stating that uninstalling the package may remove a file shared by another program.  Always keep these files just to be on the safe side.  They don’t take up much space anyway.

Another way to free up some needed hard drive space is to click on My Computer and run down the list of programs, mousing over files to determine file size.  If you have any video editing packages on your machine, they may create render files that can eat up large chunks of space.  Once you are finished posting the videos, you should eliminate these files. Some video packages also create other media files when importing video that can gobble up enormous amounts of space.  Find and eliminate them as well.

Downloads and Temp Files

Downloading is Prohibited!
Downloading is Prohibited! (Photo credit: Oliver Hine)
Another two items that eat up a ton of space are download and temp files.  These are created whenever you install a program from the internet or import an attachment from your email.  By clicking on the Start Menu and the Documents Tab you will find the Downloads tab.  Click on this to see all the junk that you have accumulated there.  Once you have installed any software package, you should remove the installer.  If you have finished reading an attachment or have moved it to another folder, why keep the ghost of emails past locked away in the download folder.  Give it the boot.  You would be surprised at how much space this will free up.

The Temp Tab under My computer is another place to dig for buried treasure.  You would be surprised at how many old video clips and long forgotten file folders are languishing in this techno-landfill.  Time to take out the trash.

Don’t want to take the time and trouble to do all of the above yourself?  No problem.  By clicking on My computer and right clicking on the C: drive, you can activate Disk Clean, which will automatically assess and purge unneeded files from your system.  Don’t be surprised if the number of junk files it identifies are in the thousands.  Terminate with extreme prejudice.

Automating the Process

Aproaching Automation
Approaching Automation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There are also packages available online that can automate the cleanup process.  One of them is Advance System Care, which is a package from IOBit that protects, repairs, cleans and optimizes your PC.  This free software not only frees up space and speeds up your system, but it also fixes your registry, scans and removes spyware, malware and adware.  Best of all, you don’t need to be an IT professional to use it.  Simply install and click on Scan Now and then Repair Now and ASC does the rest.  Since I started using it weekly, I have eliminated software conflicts and the appearance of the dreaded Blue Screen of Death.
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Whatever it Takes

If you are tired of putting up with a PC that is slow or that crashes regularly, it’s time to identify and evict unwanted hitchhikers.  Whether you purge your system manually or automate the process, it’s time to give freeloaders the boot.

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Since 1995, Carl Weiss has been helping clients succeed online.  He owns and operates several online marketing businesses, including Working the Web to Win and Jacksonville Video Production. He also co-hosts the weekly radio show, "Working the Web to Win," every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern on

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