Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Reformatting a computer is still the best way to get it back to like-new condition, but there are a few useful habits and software choices that can help keep a system clean.
Ever since I got my first computer, I've always been a proponent of erasing the computer, bringing it back to factory settings, and reinstalling programs every year to get it running like new. Now that I'm no longer a geeky teen with nothing better to do on a Sunday afternoon, I want to find a way to get my Windows Vista machine running smoothly without sacrificing hours of my day. Are there any good techniques/programs to help with that other than CCleaner?
In this excerpt from Answercast #9, I explore the various things that can cause a computer to have problems, ways to run a clean machine, and how often you might want to reformat.
So, my philosophy (still) is that for most people, one of the best things you can do for your computer, to clean up your computer, is every so often (and I'll define so "often" in a minute) back up, reformat, reinstall.
In other words, exactly what you described: bring it back to factory settings and reinstall all your programs every year.
There's often no substitute for that. There's nothing that gets it as clean as that kind of reinstallation.
Now, I want to define "every so often."
The problem is: how often you need to do this really depends on how you use your computer.
In my case, I do it every year or two. It's usually just that things are slow. Maybe I'm experiencing a crash that's just gotten too annoying, that I can't track down.
I'll just say, "OK. Fine, I'll set aside the afternoon and I'll rebuild my machine."
I do that maybe every two years on my more active machines. That's because I'm someone who tends to download software, try things out, uninstall things. I use my computer for a tremendous number of different things.
Now, if you are someone who knows to play safe (you're not downloading lots of things off the internet, you've got good, basic security and maintenance techniques, you're backing up regularly, etc), then CCleaner is a great tool to be running periodically. You may get away with never reformatting simply because it will be time for a new machine before you really end up needing to do something like that.
So, it really, it depends on how you use your computer. If all you do is read email and surf the web, you never download any programs, that kind of stuff, you could go for a really, really long and never have to do this.
Are there additional tools besides CCleaner that you should be running periodically?
CCleaner is actually a very good one.
I've become more enamored with it the more time I've spent with it in recent years. It's a good tool if you know how to drive it. It will clean up a lot of stuff.
I don't typically recommend running registry cleaners unless you're actually facing a problem; unless you're trying to actively resolve some kind of an issue that your machine is experiencing.
But by and large, the most important thing you can do to keep your computer running well is just not to abuse it. Keep yourself safe. Don't download lots of stuff just because you want to try it off the internet. Stay away from malicious websites. Those kinds of things.