Given how many programs you'll install and how many files you'll download, your new PC won't stay in pristine shape for long — unless you put a little effort into maintaining it. Here are five free programs you'll want to check out to keep your PC running in top shape without breaking the bank. Keep in mind that most of these programs have more robust paid versions, but the free software and a little common sense online should keep you safe from just about any potential threat.
If you've had your computer for more than, say, a week, you know that junk files can pile up pretty rapidly. Keeping old and temporary Internet files on your computer doesn't just waste valuable hard drive space — it can also be a security risk. If you've downloaded harmful files or have sensitive information you no longer need kicking around in your Recycle Bin, you'll want to get rid of it right away, and few programs are more efficient than CCleaner. Originally called "Crap Cleaner," this software from British company Piriform performs a comprehensive scan of your temporary Internet files, browser history, cookies and other space wasters, then deletes them for good. This will keep your hard drive spacious and your history private.
Auslogics Disk Defrag
Newer computers generally don't benefit from defragmenting as older systems did, but it's still a good idea to run a defragmenter every once in a while (unless you have a solid state drive, in which case, don't bother). When you install, uninstall, download and delete files from your PC, each action leaves behind "fragments" of data on your hard drive. By defragmenting this data, you can free up space and make more efficient use of the space you have. Auslogics offers a free program, which can defragment and organize data, then give you a report afterward. It's nothing fancy, but it gets the job done for the right price. While Windows 7 has built-in defragmenting software, Auslogic's is a little faster and more robust, and it doesn't cost a thing.
Uninstalling a program may seem as simple as clicking "Uninstall," but using the default Windows uninstaller will leave a lot of junk files behind in your registry and your Program Files folder. Enter ReVo Uninstaller, which goes one step further. In addition to running a program's built-in uninstaller, ReVo scans your registry, your folders and even the deep recesses of your startup configurations to delete every trace of a program from your PC. It saves space, keeps your hard drive tidy and can get rid of harmful software with extreme prejudice.
Another entry from Piriform (which is Latin for "in the shape of a pear"), Recuva is what's colloquially known as an "undeleter." On a Windows PC, no file is ever truly gone until your computer utilizes the space for something else, so even wiping a file from the Recycle Bin is not the end. Suppose that a malware infection deletes some of your most important files. After you've repaired your system, you can run Recuva, which scans for deleted files and restores them to their rightful place. The program is incredibly simple, and also functions to recover date from rewriteable CDs, thumb drives and even smartphones (as long as they're plugged into your computer).
The Recycle Bin is not what it's cracked up to be. Programs like CCleaner can empty it efficiently, but even then, deleted files are kicking around somewhere in your computer until some new piece of data overwrites them. If you need a file gone and want it to stay gone — like a piece of malicious software that's been quarantined by an antivirus program or a very sensitive document, for example — you'll need a program that shreds data. Enter Eraser: free software that bypasses the Recycle Bin and destroys files forever. There's not much to the program: Simply select the file you want out of your life, and Eraser will make sure it never sees the light of day again. Taking the nuclear option with your everyday files might sound paranoid, but in an age where everyone from cybercriminals to the U.S. government wants your data, a little paranoia can be healthy.