NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, September 2006
Useful FREE Programs to Clean Your Files and Email
By Ira Wilsker,
APCUG Director; Columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont, TX; Radio & TV Show Host

(click to email author)


Many of us seem to always be installing software, copying files, surfing the web, reading email, and performing countless other tasks on our computers. Often unbeknown to us, a variety of clutter which may eventually degrade our system performance, tends to accumulate on our hard drives. We visit many websites over time, and bookmark pages that we like, such that we may return to them at a later date. We enjoy or email, typically reading many per day, and sometimes forwarding those we find especially interesting. Many of the common computing activities that we enjoy so much may also result in some unwanted or unnecessary data that would be beneficial to remove or delete. Fortunately, there are many excellent but free programs available to help us.

One of my favorite free programs that I use on an almost daily basis is CCleaner, available for free download from http://www.ccleaner.com. This freeware utility frees up hard drive space by deleting obsolete files, and may also be used to help protect our privacy by cleaning up our internet history. The program is very fast and comprehensive, providing cleaning services for many other programs. The program is also very flexible in that the user can easily select what services are desired on the CCleaner menu, and see what is scheduled for deletion prior to removal.

Browsers, such as Internet Explorer and Firefox, are notorious for the amount of clutter that they place on our hard drives, often totaling many megabytes. CCleaner functions well with Internet Explorer, selectively cleaning temporary files, history files, cookies, auto-complete forms, and index.dat files. Similar services are offered for Firefox users, with the inclusion of the ability to clean the download history.

The Windows operating system itself, ranging from Windows 95 to XP, is infamous for cluttering hard drives with often large, but eventually useless garbage files that should periodically be deleted. These files that quickly become obsolete and are removed by CCleaner include the contents of the Recycle Bin, recent documents lists, temporary files, and log files.

Many commonly used programs write temporary files which quickly become worthless, but still occupy valuable space on our hard drives. Lists of recently opened files, referred to as "MRU's" by Windows can also take up space, and eventually degrade performance. CCleaner will selectively remove these files created by Opera, Windows Media Player, eMule, KazAa, Google Toolbar, Netscape, MS Office, Nero, Adobe Acrobat, WinRAR, WinAce, WinZip and many others.

A recent update to CCleaner has also added a registry cleaner intended to remove clutter form the registry, a file necessary for the proper operation of Windows. The registry is where Windows stores information on all of its settings and installed programs, and may be a major contributor to poor performance and system errors. By cleaning the registry, system performance may be significantly improved. CCleaner has the capability to remove unused and old entries, including File Extensions, ActiveX Controls, ClassIDs, ProgIDs, Uninstallers, Shared DLLs, Fonts, Help Files, Application Paths, Icons, Invalid Shortcuts and other registry components. For safety reasons, CCleaner also comes with a registry backup feature in case the user accidentally deletes something later found to be important.

While CCleaner is freeware, there is a link on its webpage for users to make a voluntary contribution to the author via PayPal. Since I am a frequent user, I have made small but periodic contributions, a process that I recommend as much as I recommend this software. Since CCleaner periodically posts new versions with increased features, I also recommend that its website be occasionally referenced for new releases.

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Web surfing is among the most popular internet activities, and we tend to save a lot of "favorites" or bookmarks such that we can easily go back to those websites that we liked. It is very easy to accumulate hundreds of such bookmarks, but unfortunately many websites are taken down or otherwise no longer available at a later date, leaving useless entries cluttering our bookmark lists. Fortunately for us there is a free program available, AM-DeadLink, which detects dead links and duplicates, and provides the opportunity to review the broken links before deletion. AM-DeadLink is available for free download from aignes.com/deadlink.htm. AM-DeadLink works with Internet Explorer, Opera, Mozilla and Firefox. I periodically run AM-DeadLink to clean my favorites and bookmarks, making the remaining entries faster and easier to search.

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I receive a lot of email every day. Most is deleted after being read, unless some content deserves to be saved. Occasionally, there is a funny joke, interesting web link, or other email that I want to share with others. Some of these emails have been forwarded to me by others, and contain a lot of ">" (greater-than) symbols which destroy any formatting of lines, and make the email otherwise difficult to read. Luckily, there is a free utility that can strip these symbols from an email, making it readable again. This utility is "emailStripper" a program for cleaning the ">" and other formatting characters out of forwarded emails. It will restore emails back to their original state so they are easier to read. Available for free download from http://www.papercut.biz/emailStripper.htm, this program cleans emails in a few easy steps. First, the source email is "painted", cutting the content of the email, and pasting it into the small emailStripper window. One mouse click strips the symbols from the email, restoring its original format, which is then copied and pasted back to the email program, the email now free of those obnoxious and distracting symbols, and ready to forward.

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These are but a few of the many free utilities that are available to improve the quality of our computing. I suggest that you download and try them. You really have nothing to lose.

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