NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, March 2012
Your Computer's Health – What Junk Files? - Part 3
By Bob Woods, Webmaster, UCHUG (Under the Computer Hood User Group), CA March 2011 issue, UCHUG Drive Light
webmasters (at) uchug.org (click to email author)

The UCHUG Drive Light is presenting a series of articles on the general topic of Your Computer's Health. I have a Compaq laptop that is around 7 months old that I use for reading e-mail, surfing the web, publishing the changes to the UCHUG web site and occasionally playing games. Since I have any important files backed up on external devices I have not been too concerned with making a full backup image of the hard drive on this PC. I also have not run any cleanup utilities. After all, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? But, after having the PC for 7 months I thought it might be time to take on these tasks. In the January 2011 edition of Drive Light, Art Gresham started a series of articles on PC maintenance. Part 1 of the series was tips for basic hard drive and OS data cleaning. I figured that there is no better time to do a cleanup than before imaging the hard drive.

Following Art’s advice I first loaded CCleaner. I am a volunteer in the IT department at the USS Midway Museum; we use CCleaner to start data cleanup on the computers in use by the staff so I am familiar with its use. When run, CCleaner gives you a nice interface with a number of options for cleaning temporary files left behind by Internet browsers (IE, Firefox, etc.), Windows Explorer, Windows itself and other applications that use temp files. To check on what it finds you can click on “Analyze” vice “Run Cleaner.” That way you have a chance to determine what the application will be doing. I expected it to list a number of IE and Firefox temp files, but was surprised at how many system and application temp files it found. In all over 350 MB would be cleaned off the drive. After running the cleaning function I clicked to scan the registry for problems. During this scan CCleaner looks for unused items, missing shared DLL’s and application paths, obsolete software references, leftover installation references, fragments and a few other items. CCleaner lists all that it finds for you to review.

Again, given that the PC was only 7 months old I was surprised by the number of leftovers from updates and software removals. Cleaning these items will result in a cleaner registry which will speed bootup and shutdown times and increase system stability. When you click to “Fix selected issues.” you will be given the option to save the registry prior to the cleanup or cancel the operation. It took about 10 minutes to do the all of the cleanup.

The next application to install and run is Advanced System Care. This application will allow you to further clean up the registry, remove Spyware, clean up more junk files and past browser history. You may ask why do this as CCleaner did some of the same functions? Each of the applications will take a slightly different approach to scanning your system and find different items the other did not find. Sure enough, there were a few more registry issues and temp files missed by CCleaner. Advanced System Care also has a system diagnosis section not in CCleaner that will analyze and fix system performance, system configuration and security problems. Another few issues were cleaned up. Advanced System Care also took about 10 minutes for the cleanup. I could have also used it for disk defragment, but wanted to use a separate defrag program so loaded IOBit Smart Defrag.

Smart Defrag is another application that has a nice clean interface that is easy to use and understand. When ran it I found fragmentation after 7 months was less than 1 % (only .71%). Back in the earlier versions of Windows I would have expected at least 10-15% fragmentation. It seems that the OS may be getting better at not fragmenting files. Still, any fragmentation will use extra space and take extra time for the hard drive heads to move to pick up bits and pieces. So even at less than 1% fragmentation I was willing to take the time to perform the defragmentation. Total time was about 15 minutes to defrag the 50 GB of data stored on a 220 GB drive.

At the end of the whole process I saved hard drive space, cleaned up the registry, and eased the burden on the hard drive. So, did I see a performance improvement? Without running a benchmark it would be hard to tell, but the system does seem a bit quicker. But the overall benefits to the health of the system should result in better performance and longer hard drive life. As for the backup, it went smoothly and is much cleaner as I did not back up un-necessary temp files and junk in the registry.

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