Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Tutorial: Using CCleaner

I wouldn’t go anywhere without CCleaner

CCleaner (the “C” stands for ‘crap’) is a free system optimization, privacy and cleaning tool. It removes unused files from your system – allowing Windows to run faster and freeing up hard disk space. It also protects your privacy by cleaning (erasing) traces of your online activities such as cookies, and your Internet history. Additionally it contains a safe, fully featured registry cleaner.


click to read CNet's review/download

I have reco’d CCleaner many times here, and if you surf other geeky sites, you will surely see it mentioned (no doubt, recommended) if you haven’t already. If I could only download 10 tools, one of them would be CCleaner. (If memory serves, it was the first item I recommended here on T4E..) “CCleaner is the number-one tool for cleaning your Windows PC. Keep your privacy safe online, and make your computer faster and more secure. Over 500 million downloads.

Recently, Piriform released CCleaner 3.0, and I have been using this new version for a while. Today I am going to show you how I use it.

How I use CCleaner: If you have not done so already, download and install CCleaner 3.0. Note: during the install process, you will be asked to let CCleaner scan for “good cookies” (good cookies are, like, your email login) – let it (aka answer “OK”).

1) Launch (aka “Open”, aka “Run”) CCleaner.

2) By default, it opens to the crap cleaning tool (the paintbrush), and the “Windows” tab. Here is where you make selections for the “system”, and Internet. My preferences are shown, but you might want to include browsing histories.. (No one else has access to my machines, and use History as a timesaver, to return to previously visited sites, etc.)

Before you begin: Click “Options“, then “Advanced“, and uncheck the “Only delete temp files older than 24 hours” checkbox.


We can now go back to the paintbrush.. Note my choices.

settings for cleaner tool

3) Now click the “Applications” tab.

Notice how every “application is checked?

4) Click the “Analyze” button. This will start the cleaning scanner, and generate a report on the items CCleaner will remove. Check this, and make sure nothing you want is accidentally included, then..

5) Click “Run Cleaner”.

Some people do this every night before shutting down. Others, after every “browsing” session. I do it a little more casually than that — I run CCleaner at least once a week, as GP. But I make a point of running it after each time I visit a new website for the first time (which I do several times a day) with a special emphasis on Internet “temp” files. (Those files contain a Trojan.downloader more often than you might think!)
Why not? Running CCleaner’s cleaner tool takes about 30 seconds.. or less.

Now let’s look at the Registry tool: It is very important you understand – so important, in fact, I wrote: Top Tech Tip #2: Leave Registry Cleaners Alone – that one does not fiddle lightly with the Windows Registry. I cannot tell you how many times someone has come to me with messed up systems because they downloaded some “optimizer” hoping for faster Internet, or because their ancient machine crawls along like a turtle. (I reco you take a look at the article now.. it will open in a separate place.)
Registry defraggers/optimizers/”tune ups”/etc. is one of the bigger scams going. And everyone has one for sale. Why? Because the “average computer user” is ignorant of the facts. It’s that simple.

CCleaner is one of the (few) exceptions. And there are certain times when Registry cleaning is advisable (as the article above mentions).

1) Click on the “Registry” icon on the left. Again, note my selections.

—> —> ANSWER “YES”. MAKE A BACKUP!!! <— <—
(I Save directly to C:\, and name the file “regbackup”. To make it easy to find in an emergency.)

Someone will look at this and want to comment on why I have un-checked the first two. Let me answer that now. You do not have to follow my practice. You have made a backup, after all.
But, I do not trust anyone but myself to decide which dynamic link libraries (DLL‘s) I might need; and just because I haven’t used a file extension yet, doesn’t necessarily mean I want to remove a Registry pointer. (And.. I do not think of Help files as “space wasters”.) Yes, CCleaner’s Reg tool is safe, but messing with the Registry can introduce as many ‘glitches’ as it cures, and this habit of mine reduces the chance of that.. IMHO.

My Registry scan shows no “errors”. But yours – most likely – will. Maybe several hundred of them. Go ahead and ‘fix’ them. (I repeat: ANSWER “YES”. MAKE A BACKUP!!!)

2) Run the scanner again. (You do not need to save backups during these additional sweeps, but if you do, label them regbackup2, regbackup3, etc.)

3) Run it again, and again if you have to… until it reports “no errors found.”

This will not turn your turtle into thoroughbred race horse. But it may very well cure those strange “computer oddities” (aka ‘glitches’).

I encourage you to explore CCleaner’s Toolbox as well. I use use the Startup tool instead of msconfig, for example. If you are not already a CCleaner fan, click on the CNet image (top of article): read Seth’s review: download.

I have been using CCleaner for a lot of years, and this new version is everything I’ve come to expect, and more. (I especially like the improved 64-bit support.. one of those invisible “under the hood” items..)
And yes. I meant what I said about ‘go anywhere’. I copy CCleaner from my Program Files folder onto the thumbdrive that is my keychain’s fob.

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.

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November 17, 2010 Posted by | computers, file system, free software, how to, Internet, PC, performance, privacy, security, software, tech, tweaks | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

What Is The Optimum Computer Setup?*

…There are – however – “Good Practices”.. and certain “Do’s & Don’ts”.

This Reader Question Is A Doozie! An Average Joe Asks, “What Are The Basics We Should Employ?”

After reading my article, My Number One Piece Of Tech Advice* (For the non-techy), a reader posted this very good question:

Q: Taking this one step further – what would you say is the optimum computer set up for a beginner? ¹I am thinking of Internet Security and keeping the system optimized. I have Kaspersky and I think it is good.

I have Win7 and the other day, despite having Tune Up utilities, I found I had 20 svchost processes running. I’ve cut it down to 10. cartoon "happy PC with wings"

What are the basics we should employ?

What can the average joe install to give him/herself peace of mind in terms of security and performance? What browser should they use (I use Firefox 3.6 but it takes 30 sec sometimes to open hence my interest in optimization – Chrome about 15 sec but I love my Fox). Peace of mind is all I want so I can get on with running several small businesses. — John.

A: John, first of all let me say that while your question is very practical and logical, there is no single answer – there is no, “if you have X, and you do Y, you will be bulletproof.”

There are – however – “Good Practices”.. and certain “Do’s & Don’ts”.
For the “do’s“, I have provided readers the basic “common good practices” in what I call my “Top 10 Things You Should Do” list.
As for the “don’ts“, well, most of those are simple common sense and some of them are “paranoid common sense”. For example, “don’t open attachments in an e-mail from a stranger promising riches” and “don’t pour a large soda onto your laptop”. (Both will produce very unhappy results!)
Don’t watch porn on the same PC that you do your online banking with. (Why do I even need to say that?)

… some of your “more specifics”…

* I like Kaspersky, though I don’t have it on any of my machines and haven’t in years. I think it’s effective but I found it slow (I do use their online scanner frequently). Each of my machines has a different, top performing AV installed – currently:
Norton: NIS 2009, NIS 2010, 360 v3; Eset NOD32; Microsoft Security Essentials; PC Tools: Personal AV, Threatfire+AV, Spyware Doctor+AV; Avast! v5.0; and Avira Personal Edition. (Click here for my list and links of the for-free versions.)

My use of Anti-Spyware’s is equally varied — all highly rated. (Click here for my list and links of the for-free versions.)

I don’t really care, or have a preference, which one you use. I only care that you use common sense and good practices — namely, don’t let it “expire”, and do set them to automatically update themselves and run regular scans.

Many people suffer from PC slowdown. They wonder why their computer isn’t as fast as it used to be. So they download an “optimizer” or “Registry repair” (aka “cleaner”) program — which invariably promise to make your PC run “like when it was new!”
Please read, Top Tech Tip #2: Leave Registry Cleaners Alone.

The answer for slowdown – again – is: use common sense and good practices.
For the “do’s“, I have provided readers the basic “common practices” here, “Optimize” your hard drive. (Sometimes you’ll hear this referred to as “file system maintenance”; basically it means to clean off your old files and ‘build up’, and “defrag” your disk for faster performance.) There’s a difference between the files you have Save-ed, and accumulated, and the Windows Registry!

Applying common sense tells us the more stuff we have on our computer, the slower it will go. When our computer was brand-new, it had basically nothing on it (some trial software, and maybe a CD burning utility..). It was fast. Since then, we’ve added three media players, an accounting program or two, maybe a few games, Turbo Tax 2007, Turbo Tax 2008, Turbo Tax 2009, Flash player, Adobe Reader, Shockwave Player, Photoshop LE.. inhale.. 1,328 Windows Updates, maybe a “Service Pack”, various other Updates, a 500 song music collection, Blackberry Sync, iTunes,.. inhale.. Miro, “temp” Internet files, Live Messenger, Google toolbar, Yahoo toolbar.. aw, heck, you get the idea.

The first place to go – for a lean, mean, like-new machine is “Add/Remove Programs” in your Control Panel (named “Programs and Features” in Vista/7). Remove every program you recognize and know that you haven’t used in ages. If the uninstall asks about “shared DLL’s” answer “No to all”.. don’t take chances that something important may need them.
(If you have a little bit of savvy, I recommend the use of a “Uninstaller program” like Revo instead of the Control Panel.)

Removing unused programs not only cleans up your Start menu program list, and frees up room on your hard drive, but it can/does remove Startup items and associated Services. For my article on this, see My Startup Folder Is A Clown Car* and/or How To Manage Startup programs in Vista.

Which brings me to your mention of svchost…

* Svchost.exe is a generic host process name for services that run from dynamic-link libraries (DLLs). Having multiple instances of it running is quite normal. your computer is doing a lot of work we typically aren’t conscious of, as it’s “housekeeping” and happens in the “background”. My general advice for beginners is: don’t fiddle. My general advice for folks who think they’re “Power Users” is: don’t fiddle. I have seen IT Types thoroughly mess up machines because they thought they knew how to “tweak” Services, and their names were not always “Paul”! Ha!
If you have followed the best practices, as described in this article and the referred to lists/articles, you should be at, or very nearly at, an optimal machine. You don’t need to fiddle…

But if you feel compelled, or simply must know what those svchosts are.. the tool for that is Mark Russinovich’s Process Explorer, and I really do advise anyone considering using it to read Using Process Explorer to tame svchost.exe – Advanced topics. (Really! Note the “advanced”? Not for beginners.) There is no “right number” of instances.. nor is 10 necessarily better than 20.. it all depends on what you’re asking your computer to do.

…as for browsers.. Firefox with NoScript is hard to beat. Here are 10 ways to beef-up Firefox.
30 seconds sure seems long to me.. even if you’re re-opening multiple tabs: check your “add-ons” [or toolbars] to see if any may be incompatible with 3.6.. maybe uninstall/re-install them one at a time. And try changing your homepage to a non-cluttered, non-ad/Flash loaded site, like

My general advice for beginners is: If you do not KNOW, do not touch.
… or, I should say, “don’t touch until you’ve researched it thoroughly.” Remember, too, there’s no shame in seeking the council of a professional… such as myself!

Today’s recommended reading:
* Global Cyber Crime: The Playing Field, The Players -The Perfect Storm
In my recent article Internet: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly, I mentioned that organized crime was responsible for much of the malware and hacking now abundant across the Internet. This article will delve into those organizations and where they’re located across the world…

* Common Sense – You Cannot Install This
Of all of the layers of security software that I have installed on my PC, common sense is not engineered in any of them. That layer of protection is up to you…

¹ emphasis: mine.

* Orig post: 3/8/2010

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.

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June 2, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, PC, performance, tech, Vista, Windows, Windows 7, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Four Vital Tools You Already Have…

But Might Not Know About

Revitalize and Protect Your PC With Windows’ Utilities

Computers get slower with age. And as we add programs and updates, sometimes little ‘quirks’ develop. The older our machines get and the more we use them, the worse these things become.

Largely, this is simply due to how our machines read and write the 1’s and 0’s to our hard drives, and various “clutter” that builds up. (But some of it is our fault. We humans are curious creatures and we like to install new programs and try them out, and then we just leave them there, unused…)

Windows gives us four tools – called “utilities” – to help us keep our hard drives clean, happy, and running smoothly (sometimes called “optimized”) which you might be unaware of, (or use often enough) as you have to right-click to find them. (Out of sight, out of mind, right?)

These are:
● Disk Cleanup Tool
● Error Checker
● Tool Defragmenter
● Backup

To get started, click on Start >Computer (or, “My Computer” in XP/older).
Now right-click on the drive you want to “optimize” (usually, that will be “Local Disk (C:)”, but each drive [“volume”] will have this. C: is your main one), and a context menu will open — click on “Properties”.

gen tab

A new window will open to display the drive properties, and by default it will open to the “General” tab.

On this tab, we’re interested in the Disk Cleanup button. Disk Cleanup is a safe way to “take out the trash” and remove clutter from your disk.

My super-ultra-deluxe article on the in’s-and-out’s of this tool is here, More than you wanted to know about the Disk Cleanup Tool, but the short version is: click the buttons, answer “yes” and let it do its job. I recommend doing this once a week.

Now we dig down one layer, and this is hard work, so you might want to put on your gardening gloves, click on the next tab over.. the “Tools” tab.


disk propts

Here you find the other three utilities buttons.

The top button is the Error Checking tool. Running this tool is a good way to eliminate those odd ‘glitches’. What it does is, it examines the physical surface of your hard drive looking for “potholes” and marks those areas as “bad” so that the computer won’t try to put your files there.

It also examines your file allocation table (FAT) and makes sure that all your internal roadsigns are pointing at the right streets. Um.. maybe a card-catalog-at-the-library analogy might work better — it makes sure all the index cards are in the proper order and all the Dewey Decimals are correct.
This tool is for use as a repair, and not a maintenance, so use it as needed and not on a schedule.

Next up is the defragmenter. I remind my readers to run this once a month, and to set an automation schedule for it (Vista and Win 7 already have that) in articles like, When was the last time you “defragged”?
Keeping your disk “defragged” is the best way to keep it running like when it was new. (Be sure to run Disk Cleanup tool before the defrag.)

The last — Backup — isn’t an optimizer or age-fighter, but it is probably the most important feature in Windows. I have written probably 30 different articles on just how important making backup copies of your files, photos, records, etc., is, and why you really, really, really want to do it. See How To Use Windows Backup Tool.

I don’t really know why — for all these years — Microsoft has not put these utilities right under our noses and in plain sight as separate entries under Start >Programs… But now that you know where they are, you can use them and get that PC of yours into a more “like new” performance state. Aka, “optimized”!

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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May 16, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, PC, performance | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments