How To Improve PC Performance: Tips and Best Clean Up Tools

Tips and Tricks - How to improve PC performance

Computers are great!

We can play games on them, check our bank accounts, and found out about all the latest worldwide news.

The question is what can't they do?!

This article will delve into the basics of what makes up a PC and what you need to know to improve PC performance.

Tips and Tricks - How to improve PC performance

How to improve PC performance - Tips and Tricks

What is a Computer?

Let's look into computers and see what really make these machines one-of-a-kind.

The computer was first developed in February 15, 1946.

Nowadays known as a PC (Personal Computer), a computer is a machine that performs tasks and calculations for a user using various programming languages and programs.

The earlier designs of the machines performed basic operations and did not have much to offer; however, it was still the invention of the century.

In turn, computer programming was discovered and studied alongside the development and evolution of computers.

Over the recent decades, we have created more features, new designs, new user interfaces, and much more, so most people will agree that computers are a “must-need” device in this day and age.

Not only do our personal and work environments need computers to function, they also allow us to research and discover new ideas and information as well as design anything we can imagine.

The sky is the limit!

However:

Having said that, with this great "power" come potential dangers and threats to our computers and ourselves.

Most PC users overlook the fact that with machines come problems which can be worse than they think.

These problems are called infections, like viruses and other malware, which tamper with computer's processes.

Let's begin with a brief overview of what malware is and how it affects us.

What is Malware?

Malware is more popular than ever and can cause disastrous effects; not just slight computer damage!

Malware writers purposely target unaware users and infect their machines.

While this doesn’t sound very dangerous, it is in fact harmful and can be a great nuisance with lots of ensuing damage for the infected user.

Moreover:

Malware does not only damage computers; identity theft, password hijacking, ransomware, and other dirty tactics are other types of malware that target vulnerable users on a daily basis.

Popular Types of Malware

Trojan Horse

A Trojan horse is one of the most common types of malware around.

At first, a Trojan horse may appear to be useful software, but in fact, it was never a legitimate file and will actually do damage once installed or run on a computer system.

This type of infection is not designed to spread or duplicate itself like the other infection types.

Its sole purpose is to damage computers and sometimes leave a backdoor that gives malicious users access to the PC system.

PUPs

PUPs, or potentially unwanted programs, are not malicious but they can cause minor interference with the system.

Most scanners do not pick up on these sort of files either, but they consist of programs that are not needed, such as the registry cleaner which claims to speed up your PC.

It can also add toolbars to your browser which can slow down the browser and cause problems. These types of files are not harmful but can be misleading and cause dangerous programs to get on the system.

Regular Computer Virus

A regular virus involves a basic form of ‘attack’ in that it attaches itself to a program or file that is legitimate.

Once the user runs the program the virus is able to spread from one computer to another leaving infections as it travels.

Like a human virus, a PC virus can cause different types of damage to an operating system from a slight performance slow-down to annoying pop-ups.

Not only that, a virus can also corrupt software or files.

While this might sound serious, the only way for this kind of infection to spread is by a user actively running the file that has or had the virus, otherwise it cannot do any damage!

Computer Worm

A computer worm is technically not a virus but a program very similar to a virus.

The only difference of a worm is that it’s able to self-replicate, meaning that it can copy itself over and over again.

Not only are computer worms more dangerous than regular computer viruses, but they also cause very different PC damage.

How it works:

One worm can lay dormant in a user’s network while spreading itself to other computers via your email.

But how do the cyber criminals benefit from this?

The cyber criminals who create the worms generate income through the use of pop-up ads on your machine.

Other times, worms try to destroy an innocent person's computer.

Most worms don’t perform the latter; however, they can and are capable of destroying the master boot record (MBR) and/or the BIOS. These two important sections make the computer operate correctly and normally; if they are destroyed or damaged then the computer is ruined and will need to be repaired.

Fun Fact: PUPs are most commonly found in download installation processes where the company offers other bundled programs. Since most people don’t read the installation processes, they install them. However, there is a free-to-use program which is very light-weight that automatically unchecks these bundles when downloading software. Check it out here.

While there are many more types of infections around, the aforementioned are the four most common that cause damage to computers. For any further definitions and references, have a look at our comprehensive antivirus glossary.

Removal & Protection

Now that we understand the basic information about these various infections, let’s talk about how we can remove and protect ourselves from them.

While your main concern might be how you can speed up your computer, malware can cause a system slowdown on performance activity, so it’s important to understand what we should use and how we can protect ourselves.

Right off the bat, some companies already offer an antivirus when buying a new computer, or you might have found another program by yourself to protect your PC.

Most computer distributors offer certain types of programs to inexperienced people or unprofessional home owner PCs who may not know anything about security; therefore they land up paying for a program that is possibly not doing anything for the PC.

For example, one company that pays distributors to pre-install their antivirus on their machines is McAfee, but it's not the only company using this scheme. These types of antivirus programs are also not very diligent in removing infections, and while adequate, they are not recommended by us as the top choice for the best antivirus software to improve the protection of your PC.

Types of Protection

So, what type of protection should you use for your computer?

Well, to understand what type of protection you will need to get, you will also need to understand the different types of computer protection that are offered.

While most programs do provide protection against viruses, they can also miss out on quite a bit too!

There are basically two different types of protections that marketers are selling to users. While they both technically do the same job, they are essential for the safekeeping of a computer in order to run fast and clean.

1. The first type of protection is an Antivirus.

Most users have heard and are probably using one right now.

To explain it in a relative form, an antivirus is designed to protect users from old types of viruses.

Try thinking about a grandfather listening to music. They usually don’t have much songs they listen to. They only like the old classics and they usually add one or two new songs to their collections, but that’s just about it.

An antivirus basically works in the same way. They have collections of old malware and some new ones to protect users from.

I know you might be thinking then why use an antivirus?

Well it’s still important because they do remove most of the infections that are looming around, so don't go uninstalling your antivirus.

2. Anti-Malware, on the other hand, is the “teenage girl” type of protection.

This type of protection is always on top of the trends and always listening to new songs and maybe some old ones occasionally.

Anti-malware programs are always up-to-date and continuously need to be on top of the new malware that comes out.

Anti-malware programs continuously update their virus definitions and keep an eye out for new infections. They also focus on zero-day viruses and rootkits which we’ll discuss a little bit later in the article.

So, does this mean that I should download both an antivirus and an anti-malware program?

The answer: Not necessarily.

It's recommended that a user always have an antivirus program running on his/her machine; however, anti-malware protection is optional but also recommended .

I think they are both very important and should be used together correctly to avoid damage.

Important:

Multiple antivirus or anti-malware programs running in parallel can not only interfere with each other, but also hurt computer function.

For example, some antivirus companies offer real-time protection, which is no doubt helpful, but also puts strain on the computer processes.

I recommend that you always have an antivirus running but anti-malware should be installed as well for a regular weekly “check-up” on the machine.

If no antivirus is present, then opt for the real time anti-malware protection.

Anti-malware provides great protection from "zero-day" malware (completely new malware).

Zero-day malware is advanced and takes advantage of security vulnerabilities on the machine which might cause an infection without it having to be executed or downloaded.

It's usually found in the temporary folder and from there it spreads to another folder infecting the entire system.

Web browsers are the easiest and the best way to catch these sort of buggers.

The reason why?

Websites.

Websites have ads on their pages, which is not bad, but since most companies don’t check what kind of ads are being posted, malicious ads can pop up and take advantage of your system. This exact thing happened to Spotify.

The process is quite simple actually, perhaps you are visiting a good website and there is nothing malicious about it.

Maybe a news website.

Once you load the page and look around and found something interesting like an article you click on it.

Then, the ad secretly redirects you to a malicious page and straight back to the original website for you to continue reading the article.

The redirect which took mere seconds, placed malicious files in the temp folder without the user ever even knowing!

While these types of infections are not normally common, they are extremely dangerous and without the correct protection they can cause serious problems on the machine.

The real reason why these infections are actually so dangerous is that we also can’t tell what it could have dropped into the temp directory.

A Trojan horse allows the malicious writer to connect and use the computer for a ransomware attack that encrypts your files and demands a high fee.

It's something that should not be ignored!

StuxNet, for example, was a zero-day virus.

It infected a nuclear power plant exploiting multiple security flaws. Listed as a super advanced virus, it took control of the processing computer which handled nuclear material. This made machines work harder and faster which was extremely dangerous.

Workers heard something different than usual and checked the infected computer, which then tricked the users by telling them nothing had been changed. It was an extremely complex zero-day virus.

There's a non-confirmed theory that this malware was written jointly by the American and Israeli governments, and makes for quite an interesting read. Learn more about it here.

The problem with these infections is that you can’t really see them coming or when you become infected.

You may be wondering how we can protect ourselves then?

Well truthfully, you can’t protect yourself.

While most companies are trying to be offer more security from these types of viruses, we are failing to protect ourselves.

Anti-malware software is not the only type of program that you should use to protect yourself.

You will need to consider cleaning up unnecessary programs and files in order to improve PC' performance.

Many people upgrade to new computers every 2 years on average, which isn’t bad since new hardware is always coming out and people want to have the newest and coolest tech; however, this isn’t really necessary.

some manufactures know this and purposely do this to customers to make more profit.

You're thinking how, right?

Well:

They purposely design computers to last a couple of years and then after the time is up you buy another one.

While it’s nice to have a brand new computer, it's not always necessary. Hardware can always be changed and the computer speed always can be sped up with the correct tools and programs.

Take a PC as an example.

Some people turn to building the computer by themselves because not only is it cheaper, it can also be upgraded by taking new parts and inserting new components.

This is much better and a lot cheaper than having to buy a completely new system altogether.

The same goes for a laptop!

While a laptop is a little more complex to fix, the performance speed when the laptop is on and ready can also be improved.

Most of us have heard of programs that claim to speed up the computer and that also enable a computer to run like new and take care of some issues.

In many cases these programs are complete lies and the providers make false claims; some users even claim that they slow down the computer even more!

But don’t get me wrong, some programs actually do deliver on their promises.

The only issue is that it’s not one program that handles all issues but rather multiple programs/products.

So, before I discuss which programs I recommend, I need you to know what is causing the decline in your PC's performance.

What Causes a Decline in PC Performance?

Most people think it’s the hardware that gets old, and while that might be true, it’s also not completely accurate.

There are actually multiple things that could cause performance issues.

Malware

Yes, malware.

It’s usually the major factor that causes people to go out and buy another machine.

Since most malware might cause the machine to slow down or damages it completely without the user even knowing of its existence, it’s the “perfect storm.” And most manufactures know this and actually make profit as a result of the malicious writers' work.

Didn’t know that, did you?

Unnecessary Files and Add-Ons

Tell me, do you ever clear your recycle bin or download folder?

Do you have add-ons on your web browser that you don’t even need or are not even aware of?

This may also be a reason!

The more files we put on the machine, the more it backs up your hard drive taking up the space you need.

Not only that, but hard drives are quite an important component on which PC speed and performance depend.

Which actually leads into another reason why you may be experiencing issues.

Most hard drives fail over time which is not the users fault, but the space being used and or stored is the user's fault.

Once a hard drive's usage reaches approximately 85% of its capacity, it then starts to allocate resources in order to determine which process needs most attention, and thus it cannot work normally.

Not only does this mean a decline in performance, but studies show that once a hard drive reaches full capacity it starts to break apart internally which in turn causes hard drive failure.

While files can be restored or transferred, you will need to pay out of your pocket for the restoration!

Too Many Programs and Tabs Open

Random Access Memory or RAM for short, is a piece of hardware that stores information for every computer.

It makes it easier for programs to open more quickly and makes your computer run as fast as possible.

However, every time we open a new program and or a new tab it takes some RAM memory to run.

Over time when a user has five to ten programs open this will cause massive performance issues.

For an example try thinking about multitasking.

A person usually only focuses on one project at a time and occasionally two.

However, if we increase these tasks for the person, he/she will not be able to handle it and will make mistakes.

It's the same when it comes to computers.

You might think that you don’t open a lot of tabs and programs but the PC is still running quite slowly; well, that's where you are mistaken!

You actually have programs open, but you just don’t see the program running.

If you open the task manager (Ctrl+Shift+X) and go to the processes tab you can find all the programs that are running in the background.

Task manager processes

Task manager processes

Most programs run in the background without you knowing.

Not only that, but you may have too many startup programs as well.

Most programs when downloaded automatically make themselves start up right at the beginning when the computer starts up. (You can check which programs run on startup by clicking the “Startup” tab in the task manager.)

Skype is the perfect example of both of these issues.

It always runs in the background even if you think it is closed, and if you do not disable it in the startup programs, it will dramatically influence the computer's resource usage.

Shutting Down and Cleaning the Hardware

This may sound silly, but it is actually true.

Computers need to shut down once in a while, they deserve a break.

While keeping it on continuously doesn't harm the computer much, it does lead to a noticeable decline in PC performance.

The same goes for the hardware.

All computers have fans that clear out dust and bring cold air inside to cool hardware.

It might not sound important, but it also has major impact on performance.

Dust can get trapped inside which then causes more issues with cooling and puts more strain on fans.

Some computer hardware parts like the CPU needs to be cooled at a certain temperature to run smoothly. Since dust gets inside the machine, it will cause the fans to work a bit harder to remove the debris and cool the system.

Now that we know some possible issues that can cause our computers to slow down, what should I download to improve PC performance and to protect myself from malware?

Recommended Software

I recommend the following:

Malwarebytes:

I recommend using Malwarebytes Anti-Malware.

It’s the perfect tool that detects infections and removes them instantly.

Recommended

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CCleaner:

If you haven’t heard of CCleaner by Pirifrom Inc, I think you should check out their product.

Here is what this program has to offer to its users:

Recommended

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WinDirStat:

Made by an open source software, this program is quite handy for the average user.

It measures disk usage statistics and includes a cleanup tool for various versions of Microsoft Windows.

This program is quite simple actually.

During startup it reads the directory tree and then lists Windows Explorer by file and size. It then has an image of boxes underneath with different colors that show how much memory is in usage as well as its ‘usefulness’.

Feel free to download it here.

Bottom Line

Not everyone likes the same programs and if you think you these programs are not for you, don’t worry!

If you have a question and want to know more about what the antivirus and anti-malware protection companies have to offer, you can contact us and don't forget to check out our antivirus software reviews.

Remember, while computers are great and very helpful to the user, it’s only as smart as the user that is using it!

Stay safe while browsing!

Vlad Zhelezniak

A student of computer engineering and computer science on a personal mission to educate every user that the internet is not completely safe and staying protected is key. He's highly experienced in malware testing and malicious take-over scripts online. Loves helping and teaching other students about online security.

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