Cleanup Guide!

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Fairfield County Business Connections
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Cleaning up your computer can make it run much better - faster and no pop-ups!  BUT BE CAREFUL!!  All of these actions have some risk of removing something you want, making the computer unstable, or worse.  This is a guide for basic cleanup if you are having just moderate troubles.  If you suspect your computer is in serious trouble (infected/hijacked), I recommend the cleanup guide at Broadband Reports.  They also have a guide to keeping your computer free of spyware and hijacks here and a more general protection guide here.  We also offer a fixed-fee spyware removal service.

Is your computer "clean" but still slow?  If your computer is less than 3 years old, consider a complete format/reinstall that will have it running better than new and guaranteed spyware and virus free.  More than 4 years old, consider a new computer.  More than 5?  Time for replacement.

Here is what I suggest:

Make backups!  Before you start, be sure you have good backups of any data you need.  You may also want to make sure you have the original install disks that came with your computer, as well as any software you have installed on the computer.  In addition to the disks, you often need keys or serial numbers to reinstall the software.  Go to "System Restore" and take a checkpoint.  This will ensure system restore is enabled, and you have a current restore point.  It is usually at start->programs->system tools->system restore.  System restore may help you recover from system errors.

Disclaimer:  YOU are responsible for whatever you do to your computer.  Please read our Terms of Use.

Check with your manufacturer.  Go to the website for the manufacturer of your computer.  They often have driver and other updates that are important - sometimes these are required before installing Microsoft updates to keep the computer working properly.
Risk:  Medium.  Driver updates can cause a device or the computer  to stop working.  System restore should be able to rollback any driver updates.

Run windowsupdate.  Install all critical updates.  I usually install most of the recommended updates.  Be careful about the driver updates - generally, if you don't need the driver update to solve a problem, and your devices are working ok, leave well-enough alone.
Risk:  Low.  As long as you stay away from driver updates, you should be fine.  By the time the updates make it to distribution on windowsupdate, they are pretty well tested.  Some updates also have a "remove" capability.

Update virus definitions and virus software.  Download the latest virus definitions, and run a full system scan.  Fix or delete all viruses.  You may have to run the scan in Safe Mode to remove certain viruses.  If you use Norton AntiVirus, be sure to run LiveUpdate to get program updates as well as virus definition updates.
Risk:  Low.

Uninstall unneeded programs.  Start->control panel->add/remove programs.  Uninstall programs you don't need.  Many "legitimate" spyware programs (I can't name them or they will sue me) allow you to remove them with the uninstall process.  This is the best way to remove programs from your system.
Risk:  Medium.   You may remove something you wanted.  The fix is to reinstall the program, either from the install disks or by re-downloading it.

Get rid of spyware.  Run a full system scan and get rid of anything it finds.  Microsoft offers Security Essentials.   Download and install the program, retrieve updates, then run a scan.  Quarantine all spyware - this will allow you to "undo" any removal.
Risk:  Medium.  The risk is the removal process improperly removes a program, and leaves it partially installed. 

Run msconfig.  Start->run and type in msconfig.  Go to the startup tab, and disable everything you can.  These are the programs that run at startup, and often keep on running.  If you disable too much, some of your programs may not work properly, but you can always re-enable them.
Risk:  Low.   "Undo" available by re-enabling needed programs.

Defrag.  From "My Computer", right click on the disk and select "properties".  Go to the "tools" tab, and first check the disk for errors and automatically fix errors (don't do a surface scan), then defragment the disk.
Risk:  Low.  There is a chance that while moving files around something goes wrong.  This is very rare, and would usually affect just a limited number of files.  If you have your computer plugged into a UPS (uninterruptible power supply), you have very little risk.  If defrag has trouble running, you may try running it in Safe Mode.

If you need help, contact us or read more about our fixed-fee spyware removal service.

Please make backups!  We are not responsible for data loss under any circumstances!! 
A hard disk can fail at any time and there is nothing we can do about it.  Please make backups before your appointment, before you bring your computer to us, or ask us to make backups before working on your computer.

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