Using the services available over the Internet means that over time you will accumulate vast numbers of cookies and ‘temporary’ internet files and will be exposed to a range of nasties including all sorts of malware that will reduce the speed of your computer or bring it to a halt altogether. The tips below will keep your computer safe while web surfing and preserve its speed.
Enable Windows updates (DIY safe)
When your PC is equipped with the most recent updates from Windows it is much less likely to suffer security breaches. The best way to ensure that you have the latest security updates (aka ‘patches’) is to enable automatic Windows updates on your computer using the Automatic Update utility.
Delete temporary internet files (DIY safe)
When you visit a website your browser adds a file to the computer’s hard disk in which it stores data about every page or URL address you view. The next time you visit the same website the browser will take the data from the Temporary Internet File first while only content added to the page since your last visit needs to be downloaded. This allows the page to display quickly in the browser without waiting for a response from the website's server all over again. If your internet connection is unavailable you can view the cached version of the webpage while offline. However, the name Temporary Internet File is actually a bit misleading in that the files are not really temporary. They will stay on your hard drive until you purge them and the buildup of data in the cache will gradually slow the processor down (there is a privacy issue also – anyone who checks the cache can see which websites you have visited). Eventually, the cache can take up a significant proportion of hard disk space. Browsers that use a Temporary Internet File cache have methods for deleting these files using the Internet Options utility. Don’t rely on running the Disk Cleanup tool for this job – it will delete only files, not cookies or shortcuts in the cache.
Change the browser history options (DIY safe)
The browser maintains a running list of the links to websites you have visited, its History function. One way to save on memory is to change how many days the computer saves this record of visited webpages. By saving these pages for a smaller number of days you can clear out more of your PC's memory.
Protect against malware (DIY safe)
Malware is the coverall term for all the nasties that exist in the world of cyberspace – viruses, Trojans, some types of adware, spyware et al. Their intent may range from being simply annoying (shoving an ad in your face) to being totally malicious (stealing your credit card details and other forms of identity theft) but, regardless of intent, the malicious files and registry entries they introduce will eventually erode the computer’s performance if not prevent it functioning altogether. Installing and keeping up to date on your anti-virus/anti-spyware utility is one of the most important things you can do to extend your computer’s life and safeguard its performance. You can purchase software such as Norton AntiVirus or Spyware Doctor, or free software such as Spybot - Search and Destroy. Set it up to scan automatically at least once a week but preferably daily.
Delete useless cookies (DIY safe)
Cookies are pieces of text that the web server at the site you are visiting sends back to your computer and that get stored on your hard drive. Cookies serve a legitimate purpose (saving login information to cut down on what you have to enter, remembering your name and preferences to provide a more personal experience at the site for instance) and do not invade privacy, pose a threat to the security of information or to the functioning of your computer.
Nevertheless, they add up and should be managed periodically. Get in the habit of reviewing the cookies accumulating in the browser and deleting unnecessary ones. Your browser will have a tool for doing a universal cookie delete but this will remove the useful with the unnecessary. They can be checked individually by going to the Cookies folder and deleting particular ones – not too time consuming if done regularly.