Windows Clean Up Checklist

Do you keep getting pop-ups? Is your computer running a little slower than usual? Fear not! Below are some steps to follow before throwing in the towel and taking it to the UF Computing Help Desk

If you have a virus, these steps may not be the correct way to get rid of it. Infected computers sometimes require the computer to be rebuilt, otherwise the virus may remain on your computer undetected. The steps below are to help rid your computer of malware and maximize its efficiency; they are not exhaustive.


Step 1: Back It Up Baby!

Before altering programs on your computer we always recommend backing up your computer to save its programs, files and settings.

On XP you can do this by using the Backup or Restore Wizard. Go to Start > All Programs > Accessories > Systems Tools > Backup. Follow the prompts.


Step 2: Download Anti-Spyware Programs

Spyware and Malware are malicious programs that download themselves onto your computer just by entering a website. They can do simple things as keep track of your online buying habits to logging every keystroke you make.

We recommend more than just one anti-spyware program since there’s not just one that can detect every bit of malware. It’s important that you install anti-malware programs from a trusted source. Visit our Free Anti Spyware Tools page for links to anti-spyware downloads.

Once you download and install your anti-spyware programs, update and run the scanner on all of them by following the prompts. This can take awhile, so feel free to leave it running. Once each program has completed running, remove any suspicious or critical objects.
Repeat step 1 every now and then to stay updated with anti-spyware definitions.


Step 3: Update Your Operating Sytem

Internet Explorer has a history of security problems that allowed malware to infect computers.

Visit Microsoft’s update site at: windowsupdate.microsoft.com using Internet Explorer (since you can’t access this page using any other browser).
First check to see if your automatic updates is turned ON by looking at the top left corner of the page. If it is, great job! Keep it that way.

If automatic updates is OFF, then follow the prompts to run the updates and turn it ON when it prompts you to. We recommend that you schedule to run it daily or weekly and at a time when you’re least likely to use your computer, such as 3am, since this process can take awhile.


Step 4: Use a Browser Other than Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer gives websites more control over what the users sees thus making it more prone to being infected with malicious code. There are a number of free browsers out there, we recommend Firefox.

Download Firefox Here
During the install prompts, it will ask you if you would like Firefox to be the default web browser, click YES.
Users can also import all the bookmarks from IE into Firefox so settings aren’t lost.
The last step is to remove the blue Internet Explorer from your desktop so as not to be tempted to us it.


Step 5: Install a Firewall

A firewall is a program that monitors and restricts traffic which flows between your computer and the Internet. Computers without a running firewall can be hacked within minutes, so it’s important to have one. More details about a firewall, and a list of free firewalls can be found at our firewall page.

Microsoft offers a firewall with its XP operating system. To turn it ON, go to Control Panel > Security Center > Windows Firewall > turn to ON. Fore more information on your Windows Firewall, visit the Microsoft “Understanding Windows Firewall” link


Step 6: Stop Unused Programs from Running

Upon starting your machine, many programs automatically turn on and run in the background causing your computer to run slower.

To stop these programs from running access your System Configuration Utility by opening your Run menu from the Start tab, type MSCONFIG and hit Enter. Click the Startup tab and uncheck any programs that shouldn’t be running all the time. Most of these programs are important and unidentifiable, so when in doubt leave it checked.
Here is one user’s How to use MSCONFIG page for more information.


Step 7: Defrag Your Hard Drive

Files are saved to the computer’s hard drive in a fragmented way meaning that they are spread out over the computer’s memory in an inefficient manner. Over time this causes the computer to take longer to search for the files it needs. Microsoft allows you to defragment its hard drive. Defragmenting your hard drive is not related to malware, but will help speed up your computer.
We recommend closing all programs and disconnecting from the Internet before scanning and defraging your hard drive. Also, since this process takes a long time you might want to start it before bed.

To start your disk cleanup, go to My Computer, right-click on your hard drive (usually C: drive) and click Properties. Run the Disk Cleanup button first. Then click the Tools tab and click Defragment Now.


Yay! You’re done! Now maintain it to be more efficient.