Here’s a quick guide I’ve knocked together to help clean up a PC that may have browser pop-ups and may be running a little slower than it used to. It’s not intended as an in-depth PC service manual, but it should work as an effective crib sheet for tidying up a computer.
Add/Remove Programs from Control Panel > Programs > Uninstall a Program
OR Start > Run > appwiz.cpl
Work your way through the list and uninstall any suspicious / unknown applications, if the problems are fairly recent then you can sort the list of applications by date of install (click the column header) and remove all recently installed programs.
• Internet Explorer > Cog > Manage Add-ons > Toolbars and Extensions > right-click each and select ‘Disable’
• Internet Explorer > Cog > Manage Add-ons > Search Providers > Choose the desired search engine (normally Google), right-click and select ‘Set as default’ > right-click each other search engine and select ‘Remove’
• Nuclear Option – reset all IE settings: Cog > Internet Options > Advanced > Reset > check box to Delete Personal Settings > OK > reboot
• Settings > Add-ons > check and remove/disable any unnecessary plug-ins and extensions
• Settings > Options > General – check and set home pages
• Settings > Options > Content > check box to block pop-ups
• Add Adblock Plus to FF: Settings > Add-ons > Get Add-ons > Search for and install Adblock Plus to hide advertisements
• Nuclear option – reset all FF settings: Settings > Help > Troubleshooting Information > Reset FireFox
• Settings > Search engines
• Settings > Extensions
• Settings > On start-up > open new tab
• Nuclear option: Scroll down to bottom > Show Advanced Settings > Reset Chrome
Now to run a few quick anti-malware scans and clear down temporary files, MRUs (most recently used items) etc
• Download and install MalwareBytes (MBAM), do not enable the resident protection trial, run the ‘Quick Scan’ and action any detections
• May as well run Kaspersky TDSSkiller, this will scan for common rootkits. NB – not an in-depth anti-rootkit utility, just a cursory examination. Download and run TDSSkiller, should only take 5 minutes.
• Download and run Piriform’s CCleaner, leave everything selected and let it do its thing. This will clear temporary files, temporary internet files, MRUs, file caches, missing startup items and more.
• Check Windows Update status: Control Panel > Windows Update >
• Finally review startup items in MSconfig (XP and Win 7 – Start > Run > msconfig) or Task Manager > Startup (Win 8 +). Removing unnecessary items from these lists will improve boot and login speed.
This is only a five-minute-fool’s guide to cleaning up a personal computer. It won’t clean everything, it’s not a substitute for knowledge and understanding and it won’t remove viruses / rootkits from a well-infected machine. It should help keep most machines running smoothly though, and remove annoying pop-ups and slow-downs.