This series is for moms, dads, grandmas, and grandpas, and anyone else in the family tree who has ever asked their geek relative to “fix” their computer during a holiday visit. It’s for the neophyte or casual computer user who doesn’t want to sit around troubleshooting problems and trying out solutions.
This is for when your computer seems to take forever to boot, or when it hangs, freezes, and otherwise exhibits frustrating behavior. More than anything, it’s just for when your computer seems to have lost its pep.
What this series isn’t is a hardcore advanced guide to Windows tweaking and tuning. There will no mention of the Windows Registry, services, or overclocking. So, if you don’t know what any of those things are, don’t worry, we’re not going to cover them.
What we are going to cover are the most basic techniques and tools to help even the most hapless of technophobes and self-described computer illiterates. We know there’s a million-and-one guides already out there but How-To Geek School wants to be different by teaching, rather than telling, you what to do. We don’t want to overwhelm you with every single possible solution, because in the end, you just need a regular routine and a few simple steps to follow.
Therefore, we take you through only the things you need to know to practice good computer husbandry!
Don’t Spend Money!
We’re sure you’ve seen those ads on TV and across the Internet telling you that they can speed up your computer for as little as $39.95!
Before you think that your computer is running too slow and you reach for your credit card – DON’T! Just stop right there, and put your plastic away. Yes, PCs do slow down but there’s no reason to pay to get them running faster. There’s a bunch of stuff you can do to bring your PC back up to fighting shape and it won’t cost you a penny – utilities, free applications, and good old common sense.
Use the Tools that Windows Gives You
The fact is, aside from depriving you of your hard-earned money, these programs don’t do anything you can’t already do yourself for free. Windows comes with an array of tools baked in that can assist you with a bevy of PC maintenance tasks.
For everything else, there are free utilities you can download. Some of these tools include:
“Disk Cleanup” has been around in one form or another since Windows 9x because it’s one of the easiest and fastest ways to clean up your hard disks without installing third-party software.
We’ll talk more about disk cleanup in general in Lesson 2. If you’re looking for even more ways to free up disk space, see our article “7 Ways to Free up Hard Disk Space on Windows.”
When it comes to keeping your system running well, hard drive optimization is important. Windows includes a great tool to keep your drives in tip-top condition.
We’ll talk a great deal more about the drive optimizer in Lesson 2.
The “Task Manager” has always been the geek’s go-to tool for diagnosing and alleviating system slowdowns. Windows 8.x continues this tradition with an attractive “Task Manager” makeover and improved diagnostic tools.
We go into more detail about the “Task Manager” in Lesson 3. In the meantime, here’s a great little article you can read about the “Task Manager” in Windows 8.x.
Backup your data! Backup your data! Backup your data!
We hear this so often that it seems to have lost most of its meaning. Luckily, Windows 8.x includes simple tools such as “File History” and “System Image” so you can protect yourself from catastrophic data loss!
We’ll talk more about “File History” and other backup tools in Lesson 5. If you’d like to know more about “File History” in the meantime, you can read about it here.
Take advantage of Free Software
For every 10 crappy pay programs out there, you can usually find one really good free program. We introduce you to a couple of high quality free programs in this series.
The cleanup tools that come with Windows work well, don’t get us wrong, but if you’re really pressed for space, then sometimes you need to dig a little deeper. CCleaner is a free program that you can download and install, which will root out all those space hogs and safely delete them.
We’ll talk a bit more about CCleaner in Lesson 2 or if you’d like to learn more about it now, you can read up on it here!
Free Cloud Storage
There’s a ton of cloud storage options out there, many of which give you free space for signing up.
Often, such as in the case of Google Drive (15 GB) and Microsoft OneDrive (7 GB), this free space is enough to back up your important documents and photos. And if not, you can always buy more. We discuss cloud services in great detail in Lesson 5.
This series’ target areas
So, knowing that these tools are freely available, we tell you how to use them to maximum effect and define four areas or keys to keeping your PC running smoothly. We will also cover all of the other built-in tools that we haven’t specifically mentioned here.
Lesson 2 – Computer cleanup
First, you want to clean up your PC by removing unwanted or unused applications, and pruning your computer’s startup routine.
Modern computers are magnets for crap. We’re not even talking about all the crap intended to cause harm, we also mean the droves of files and applications that we install over time or that get installed in addition to other applications.