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How to keep your Windows computer running smoothly

If you're a Windows computer owner, you know that keeping your device running smoothly can sometimes be a challenge. However, with the proper maintenance habits and knowledge, you can easily avoid common mistakes that slow down your computer and extend its lifespan. Here is how to keep your Windows computer running smoothly.

How to keep your Windows computer running smoothly

To help you achieve this, I've compiled a detailed guide with five (5) tips for maintaining your Windows-based computer like a pro. In this guide, you'll learn the importance of regular maintenance, how to avoid common mistakes, and how to develop simple maintenance habits that will keep your computer running smoothly for years.

So, whether you're a seasoned computer owner or a new user, this guide is essential for anyone looking to keep their Windows computer in top condition. Here are five (5) tips that can help you maintain your Windows computer like a pro.

1. Keep your computer clean and dust-free. Dust and debris can cause your computer to overheat and slow down. Dust can also conduct electricity, so removing it from your computer can extend its life.

How to clean the dust out of your computer

How to make your computer look and run like brand-new

2. Uninstall any programs or apps that you no longer use. This will free up space on your computer and improve its performance. There are two (2) types of programs/apps in Windows 11 and Windows 10. The first is the standard Desktop programs that most Windows users are used to. Then there are the Universal apps, UWP (Universal Windows Platform), to be exact.

And there are two (2) different places inside Windows 11 and Windows 10 to uninstall programs/apps, the Settings app and the Control Panel. With the Settings app, you can uninstall both Windows Desktop programs and Universal apps; the Control Panel can uninstall just Desktop programs.

How to uninstall a program or app using the Settings app

Windows 11

  1. Left-clicking on the Start button Windows logo to bring up the Start menu.
  2. In the list of pinned apps on the Start menu, left-click on Settings.
  3. In the left-hand column, left-click on Apps.
  4. In the right-hand column, left-click on Installed apps.
  5. A list of all the installed apps is displayed in the right-hand column. Find the app you want to uninstall and left-click on the three (3) horizontal dots (...) on the right and select Uninstall. If there is no uninstall option, that app is built into Windows and cannot be modified or removed.

Windows 10

  1. Left-click on the Start Windows logo menu and select Settings (the gear icon).
  2. Left-click on Apps.
  3. In the right-hand column, Apps and features will be displayed. Left-click on the app you want to uninstall and select Uninstall. If there is no uninstall option, that app is built into Windows and cannot be modified or removed.

How to uninstall a program using the Control Panel

Windows 11

  1. Left-click on the Start Windows logo key button to bring up the Start menu.
  2. In the upper right-hand corner of the Start menu, left-click on All apps.
  3. Scroll down the list of programs and left-click on Windows Tools.
  4. Double left-click on Control Panel.

Windows 10

  1. Left-click on the Start Windows logo button to bring up the Start menu.
  2. Scroll down the list of programs until you get to Windows System, and then left-click on it to expand it.
  3. Left-click on Control Panel.

By default, the Control Panel opens up in the category view but can be changed to large or small icons. A pull-down menu in the top-right corner labeled View by: allows you to change the view.

  • If viewing the Control Panel by Category, left-click on Uninstall a program under Programs.
  • If viewing by Large/Small Icons, left-click Programs and Features.

A list of all the desktop programs installed will appear. Left-click on the program you want to uninstall and select the Uninstall button at the top of the list of programs.

3. Keep your computer up-to-date with the latest operating system updates and security patches. This will ensure that your computer is protected from viruses and other security threats. Keep in mind that Microsoft releases updates for Windows on the second Tuesday of every month.

And if you use your computer for playing games, manufacturers of graphics cards will also release updates the day after Microsoft does, so you should also remember to update your video card drivers.

4. Use reliable anti-virus software and perform regular scans to detect and remove any malware or viruses. Independent testing labs like AV-Test are a great resource when researching an anti-virus program. And you can install anti-malware software along with anti-virus software. But remember that having more than one active scanner running on your computer will use extra resources.

But you should be alright if you set your anti-malware software to scan only when you start it manually. In fact, using a layered approach to secure your computer is a great way to protect your system.

How to use layered security to protect your computer

5. Avoid downloading and installing software from untrusted sources. This can put your computer at risk of malware infections. Always download software from reputable sources and read user reviews before installing. And make sure you scan or have your anti-virus program scan all files downloaded from the Internet before opening.

Regular maintenance is crucial for your Windows-based computer's longevity and optimal performance. By implementing these simple habits and tips, you can extend the life of your computer and avoid common issues that can slow it down.

How to make your computer look and run like brand-new

Updated June 21, 2023

For most people, there is nothing better than a brand-new computer. But of course, you cannot get a new computer every few months. But you can get that same feeling. Here is how to make your computer look and run like brand-new.

How to make your computer look and run like brand new

For most of us, getting a brand-new computer every year is not financially possible. It would be nice, but realistically it is out of the question. But with a little work, you can get that brand-new feeling from your existing computer.

Looking brand-new

Perception is everything. If it looks new to you, it will feel new to you. And with a little cleaning and maybe a couple of hardware changes, it can look brand-new.

The first place to start is with the keyboard. Most keyboards are black and will show dirt and grim like no tomorrow. You will be amazed at how a good cleaning will make it appear brand new.

A really dirty keyboard before cleaning
A filthy keyboard before cleaning

Now when cleaning your keyboard, you will need to turn off your computer. That way, you do not accidentally press the wrong keys. I have seen it happen, especially with laptops with FN keys.

Since most of us eat while we work, compressed air can help dislodge anything that may have gotten in between or under the keys. A good spray of compressed air should get rid of the massive debris.

When it comes to psychically cleaning the keyboard, remember that liquid and electronics do not mix. Never spray a cleaning solution directly on your keyboard. Always apply it to the cleaning material (cotton swab, paper towel, etc.) first.

Lightly dampen a cotton swab or paper towel with a cleaning solution and ring out any excess liquid before cleaning. It may take some time to clean all of the keys, but remember how long it took to get them dirty (months? years?).

That same dirty keyboard after being cleaned
That same dirty keyboard after being cleaned

Now, if the printing has faded or worn off, maybe it is time to go ahead and replace the keyboard. Desktop keyboards are easy to replace; laptop keyboards can be a little harder. For new laptop keyboards, I recommend LaptopKeyboard.com.

When it comes to your mouse, the body will get dirty, and the buttons get looking worn. The same cleaning technique used for your keyboard applies to your mouse.

If it is a wired mouse, turn off the computer. If it is wireless, turn it off. Clean both the top and bottom with a lightly dampened paper towel. Use a lightly damped cotton swab to clean the optical lens on the bottom.

The next thing you might want to clean is the monitor. As with the keyboard and mouse, you will want to turn it off, unplug it and let it cool down. Once it is cooled down, you can start to clean it.

Just like with your keyboard, you want to start cleaning your monitor with some compressed air. If your monitor is dusty, you may want to take it outside before clean it with compressed air.

Use the compressed air to clean out all of the ventilation holes in the case. Make sure you get as much of the grime out as you can, as dust does conduct electricity.

Now lightly dampen a paper towel with a cleaning solution and wipe the outside of the case. When you get done with that, it is time to clean the screen.

To clean the screen, I recommend using a soap-based, not ammonia-based, glass cleaner, and microfiber towels to protect the finish. Never directly apply the glass cleaner to the screen to prevent damage to it.

Lightly dampen a microfiber towel with glass cleaner and thoroughly wipe the screen. Now before it has a chance to dry, wipe the screen off with a dry micro-fiber towel to remove any streaks that may have appeared.

The last thing to clean is the outside of the computer case itself. Please make sure you turn it off and unplug the power cord (desktop computer) or ac adapter (laptop computer) before you start to clean it.

Lightly dampen a paper towel with a cleaning solution and wipe down the outside (front, sides, top, bottom, and back). If you have any old and faded stickers, this would be a great time to remove them.

To remove stickers, I recommend using an adhesive remover like Goof Off. Just make sure the area with the label is laying completely horizontal, so you can let the adhesive remover sit on it for a little while.

Once you have let the adhesive remover soak in, use a plastic razor blade or plastic putty knife to scrape the label off. If the sticker has been on there for a while, it may take a few passes to get it removed.

When all of the labels are gone, go ahead and clean it with a paper towel with a cleaning solution. You want to get any residue from the adhesive remover off.

The next thing we want to do is clean the inside of the computer with some compressed air. For this step, we will need to disconnect all cables attached to the computer and take it outside.

Now the procedure is about the same for desktop and laptop computers. For desktop computers, here is a detailed article we did a little while back on how to clean the dust out of your computer.

The same procedures in the article above apply to laptops as well. All you have to do for a laptop computer is to locate the air intake for the cooling fan(s). But instead of using a nonmetallic rod to hold the cooling fan(s), use a straightened-out paper clip.

Running like brand-new

Now that you have the outside and inside clean, maybe it is time to get the operating system and programs cleaned up. Using the Windows built-in Disk Cleanup tool is an excellent place to start.

Windows 7 Disk Cleanup

Windows 8.1 Disk Cleanup

Windows 10 Disk Cleanup

Windows 11 Disk Cleanup

Once you have used the Disk Cleanup program, you can now look at getting rid of some of the programs you no longer need. You will need to get to the Control Panel to do this. The quickest way to get to the Control Panel is by using the Run dialog box.

How to get to and use the Run dialog box in Windows

My favorite (and the fastest way) to bring up the Run dialog box is to press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + R keys simultaneously. When it appears, type control and then select OK.

When the Control Panel appears, select either Uninstall a program (category view) or Programs and Features (icon view). You can then start to uninstall the programs you no longer use.

Now, if you want your computer to have that brand-new feeling, you can reset Windows 8.1, Windows 10 and Windows 11. The procedure is similar for Windows 8.1, Windows 10 and Windows 11.

How to reset Windows 10

How to reset Windows 11

But if you want that brand-new feeling, a clean installation of Windows is the way to go. Follow the instructions in the following article to perform a clean installation of Windows 10 or Windows 11.

How to perform a clean Windows 10 installation

How to perform a clean Windows 11 installation

You can use the same procedures listed in the article above for Windows 8.1, but you will have to download the Windows 8.1 Disc Image.

Windows 8.1 Disc Image

What you can do with an ISO file

How to clean the dust out of your desktop computer

Living in the desert, we're no strangers to dust. It's a persistent issue that can clog up air vents, heat sinks, and cooling fans inside your computer. Moreover, dust is a conductor of electricity, making it a potential hazard. To stay ahead of these issues, it's crucial to clean the inside and outside of your computer at least every three (3) months, and even more frequently if you live in particularly dusty areas like Phoenix. I personally do it monthly, given that my primary system is in an open case (Antec Skeleton).

Let's start by turning off the computer and unplugging the power supply. Now, with the system de-energized, we can begin cleaning it. Since this can be messy, I recommend that you do this outdoors. This does mean disconnecting all attached devices/peripherals, but you won't be blowing the dust back into the surrounding area.

*** Note: When using compressed air, it's important to exercise caution. Always use a non-metallic utensil, like a wooden skewer, to hold any fan in place as you clean it. This prevents the fan motor from being damaged by spinning it too fast. As you clean your computer, be sure to check for cooling fans that spin freely with your finger. If you find a fan that is hard to spin, it may have failed and needs to be replaced. ***

First, let's open the case. If the front panel of your case can be safely removed, go ahead and remove it too. Using a can of compressed air or air compressor and a non-metallic utensil, let's start inside and work our way out.

Typical computer case with front and side panels removed
Typical case with front and side panels removed

Clean the CPU fan & heat sink fins
Clean the CPU fan and heat sink fins

Clean the vents and/or cooling fan on the power supply
Clean the vents and cooling fan on the power supply

If your system has a graphics card, clean the fan and/or heat sink
If your system has a graphics card, clean the fan and heat sink

Clean all heat sinks and open slots
Clean all heat sinks and open slots

Clean all case fans
Clean all case fans

Clean all openings in case and connection points
Clean all openings in the case and connection points

Once the dust has settled, reassemble the case, re-attach all devices, and you are all done.

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Repairing a PC can sometimes be expensive, and that is why we offer free basic in-shop diagnostics. Give one of our professional and experienced technicians a call at (602) 795-1111, and let's see what we can do for you.

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