The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Windows 7 and Making it Fast Again

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The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Windows 7 and Making it Fast Again

Post  THE GIVEAWAY BLOG!! on Wed Nov 28, 2012 2:44 pm

Windows 7 may be the best release of Windows yet, but it’s still prone to a problem that’s plagued all operating systems ever released – slowing down over time. This issue affects everybody – Windows 7 will take longer and longer to boot, programs will launch slower, and could even crash more often. There are lots of causes to system slowdown, from registry errors to corrupted system files. However, everything is fixable, and Windows 7 can definitely be brought back up to speed without having to reformat and reinstall Windows. Netbook Network Presents: The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Windows 7 and Making it Fast Again.
Following this guide may take hours to complete, and it’s recommended that you complete the guide in a distraction-free environment to prevent accidental (and potentially harmful) actions. You’ll want to have a good internet connection, as we’ll be downloading various tools and utilities along the way. It’s highly recommended that you run a full backup of Windows 7 before you start the guide, or at least create a System Restore Point. Have a System Repair Disc handy in case you have to restore Windows. This guide was written specifically for Windows 7 (and should work on all editions), but most aspects can be followed on any version of Windows.
Are you ready? Let’s get started.
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1 ) Full System Scan with Anti-Virus/Spyware/Malware Software
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Even though you may have a strong security suite on your computer, you still may be infected with malicious software. Run a full system scan with whatever security suite you have – whether it’s Kaspersky, Avast, MSE, Norton, etc. Viruses, spyware, and malware will have a huge impact on your system’s performance and stability. Make sure your security application’s databases are up-to-date with the latest definitions before you scan. An excellent combination of free Windows security software is Microsoft Security Essentials along with Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free.
For a deeper and more thorough scan, many security suites offer the ability to do a deep scan within the options. Note that a more detailed scan will take a lot longer to complete – but it also may find malicious software a normal scan wouldn’t be able to uncover.
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2 ) Clean your disk with CCleaner
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CCleaner is a great, free system cleaning utility, and in this step, we’ll be using CCleaner to clean out temporary files and other junk that’s lying around on your disk. CCleaner will recognize files from specific programs, such as Firefox, Office, Windows Media Player, etc. and will remove temporary files from those applications as well. If you don’t have a copy of CCleaner already, head over to the download page. Too many temporary files will make it harder for software to sift through them, especially when you have temporary files that you won’t ever use (like website cache to a website you never visit) – and plus, it’ll take up space on your hard drive.


Open CCleaner and you’ll see an interface that’s shown in the image above. On the left, you’re given the option to choose what to search for and clean (I like keeping my browsing history intact) but the default settings should suffice. Click “Analyze” and CCleaner will provide details on what files are to be removed. This process will take a minute – on computers that have never run a disk cleaning application before, CCleaner may unearth a few GB of files to be deleted (I’ve already run CCleaner once, which is why it only found 7 MB in the above image). When finished, click on “Run Cleaner” and the temporary files will be permanently deleted from your system.
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3 ) Uninstall all unused applications
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If you have applications that you never use, why do you have them installed in the first place? Keeping your system neat and tidy means getting rid of programs that you never use, or programs that you’ve never heard of. Uninstalling software will give you more disk space and less software to update and keep track of. Keep in mind that some applications you may find in your system are there to support others (like OpenAL) so if you don’t know what an application does, use a search engine to find out what it does. Head over to the Control Panel, and under Programs, you’ll find “Uninstall a program” and from there you can see a list of software you can remove.
EDIT (1/29/2012): For a more comprehensive cleanup, you can try Revo Uninstaller which scans for leftover files and registry entries after each uninstall. Since in the next step you’ll be cleaning up registry entries anyway, this is optional and you’ll just be able to pick out a few extra leftover files here and there.
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4 ) Clean your Registry with CCleaner
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You may want to create a System Restore Point before completing this step.
After uninstalling all those programs in the previous step, you’re bound to have lots of registry entries leftover that haven’t been removed. Open up CCleaner again and click on the “Registry” tab on the far left of the program.


Just keep all the boxes on the left checked, and then hit “Scan for Issues”. A list of registry issues will appear on the list, from unused file extensions to obsolete software keys. CCleaner has been heavily tested to ensure that the registry entries it finds and removes won’t harm your system, the process should be relatively safe. Registry errors may not necessarily slow down your computer in terms of performance, but may cause crashes and other weird side effects (such as context menu entries that lead to nowhere).
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5 ) Run System File Checker to validate system file integrity
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Windows 7 tries to keep its core files intact, but occasionally, some important system files may be corrupted. System File Checker is a good utility (albeit a little hidden) that can be used to repair corrupted system files by checking through the ones currently on your hard drive. I had an issue with Windows 7′s Backup and Restore where it would refuse to backup or restore my hard drive, but after running System File Checker, everything worked again.


To run System File Checker, press the Windows 7 Start orb and search for “cmd”. Right click on it and select “Run as administrator”. In the now-opened command prompt window, enter “sfc -scannow”. System File Checker will now verify the system files and replace them if necessary. This step may require a restart, depending whether or not it finds anything.
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6 ) Disable unwanted startup entries
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You may want to create a System Restore Point before completing this step.
EDIT (8/13/2011): We’ve written a dedicated guide to reducing startup times, which includes the following step and more. Check it out here.
The more applications that are set to run at startup, the slower Windows 7 will boot. Half of the stuff that’s set to run upon startup runs in the background, taking up processor and RAM and you won’t even know it. By disabling startup entries that are unnecessary or useless, you can boot into Windows faster and see a performance gain.

Hit the Start Orb and search for “msconfig”. Open the program and you’ll be presented with a window with five tabs at the top – General, Boot, Services, Startup and Tools. Click on the Startup tab and a list will be laid out of what applications will run on startup. You’ll want to un-check things that aren’t useful launching in startup – for examples, you don’t need to have Adobe products running on startup because they’ll launch when you need them. You’ll also want to un-check items that you know you don’t use, like in the above image, GrooveMonitor Utility.
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7 ) Defragment your hard drive with Defraggler
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SSD users should skip this step. Fragmentation has virtually no impact whatsoever for SSDs and therefore defragmenting an SSD will just waste reads/writes.
Fragmentation is an issue in which storage space is used inefficiently, taking a hit on not only your total available free storage space, but performance. Windows 7 supposedly will defragment your hard drive automatically in the background, but whenever I analyze my disk, it always appears to have around 20% fragmentation. In this step, we’re going to use Defraggler, a program developed by the same guys behind CCleaner, to defragment our hard drive. Windows has its own defragmenter tool, but Defraggler has a cleaner interface and does a better job defragmenting. It’s free, and you can download a copy here.


After installing Defraggler, run the program and you’ll see its main interface. At the top, select the hard drive(s) you want to defragment (usually it’s your Windows drive that’s most fragmented). Click on “Analyze” and when it’s done, click “Defrag”. Note that this may take quite a while, so in the meantime, get a cup of tea – the time it takes to finish is generally based on how big your hard drive is and how fragmented it is. When completed, you can choose to defragment other drives as well.
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8 ) Update your drivers
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Ah, yes, here comes the tedious and possibly frustrating part. Device drivers allow Windows to interact with the various hardware that’s in your computer. Instead of searching for newer versions of all the drivers on your computer, you can let Windows update them for you by checking your optional updates in Windows Update. Occasionally, drivers will be listed there and you can get them installed, right in Windows Update.


You can force Windows to search for a newer driver by opening up the Device Manager. Press the Start Orb, search for “Device Manager”, and the first item on the list should be it. Right click on any of the listed devices and you can choose to let Windows search for an updated driver.
Unfortunately, Windows won’t be able to find everything – so when you look for drivers, you’ll want to check out your computer manufacturer’s homepage for downloads. For example, ASUS organizes its hardware and lists driver downloads for all operating systems. Before you search for drivers individually, keep in mind that the manufacturer may have modified drivers specifically for your system.
If all else fails, just search for them one by one. It’s tedious, but newer drivers are more stable and will cause less crashes. The biggest culprit of blue-screens for me are my graphics card drivers, so you’ll want to keep those updated.
Congratulations! You’ve completed the Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Windows 7 (And making it fast again)! From now on, your computer should be notably faster and crash less frequently. There might also be some extra free space on your hard drives after going through the guide. I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide – and if you have any suggestions or additions to the guide, feel free to leave a comment below. Don’t forget to keep your PC updated and secure – you won’t regret it.
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