Rights & Money

Declutter Your Computer to Speed Things Up

Here’s how to remove unused programs and files to help your computer run faster

By Matt Smith

Has your computer been acting sluggish lately? While technology will start to show its age over time, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s time for a replacement just yet. A little bit of decluttering can go a long way towards getting your machine running smoothly again.

A good way to start is by taking a look through your computer’s “Documents” and “Downloads” folders. Remove anything that you no longer need, such as dated documents and old installation files. Consider transferring large collections of files such as photo albums to an external hard drive.

It’s also a good idea to periodically go through the programs that you have installed and remove any that you don’t need. In Windows, you do this by clicking the Start button, then Settings > Apps > Apps & features. Here you can select programs by name and click Uninstall to remove them. On a Mac, you simply open Finder and select Applications, then click on the icon of any program you want to remove and drag it to the trash.

Newer versions of Windows and Mac come with tools to help you free up space on your computer.

For Windows users:
Windows 10 has a tool called Storage Sense that automatically removes things like temporary files and the contents of the Recycle Bin. To access it, click the Start button, then go to Settings > System > Storage. Here you can enable Storage Sense and access its settings by clicking Change how we free up space automatically.

Earlier versions of Windows require a more manual approach, using the Disk Cleanup tool. Go to the Start menu and type in “Disk Cleanup.” Selecting the application in the results opens a window with a list of removable files. Check the boxes next to the ones you wish to get rid of and select OK to remove them.

For Mac users:
Mac users have similar tools at their disposal, on all operating systems since Sierra. To access these, click on the Apple icon on the left of the top bar, then About This Mac > Storage. Here you’ll see a graphic showing how much hard disc space you are currently using. Hovering your cursor over the sections of the graph will tell you what kind of files are taking up how much space. Click Manage in the top corner of the box. This will open a window where you’ll see a further breakdown of your Mac’s files. Here you are presented with the options Store in iCloud, Optimize Storage, Empty Trash Automatically, and Reduce Clutter. Each of these is a different tool to help organize and remove unnecessary files from your Mac.

Photo: iStock/peshkov.