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12 must-do PC tasks

Alex Castle | April 8, 2013
Computers may have become a lot more user-friendly over the past decade, but they're still far from perfect--PCs require a certain amount of configuration and maintenance to operate at their full potential. Unfortunately, because we humans are also far from perfect, we frequently don't put in the work we should, and we end up with a slower, sloppier, less secure machine as a result.

It's simple to delete excess files, but getting rid of programs can be more of a pain. PC Decrapifier can help you quickly uninstall multiple programs at once if you're doing a truly deep clean. Revo Uninstaller is a handy tool if you try to uninstall a program but still find it taking up space. Revo Uninstaller lists all the software on your PC and lets you manually obliterate any stubborn programs. It then scans for data or Registry entries that the program may have left behind, and deletes those as well.

Once you've given your PC a thorough, manual cleansing, run an automatic cleaner such as CCleaner to see if you missed anything. CCleaner scans your computer for known space-wasters, including temporary Internet files and log files. You can review the files it finds, and then tell CCleaner to erase them all, potentially clearing up gigabytes of wasted space.

It probably goes without saying, but make sure that you understand what you're deleting before you pull the trigger. Freeing up a bit of space isn't worth the risk of nuking an important system file or losing a valuable document.

Encrypt your private data

How much of your life resides on your computer? Do you keep medical records, bank statements, or other files that you wouldn't want other parties to access? I'm not saying that you shouldn't store sensitive data on your computer--it's one of the best ways to keep track of such things, assuming that you have a strong backup plan. You should encrypt those sensitive files, however, to make sure that your information stays safe and secret even if your data winds up in someone else's hands.

First, find all of the sensitive files on your computer--financial and medical records, contracts, and anything else you wouldn't want strangers to see. Place them all into a folder. You can (and should) organize them in subfolders, just as long as you have one root folder that encompasses all of them.

Next, install TrueCrypt, a free and open-source program that provides easy-to-use, government-grade encryption. TrueCrypt stores encrypted files inside a container file called a volume; think of a volume as a safe, and TrueCrypt as its key. Click the Create Volume button and then choose the Create an encrypted file containeroption. Proceed through the remainder of the volume-creation wizard. Each step is explained pretty clearly, and if you don't understand something you can safely leave the default selected.

Once the utility has created your volume, you need to mount the volume. Think of this action as opening the safe, although it will remain open only while TrueCrypt is running. Click Select File, and find the volume file you just made. Click the Mount button, and enter the password you created with the wizard.


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