When completing professional work it’s important to have the newest and fastest components in your computer. Over time your computer will accrue a large amount of data that will take up unnecessary space and eventually slow down your system. To ensure that your computer is reaching optimal performance, here’s a quick checklist to clean your computer in under five minutes.

Seven steps to clean your computer

  1. Empty your recycle bin/trash can. This is a no-brainer, but I have seen computers with upwards of 12GB sitting in their trash.
  2. Type %temp% into your search bar and delete your temporary files. To pull up your search bar on the Windows operating system, hit the windows key + R. After performing this step, type %windir%\temp into your search bar to delete the Windows temporary files that the Windows operating system and other programs no longer need.
  3. Find your downloads folder and delete any downloads that you aren’t using.
  4. Go into your documents folder and delete any documents that you no longer need.
  5. Windows usually comes installed with a defragmentation software for your hard drive, which you should check every now and then. Defragmenting places files together, decreasing time the operating needle of a HDD (hard disk drive) needs to look up files. Note: defragmenting a SSD (solid state drive) is unnecessary and can even reduce its overall lifespan. Modern defragging software often trims files rather than moves files together for SSD, but defragging an SSD often provides negligible benefits with a potential risk of reducing its lifespan, so only defrag HDD’s if that’s what your computer has installed.
  6. Run the disk cleanup software that also comes installed on your Windows operating system. In a nutshell this cleanup software will analyze files that can be deleted on your system and remove them for you. However, it’s important to understand what you’re deleting outside of temporary files, so it may be a good idea to create a backup in case you need to restore your system if you accidentally delete a file that you need.
  7. Delete your browsing history and clear cookies from your browser. This won’t clear a lot of space, but it will speed up your browser to a point.

Congratulations, you’ve now cleaned up a bunch of unnecessary files on your computer in under five minutes. It isn’t required to follow this checklist regularly, but cleaning your computer every few months has the potential to clear up a lot of space and really optimize your hard drive speed.

Using third-party software to clean your computer

If you’ve looked up other ways to clean up your computer, you may come across articles or discussions that recommend using third-party cleaners such as CCleaner, which do everything that I’ve outlined in this article. Registry cleaners have the potential to irreversibly delete necessary and important Windows files, or even damage the operating system itself. It’s safer to manually clean your computer with the steps listed above because you know what you’re deleting while using first-party tools that don’t run the risk of permanently damaging your operating system.