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1,829 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello folks.
I am attempting to get together a total PC cleaning guide, primarily for Windows XP, but it may be worth my mentioning any differences for W2000, WME and W98.

Please can you lot have a look through it and let me know if there are any inaccuracies, maybe give me some advice, and especially inform me of any good cleaning info that I am missing.

It's a bit of a hotch-potch of stuff I've seen here and elsewhere on the web, so I realise that it could do with some tidying up.

Also, apologies that it's a bit on the large side...

PC Cleaning

1) Update your device drivers and programs

Firstly, check the manufacturers' websites for any hardware that you have installed on your PC - graphics card, sound card, printer, scanner, modem etc. Even your motherboard may have driver updates available.
If you cannot find the manufacturer¡¦s website for a particular peripheral, you can search for drivers at Driver Guide:
Username = drivers
Password = all

Check for updates of all your essential programs - start with Windows and MS Office, especially looking for Critical Updates and Security Patches.
Check the websites for your AntiVirus, Firewall, Anti-Spyware program and Pop-up stopper / Ad blocker, and any other programs that are used to protect and secure your PC.

Next, check for updates to any other utilities you regularly use. If you use a file-sharing program, make sure you have a Spyware-free one such as Kazaa-Lite or WinMX.

2) Clear temporary files
To ensure you can clear as many temp files as possible, before starting, shut down your PC and restart it. When your PC has completely restarted, close any programs that run automatically.
Hit Ctrl-Alt-Del and choose your Task List. End Task on everything that appears except Explorer and Systray.
Temporarily disable your screensaver if you use one.

START - Find - Files or Folders. Make sure the "Look In" box contains the letter(s) of your hard drive. In the "Named" box, type the following:
Click the "Find Now" button. You can delete any files that appear. A few may not delete - these are currently in use, and you will be able to delete them later.
Hit Start - Run and type %temp% and hit enter.

3) Clear Temporary Internet Files and Internet History
START - Settings - Control Panel - Internet Options. Click the "Clear History" button, and then click OK. Click the "Settings" button then click the "View Files" button. Click somewhere in the window that opens, press CTRL + A (to select all) and press Delete.

Click on the Advanced tab. Scroll down to the Security area and check the box that says, "empty temporary internet files when browser is closed". This keeps them from building up and taking all the space on your hard drive.

4) Clear the Cookies folder
Cookies are small files, which store information about your preferences on visited a websites. This may include having a site recognise you when you connect so you do not have to retype your login details on every visit. As such, you may wish to be selective when clearing out cookies. Personally, I prefer to clear them all and live with having to retype my information.

My Computer - C:\ - Windows - Cookies.
Either determine which cookies to delete, or press CTRL + A (to select all) and press Delete to clear them all.

5) Create a Cleanup file that runs on bootup
In Windows XP, you can add a small file to your Startup folder that will clear your temp files, temporary internet files, cookies and internet history etc upon every reboot.
Open Notepad and enter the following (note - remember to change "YOURUSERNAME"!):

rem As Windows XP has no Autoexec batch file, use this instead of deltree
rem Add to Startup folder as text file named cleanXP.cmd or similar
@echo on
cd %homedrive%%homepath%
rd /s/q winnt\temp
md winnt\temp
cd docume~1\YOURUSERNAME
rd /s/q locals~1\tempor~1
rd /s/q locals~1\temp\tempor~1
rd /s/q cookies
rd /s/q temp\cookies
rd /s/q locals~1\history
rd /s/q locals~1\temp\history
rd /s/q recent
md recent
rd /s/q locals~1\temp
md locals~1\temp

Save this file on your HD and create a shortcut to it under START -Programs - Startup. Right-click the shortcut, go to Properties and change the "Run" line from Normal Window to Minimized.

6) Check running programs in Startup folder
START - Programs - Startup. Right-click and delete each shortcut for programs that you do not need to be running immediately on boot-up.

7) Run System File Checker and check other programs running automatically
Type the following:
in the window that opens, click "Tools". Click ¡"System File Checker". Click the "Start" button and if it finds any corrupted system files, restore it as prompted. Close the System File Checker window.

In the "Microsoft System Information" window, in the left-hand pane click the plus symbol next to "Software Environment". Click Startup Programs. Press CTRL + A (to select all). Press CTRL + C (to copy). Open a MS Word document and press CTRL + V (to paste).
If you then send the Word document to me (or give me a printed copy). I will check each file and tell you what you need and what you don't. Alternatively visit Pacman's Portal and search the list using CTRL + F (find) for each program.

8) Removing unnecessary programs from msconfig
Programs in the msconfig list run automatically on bootup and hog resources, slowing down the operation of your PC. A few of these are necessary, but the vast majority are either programs that can be run as required from your Programs list (or Spyware / Adware / Malware).
Windows 98 Windows XP
Type the following:
Click the Startup tab. Uncheck the unnecessary programs.
Windows 2000 / Windows ME / Windows NT do not have the msconfig function, but these programs can do the same job:
Startup Control Panel ¡V

You could also download Startup Monitor - a small program that monitors and identifies any program that tries to add a file to your Startup programs, allowing you to block them before they install

9) Removing unchecked msconfig entries from the Registry (so they no longer appear in the msconfig list)
Type the following:
Delete the registry keys in the following locations. Make sure you only delete keys in the folders that end with a minus symbol - i.e. "Run-" as opposed to "Run". Do not delete the Default Value
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE - Software - Microsoft - Windows - CurrentVersion - Run-
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE - Software - Microsoft - Windows - CurrentVersion - RunServices-
HKEY_CURRENT_USER - Software - Microsoft - Windows - CurrentVersion - Run-

Also, install and run MS RegClean -

10) Clear "Recently Used" lists and hidden URLs stored on your PC
MRU Blaster is a small program that clears all known Most Recently Used lists:

Visited URLs are stored in Index.dat files on your PC, which are hidden and are not cleaned by the above methods. These files can become very large, as they catalogue every web page you visit.
Spider is a small program that locates and cleans these URLs. Index.dat files can not be deleted when the PC is running, so running Spider requires a reboot:

11) Are there any additional programs and services you can remove?
You may have old programs that you no longer use.
START - Settings - Control Panel - Add/Remove Programs. Check through the list of programs and see if there are any you can get rid of.

In Windows XP, the following services can be safely disabled:
Computer Browser
Fast User Switching
Human Interface Access Devices
Indexing Service (Slows the hard drive down)
Net Logon (unnecessary unless networked on a Domain)
Netmeeting Remote Desktop Sharing (disabled for extra security)
Remote Desktop Help Session Manager (disabled for extra security)
Remote Procedure Call Locator
Remote Registry (disabled for extra security)
Routing & Remote Access (disabled for extra security)
SSDP Discovery Service (this is for the utterly pointless "Universal P'n'P", & leaves TCP Port 5000 wide open)
Telnet (disabled for extra security)
Universal Plug and Play Device Host
Upload Manager
Windows Time
Wireless Zero Configuration (for wireless networks)

12) Are you running programs that come bundled with Spyware?
Often PCs that receive unusually high numbers of pop up windows are infected with Spyware, and if so installing Pop-Up Stopper will not get rid of the underlying problem.

Spyware consists of small files that automatically run when every time you switch on your PC.
They work by monitoring everywhere you go on the Internet and then use your Internet connection to report back to their company site. This enables those companies to target you with adverts (frequently pop-ups) based on the sites you visit.

This takes up your PC's resources, which can slow your PC down, it can cause "Out Of Memory" errors, and it may hijack your homepage, etc. This will only get worse with time.

Spyware are usually bundled with other programs, especially File-sharing Programs / Peer-to-Peer Programs like Kazaa and iMesh, but also Download Managers, Ad-killers, Real Player etc etc
In some cases Spyware can be disabled, in other cases alternative programs (or versions of programs) should be used.
Check a Spyware info site such as Spyware Guide - http://www/ or the links at Pacman¡¦s Portal for info on sources and removal instructions.

13) Protect your PC
If you need new AV and Firewalls, you can download decent free ones from the following:

VCatch Basic Version 5 ¡V
AntiVir Personal Edition ¡V
AVG Antivirus now only offers a 30 day free trial -

Alternatively, go to for an online virus scan.

If you have the Windows XP's built-in Firewall running, disable this before running installing another Firewall.
Zone Alarm firewall ¡V
Sygate firewall ¡V

If you find when doing a virus sweep that HouseCall or your resident AV software finds but is unable to remove a Trojan, you can download a dedicated Trojan remover:
SwatIt -

Next, get an Anti-Spyware program and run it periodically. Installing a Firewall will stop most Spyware getting through, but it is still worth having an Anti-Spyware program as you may unknowingly download a program that comes bundled with Spyware.
Install one of these:
AdAware -
Spybot -
When run, this program will scan your PC and clean out the vast majority of Spyware in your Startup and in your registry. It is worth keeping this program installed and run it about once a month or so.

An advert blocker will also be useful for speeding up access to web pages you regularly visit. There are tons of ad killers available, and some of them contain Spyware! I personally recommend AdShield ¡V a program that allows you to choose which ads you get rid of.
AdShield -

Alternatively, use PanicWare's Pop-Up Stopper -
About halfway down the page is the Pop-Up Stopper FREE Edition.

Some hyperlinks open pop-up windows (instead of new web pages) that you actually want to pop up.
For example, if you were searching an estate agent's website, you may click the "Search" link and a window would pop up asking for location / price range etc.
With Pop-Up Stopper installed, this window will only appear if you hold down CTRL whilst clicking the link.
So, once you have Pop-Up Stopper installed, if you click a link and nothing seems to happen, try again with the CTRL key held down!

14) Do a full virus check, run Scandisk and then de-fragment your Hard Drive(s)
Your AntiVirus program should have a shortcut in your programs list START - Programs.

Scandisk and Disk Defragmenter can be found under:
START - Programs - Accessories - System Tools

15) Test your PC
Now you have your PC nice and clean and up-to-date, check the performance of your PC and security software.
PC Pitstop is a good site, which runs a series of performance tests on your PC and provides advice if it is underperforming. It is worth registering so you can return to the site and monitor the improvements made by following their advice

There are a number of free "vulnerability tests" available at Secure IT Systems -

There is a way to test your antivirus software yourself. The European Institute for Computer Antivirus Research (EICAR) has developed a simple way to test nearly any antivirus program on the market.
Open Notepad and paste the following text into it as a single line (no spaces):
Make sure not to add any extra text. Save the file as then scan it with your antivirus program. It should report infection by the following:
This is not a real virus and poses no threat to your system, but you should probably remove it after testing to avoid scaring yourself or others in the future.
Thanks for any help you can give,

489 Posts
Excellent post! :)

3) Clear Temporary Internet Files and Internet History ... for XP it's open your browser/tools/internet options (general tab)/history/clear history/ok;

open your browser/tools/internet options (general tab)/temporary internet files/delete cookies/ok/ok; your browser/tools/internet options (general tab)/temporary internet files/delete files/ok/ok

8) Have xp folks check "services.msc" from the command line. Many services can be disabled and improve startup for these folks. Make sure they pick the "safe column" unless they like running with scissors :)

Should take about 10 mins to config & reboot (create a restore point first).

PS: 13) AVG still has a freebie version -- not just 30 days here:

PSS: Maybe the system file checker is worth mentioning??


1,829 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks Cookie, I forgot about checking the tweaking sites like Black Viper and TweakXP.
I'll check 'em out when I get home...

Good that AVG still does a free AV.

As for the System File Checker, I did mention breifly it in no 7), I'll go into more detail in the final version of my guide.

Cheers Lady!


1,829 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
bluecast - I checked and both 'driver' and 'drivers' work at the Driver Guide site. I'll amend the guide to include both options.

Does anyone know of a resource that tells you which files in the "Downloaded Program Files" (i.e. START - Settings - Control Panel - Internet Options - Settings - View Objects) can be removed?

As I understand it this is where ActiveX and Java appelets are stored, and it's useful to keep hold of some (such as the file from PC Pitstop, Flash etc), but not others (diallers and such).
I could do with a searchable list similar to the Startup files list at Pacs Portal, although I realise some of the objects in this folder may be have names that are just series of numbers and letters.

Perhaps there's a list showing safe vs unsafe code bases?


601 Posts
here are two very good , free, useful tools I use

Go to Don't be fooled by the name.
Direct download for Xen:

3) UnZip the Xen file and extract every file from into the Xen folder.

4) Open the Xen folder and click on Xen.bat file.

5) A program should pop-up. Just wait, it takes a second to get running sometimes, since it has to figure out your system information.
6) Just play around with it, press "b" to delete all temp and internet files and "c" to delete all cookies. I am really happy with the program. Remeber, pressing "x" on the keyboard exits the program.

1,829 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
OK, I've taken on board what you guys have said and also scouted some of the Tweak sites for a few additional bits.

Are there any other recommendations for cleaning and speeding up a PC (esp Windows XP) that are 'safe' and reliable for any user?

I don't want to include stuff like disabling screensavers / themes etc as some users will understandably not want this done on their machines.

Also, I'm not after recommendations of programs that allegedly speed up internet connection etc, unless they do actually work! Oh, and any recommended programs should be free!!



1,062 Posts
Save disk space by removing all but the most recent restore point.
Navigate to
Control Panel
Performance and Maintenance
Free up space on your hard disk
click the "more options " tab
At the bottom of the window is "system restore"
click "clean up"
This will remove all but the most recent restore point
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