How to Clog Up your Computer in 10 Easy Steps

Computing habits often have an effect on how well your computer runs. If you’re aware of what can hurt your computer’s performance, you can save yourself some aggravation by cutting down the time you have to wait for software to load or for Windows to boot. Here are ten ways to get your computer to run slower than molasses on a cold day in September.

1) Install Every Anti-Spyware and Anti-Virus Application You Can Find

If one is good, several have to be better, right? Some people think so. If you’re one of those people, this could be a very good reason why it takes forever to start the computer, open up your browser, or open up a Word document.

So, trim the fat. All you really need is one firewall, one anti-virus package, and a couple anti-spyware applications (the kind that don’t hog resources, such as adaware, spybot, and hijackthis).

2) Install Every Widget You Can Find

Widgets are cool. They can tell you the weather, they can tell you CPU utilization, they can display pictures of your family and friends, or they can even show you a map. But after a while, they tend to add up if you start to have a fair number of them all running at the same time (and especially if you have so many installed that you don’t really know what they’re for anymore), it’s time to get rid of a few.

3) Have All Your Programs Run at Startup

It’s convenient to have everything load up when Windows starts. After all, you use Real Player, QuickTime, MSN, Y!, AIM, Steam, Office, and many more programs all the time. Unfortunately, you have to make 3 trips for coffee by the time you can actually see and use your desktop.

All the little icons you see in the system tray in the lower right near the clock load at startup. You can either go to Start > Run > and type “msconfig” (without quotes) and go to the “Startup” tab. Once there, stretch out the file patch. That should give a good hint as to what each program is. If you’re still stumped, do a Google search for the filename.

If a program still boots with Windows after taking it out of msconfig, hunt around in each program’s settings or preferences to turn off the option “automatically start when Windows starts” (or words to that effect).

4) Visit Every Known Warez and Pornography Site on the Internet (Especially Without Protection)

Nothing wrong with downloading some *cough* free stuff, right?

Chances are good that these sites are infested with viruses, trojans, spyware, malware, and whatever else these guys can dream up. Your weakness for sites with these free goodies is your loss and their gain. Especially if you have no firewall, AV software, or spyware utilities installed (although, note Step #1 about overdoing it). It’s even more embarrassing when the neighborhood teenage techie tells you what caused the problems. Moral of the story? Be careful about wandering around in the Internet’s red light and underground districts.

Editor’s Note: If you do choose to lead this lifestyle, don’t use Internet Explorer. Porn sites are known to have secret ActiveX downloads that sneak onto your computer. Let’s call it a STD on the internet. The easy way to avoid the ActiveX problems is to use a browser that does not support ActiveX (Opera, Firefox). Earlier this week, I cleaned a machine with over 100 viruses on it. Let’s just say my customer had been doing some naughty things and his computer was watching.

5) Install Every Piece of Shareware and Freeware You Can Find

Lots of people have software on their PCs to do all sorts of things. Some have many pieces of software that do the same thing. All these pieces of software confuse and confound your poor PC.

When you’re no longer using a piece of software; uninstall it – especially if you have other applications that do the same thing. Most programs come with an uninstaller that appears in the Start > Programs menu next to the program’s shortcut. If not, you can always go into the Control Panel and go to Add/Remove Programs (or Programs and Features in Windows Vista). Having too many odd-ball programs installed tends to clog up the works (and even some choice well-known ones do as well).

6) Instead of Using Bookmarks/Favorites, Leave 90 Tabs Open

I was actually guilty of this one. Any page I wanted to reference that I recently visited, I left open in a browser tab to go back to later. As a result, my browser took about 2 trips of coffee to open.

Organize your favorites using folders and sub-folders, name the bookmarks according to what makes sense to you, and not what the title of the webpage says, and close tabs when you’re done with them. Your browser will then happily load up within a few seconds, which will be especially beneficial on slower Internet connections.

7) Put as Many Files and Folders on the Desktop as You Can

Some people store their pictures of their pets, their MP3s, or even their downloads right on their desktop. Pretty soon that adds up to be quite a lot of data (several gigs worth in many cases).

The first thing your PC tries to do when it finally boots up is load the desktop, and that means everything on it. As you can imagine, going through a large number of files (especially if they’re large) will increase the amount of time it takes for everything to fully load.

So, make use of the Windows file system, shortcuts, and possibly folders to group some of those shortcuts together (Audio, Video, Graphics, Games, Chat, etc.). Remember, you can also create shortcuts of almost anything by right clicking on the file or folder > “Send To” menu > “Desktop”. That will create a shortcut icon on the desktop.

8) Never Empty Your Recycle Bin

Out of sight, out of mind right? Once you delete a file, it just disappears into some black hole never to be seen again. Not quite. When deleted, most files end up in the Recycle Bin, and while there are files there, they still take up disk space. So it’s good to empty it every once in a while by right clicking on the Recycle Bin icon > Empty Trash.

9) Never Delete Your Temporary Files

Temporary files are just that–temporary. These are files that are created through the course of normal operations on your PC, but most of the time, just get left behind after a program is done using them. So, it’s good to clean them out every so often since the accumulation of them tends to clog up the works a bit.

To get rid of them, go into “My Computer” and right click on your C drive and click “Properties”. Click “Disk Cleanup”. This can take anywhere between 10 seconds and 30 minutes to load, depending on how many of these files are kicking around and if you addressed some of the previous steps for clogging up your computer.

Once loaded, you can check anything with the word “temporary” in it, as well as “Office Setup Files”, and “Recycle Bin” (yes, you can empty the recycle bin more than one way). It’s best to leave the other items unchecked unless you know what they are. A quick Google search will most likely reveal what they are.

10) Never Defrag Your Hard Drive

Over time when more and more files get saved to a drive, they get split up into different pieces, so instead of a nice mosaic floor, you end up with a bunch of jumbled puzzle pieces that your computer needs to figure out how to put back together for the files you want.

This is where defragging comes in. It reorganizes all those loose pieces and puts them all back together in sequential order, helping to speed up access time, thus making your computer run a bit better.

You can run the Windows Defrag utility about once a month (or more frequently if you have a lot of disk activity) in Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter. There are many other ways and pieces of software to defrag a drive, so this is by no means the best or fastest method–just the most easily accessible.

The Thrilling Conclusion

By avoiding these situations and doing a little preventative maintenance, your PC will be feel much better and will seem much more responsive. All of these steps are relatively simple, and if they don’t seem so, just try going through the motions at least once–I’m sure it will “click”. Unclogging your PC can be as much fun as clogging it, especially when you get that feeling when you start the machine and do not wait 10 minutes for it to load!


  1. Hello

    An interesting article – many thanks. However, I’m puzzled. I’m not a “techie” so I admit I could well have this wrong. You say to get rid of loads of shareware that might be duplicated etc etc. I’ve got tons of spare space on my hard drive so what’s the problem with having “even” 20 unused shareware titles – as long as they are not being opened at start-up, then they are just taking up space on the hard drive – surely they don’t in any way affect the running of the computer ?
    Also, I don’t like going through “Start” (I’m using Vista so I realise it’s now just a coloured flag, but hover over it and I see it’s still called “Start” !!) and I prefer to just put a short-cut on my desktop – even things like Control Panel and “C” Drive, Word, and most of my utilities. Are you saying that it would be better to at least group these short cuts into just a few suitably named folders – at the moment I’ve got 54 short cuts on my desktop ?
    Many thanks and kind regards

  2. Its seems actually true that most people dont defrag and dont know what it is!The survey seems to suggest that-
    I guess thats a debate thats as long standing as the chicken and egg one. I just ran it on my drives and have found them running better.

  3. You are right Dave. As long as they don’t start up you could fill the giant drives they have now days. My slowdowns are the antispyware as I have Spy Sweeper, Spyware Begone, Windows Defender, Spybot, Norton Antivirus, and Webroots Window Washer. But what the hey eh?

  4. In my honest opinion, the fact that people do or do not defrag is because they do not understand the function.

    I have had customers try to fix their slow computer by defrag. I have also had customers run it nightly to magically keep their PC fresh.

    In reality, I defrag maybe once a year, if not less than that. With XP, in my view, it is not required. Especially with technology now, it just isn’t useful.

    Now, on the older OSes, absolutely, the performance change was noticable.

  5. A great compilation (and with clear explanations) of the bad habits we PC users fall into that eventually cause us more grief than they’re worth.Microsoft’s LiveOneCare does a good job of managing at least a few of your wise tips. But I find the article very enlightening especially the steps you provide to undo the automatic collection of performance-robbing activities.

  6. Thanks for the comments 🙂

    Dave, the problem is essentially that some of these programs conflict with each other and edit operating system files, often resulting in some strange things. Most of the mainstream applications are fine, but some applications that are iffy in terms of legitimacy or just how they were written (possibly by an inexperienced programmer).

    Heck, sometimes you even run into issues with “official” applications. On my personal PC, I’m running XP SP2, and the latest version of Skype tends to mess with the explorer.exe process and explorer windows, followed by it crashing and needing to restart the process (if you need to restart it, ctrl+alt+del to the task manager, and go to File > Run and type “c:\windows\explorer.exe” without the quotes). Other people I know have complained about this same issue with Skype.

    4ever, true, many people don’t know what defragging is, and most of those people simply use their machines for surfing and email. In cases like that, defragging is rarely a necessity. Now, if you make use of a good number of files (and possibly large ones), you would benifit from more frequent defrags.

    I do a lot of heavy multimedia work, which requires a lot of reading, writing, and deleting of files. Regular defrags help with the speed (although on my machine, I have Diskeeper set to automatically defrag when it feels like it so I don’t suffer any downtime). So, the more disk activity you have, the greater the benifit of more frequent defrags.

  7. You forgot the most obvious: using AOL.

    When I built my brother’s PC, it was unbelievably fast and did a decent job for the budget I was limited to. After I installed AOL, it increased the startup time by around 10-15 seconds and slowed down almost every other process and/or program on it.

    And don’t get me started on how they messed with my non-tech saavy neighbor. They said he could use AOL high-speed, but the truth is no one every did any research on what needed to be done and he went almost a month without any access to the internet. I can’t wait for him to try to cancel his subscription one day.

  8. Very nice article. Thanks for the tips.

  9. How to clog up your PC in one easy step:

    1. Install Microsoft Windows

  10. martinpinnington says:

    brings back memories of bygone days when hd’s where 40meg in size.

    Another way to really mess a computer up is to let your dad install a file compression utility like ‘Stacker’ gives your hd a split id/s each named/an forgoten an can be done again, repeat several times for effect !! then wait till phones rings an says son i got a problem with my computer. Suffice to say i threw ‘stacker’ in the bin.

  11. Funny what a difference an OS can make.

    Lets see, I have dozens of computers here .. but all but 1 run some flavour of linux.

    1. AntiVirus ?? Not a problem here. Never been a problem .. ever.

    2. Additional desktop widgets in either Gnome or KDE dont seem to cause any slowdown on any of the machines. They MUST be consuming some resources, but its not noticable.

    3. Running programs at startup ? Well, thats init’s job, and startup is like .. once every 100+ days on average (the odd power failure). Not really an issue here. All my startup scripts are run in parallel anyway, so its always roughly 2 minutes between power up and full use of the desktop.

    4. Not a problem here. Good luck infecting anything with a bad active-X control, or buffer overflowing image or whatever.

    5. My whole operating system, every app and utility already is ‘freeware’ .. and installing things does not break other things, or consume resources outside of my explicit control. Performance on the file system does not suddenly degrade catastrophically when the number of files in a directory exceeds some critical mass either. (ala Fat32) Interesting point though.

    6. Yep, excellent call. Each tab (may) consume huge amounts of resources. Totally agree with you on this one – its a fatal habit to get into.

    7. Yep, agree, that would be a bad thing to do.

    8. My recycle bin empties itself. Anything over a week old in the recylce bin gets cleaned at midnight. Dont generally use it though – delete is delete is delete.

    9. Non-issue here. Temp files get auto-cleaned. /tmp is on a separate partition anyway, so when that fills up with junk, it cant affect the rest of the system. Log files also get auto-rotated and compressed via the standard ‘logrotate’.

    10. Ah .. bad me, Ive never defragged my hard drive. Oh wait – this is an auto-optimizing, journalled file system, it never needs to be defragged.

    Thanks for the article though – good points.

    Its interesting how much work people take on their own shoulders when they decide that Windows is somehow ‘easier’ to maintain than the alternatives which may be better designed in the first place.


  12. Have to agree with SteveOC on this one. Running Mepis 7 with none of those issues and I enjoy a secure fast operating system. Why so many people persist on keeping an unsecure problem filled OS like Windows on their computer amazes me.

  13. It ain’t that bad to not defragment at some time.
    Most systems can handle quite a lot these days.
    The real problems start when people become aware of movies they get from some questionable sources, you know the pirated scene rips of DVD’s. Those people automatically feel the urge to create their own rips and do some stuff like adding subtitles, converting, recoding and stuff, but the real problem is : This whole “Movie encoding/converting/editing” community is full of lousy folks that all brew some little tool to do this or that. For some nice encoding, adding your own subtitles, and making them even compatible for standalone hardware DVD-players, these people soon end up with 100, 200, sometimes 300 of lousy created “goodies”…. They practically all mess the registry, create all kind of handles, and dump crap in the Windows/system32/ folder, because the authors think their program is worth doing that, some go even further by installing low-level system drivers, some assholes go even this far to install low-level CDROM access layers, and those people’s AVI-creating adventure begins, while their nice fast OS becomes a real buggy, slow mess.

    This whole movie encoding scene is filled with braindead punks. They all know the ultimate solution, but only some hidden guys with brains, like the “superstar” aXXo should be allowed to play with this buggy toys.

  14. The worst of them all are actually the well known hardware manufacturers like HP, Canon, etc…
    For instance you buy a dirt cheap scanner for HP, the installion CD’s that come with it are mostly old crap drivers, and a few hundreds of megabytes of lame, crappy software. They aren’t even ashamed to install a few dozen of autorunning all-time-resident CPU-eating crappy goodies too. After all, these hardware manufacturers, mostly blinded moneysick fools think the only thing the user ever is gonna do is scanning documents all days long, and nothing else.

  15. … and if you really want to go for the ULTIMATE challenge, you should install a Symantec goodie ! 🙂

  16. HP printer drivers always have icons in the system tray which I cannot get rid of. How do i?


    By following the exact opposites of the DOs stated here, I saw two of my six-year old desktops with XP Pro OS, an IBM NetVista and a clone,come to life. File retrieval and overall computer use were both made easier & faster. I believe I also got the optimum levels I am supposed to get considering their processor speeds.

    I just wonder why companies disable basic Windows tweaks in their PCs and employees do nothing but complain about sluggish computers.

  18. These are all good tips, except one. 7) Put as Many Files and Folders on the Desktop as You Can. Somehow this one has become a popular belief with many people, but the amount of files/shortcuts on your desktop has almost no effect on boot up time or your computer’s performance whatsoever. Best I can guess people got the term desktop confused with startup folder or systray. Now those would make a difference. As would services that run automatically. But for most part, your desktop is treated just like any other folder. The fact that it is opened by default only means x number of icons have to be rendered, a minimal task for any computer. These files aren’t processed or run just because they are on the desktop.

  19. good!
    thank you !

Speak Your Mind