With a little confidence and clear directions you can diagnose many computer problems yourself.  All software listed in this section is linked on the Software page.

A great site for free computer help is

The following two procedures can help the performance of any computer.

# 1.  Basic Computer Case Clean Up - If you've had your computer for a year or longer, chances are you've got dust.  Heat is the most overlooked computer performance problem, and a dirty CPU cooler does not dissipate heat well.  This section is only for someone experienced with handling computer hardware.  If you are not sure, then get someone else to do this for you.  It is always better to err on the side of caution.
  • Power off your computer.  Disconnect the power cord.
  • Press the power button to discharge residual power from the system.
Follow anti-static protocols.  Always touch a piece of bare metal on the case before touching an electronic component inside the case.
  • Remove the computer case cover.  Vacuum out the case, but do not knock your hardware with the vacuum attachments.  I use a shop vac with small attachments specifically for computer maintenance.
  • Inspect the heat sinks for dust buildup between the fins (particularly the CPU cooler).  The best way I've found to clean them is to remove the fan from the heat sink and vacuum it directly.  Also, you can used compressed air to help dislodge buildup between the fins that the vacuum could not get.  Be careful when removing and reattaching the fan that you don't stress/hurt the chip that the heat sink rests upon.
  • Use a can of compressed air to clean up anything that you couldn't reach with the vacuum.  Use the vacuum again to remove the debris you dislodged with the compressed air.
  • Close the case and reconnect the power cord.
NOTE:  If the PC does not boot properly following the preceding clean up procedure, you most likely dislodged a component.  Power down, disconnect power cord and discharge residual power.  Reinstall RAM modules, video cards, etc, reassemble case and power up. 

# 2.  Basic Hard Drive Clean Up - The average user has  a cluttered computer.  Your hard drive will perform best with at least 15 - 20% available free space.
  • Back up files that you haven't looked at or used in the last 90 days.  You should have a CD or DVD burner to put these files on discs.  If you don't have one, get one; has good DVD burners for $20 - $40.  Buy one that has a lot of good reviews.  There are different connector types for these components (IDE, SATA, etc); make sure you get the one that is compatible for your system. [Generally speaking most DVD burners will also write to CD.  A DVD will hold the same amount of data as 6 CDs.]
  • Get rid of software you don't need or use.  Uninstall it.
  • Download and install CCleaner.  After you install it, right-click the Recycle bin and select Open CCleaner. 
    • The main function of this program is to clean out temp files and other crap that can be gumming you up.  Out-of-the-box this program selects to delete your internet history but not the Windows Hotfix Uninstallers.  Personally, I like to switch these selections (keep the history and delete the Hotfix Uninstallers).  Anything you see checked is going to be cleaned out.  Nothing that this program deletes is going to hurt your system, but it may clean out some of your user preferences.  If you are having problems then just clean everything.  Ultimately, the choice is yours.
    • Click the Analyze button and the program will list everything that it will clean out. Clicking Run will do the deed.
    • On the left-hand side click on Registry.  Make sure all the check boxes under Registry Integrity are selected, then click "Scan for."  When scan is complete, select Fix and then Fix All.  If you are prompted to backup your Registry, do so. Repeat the Scan and Fix until no problems are found.
  • Download and install Free Registry Defrag and run the program (you'll find it under Programs->Registry Clean Expert). After cleaning up your registry it is a good idea to defragment/compact it.  This program does that and then reboots your computer.
  • Defragment your computer with a good program that can run at Boot time.  I recommend Piriform's Defraggler or Raxco software's PerfectDisk.

Aarrgh!  Pop-ups! - If this is you, then you have malware.  Use an online scanner, like ESET Online (NOD32), and use an anti-malware appI have successfully cleaned some BAD computers using ESET NOD32 Antivirus along with some combination of Malwarebytes' AntiMalware, SUPERAntiSpyware (portable) and/or Spybot Search & Destroy.