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Workers and Warriors


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									The PC Cleanup Kit
Tools You Need To Get The Job Done
                           Hard drives are just like houses: You use them to store all of your stuff, and over time, you end
                           up collecting mountains of items that you don't necessarily want or need. Before long, your
                           house, or your hard drive, is packed with so much junk that there isn't room for the stuff you
                           want to keep, and that's when you know that a good spring cleaning is long overdue.

                        To clean out a house, you can have a yard sale and/or hire a cleaning service for assistance, but
                        you can't clean out a hard drive in the same manner. The garbage that collects there gets
stuffed into nooks and crannies that the average computer user isn't aware of and doesn't know how to access. And
you can't necessarily rely on outside help because they won't know what to keep and what to delete. Keeping your
hard drive clean is very important, as it reclaims valuable storage space and improves overall system performance.
But without the right tools, performing this essential maintenance is tedious at best and nearly impossible at worst.

We tested a variety of products designed to clear the clutter off your hard drive, and we discovered that there are
some excellent choices out there that everyone can benefit from, regardless of their budget. Whether you're looking for
a software suite that can do just about anything, or you want to amass a good collection of standalone applications—
many of which are free—we can practically guarantee that a product exists that meets your needs. Products differ
depending on the type of cleaning they are designed to do, so it helps to learn about the various types of utilities
before picking the ones you want to include in your personal PC cleanup kit.

  Duplicate-File Deleters

Whether you work with a lot of documents or frequently download files from the Internet, sooner or later you'll end up
saving identical copies of files in two or more places on your hard drive, eating up space that could store other data.
Duplicate-file deleters scan the hard drive for these files and present a list that lets you decide whether you want to
delete any unintentional twins. The most basic duplicate-file deleters simply look for files that have exactly the same
name, while the best products check names but also compare the data in each and every file to see if any contain
identical information, regardless of whether they share the same name.

DoubleKiller (free; is a good option that doesn't cost anything, and many
of the other utilities discussed in this article also include a duplicate-file deletion function.

  File Shredders

When you delete a file from a hard drive, it's gone for good, right? Wrong. Instead, Windows just erases the
"bookmark" that tells it where the file is stored, but the file itself remains on the hard drive until other data overwrites it.
That's terrific if you accidentally delete something and want to use a data recovery tool to restore it, but it's bad news if
you want to permanently erase a sensitive file.

File shredders both delete and overwrite deleted files so that the original data can't be recovered (or at least becomes
very, very difficult to recover). The best file shredders overwrite deleted files dozens or even hundreds of times using
random data so that no trace of the original file remains, as the best data recovery tools can sometimes reconstruct
data that has only been overwritten a few times. Eraser (free; is the best free file shredder we've
tested and is very easy to configure and use. If you want more features and an interface that's even easier to use than
Eraser's interface, try Wiperaser 2004 ($29.95;

  Internet History Erasers & Temporary-File Deleters

Every time you visit a Web site or click a link, you leave a trail showing where you have been on your computer.
Images, text, and sometimes even passwords and other sensitive information are stored in various places on the hard
drive—and usually, these files are not easy to find and delete. Internet history erasers know where all of these files are
stored and automatically delete any and all files that could tell others where you have been.

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                                    As you work with files and add and remove software, a collection of temporary files
                                    builds up on your computer, and people can access these temp files to see what you're
                                    working on or get other information that you might prefer to keep private. Temporary-file
                                    deleters know where all of these files are stored and automatically delete them.

                                    Most of the programs also come with Internet history erasers, so you can kill two birds
                                    with one stone, so to speak. An excellent example of this is CCleaner (free;
                          , which removes all of the tracks left by Internet Explorer while also
                                    deleting a variety of temporary files. If you want an extra degree of control, the terrific
                                    Empty Temp Folders application (free;
                           lets you select certain directories that you
     DoubleKiller uses a
                                    want it to empty automatically, plus it can scan the drive for useless temp files. Other
       variety of user-
                                    good tools include Disk Cleaner (free;, EasyCleaner (free;
     selectable methods   , and G-Lock Temp Cleaner (free;
         for finding
      duplicates of files
     on your hard drive.          If you don't mind spending a little money, Privacy Eraser Pro ($39.95;
                         is the most full-featured product that we tested in this category;
                                  it's capable of deleting everything from the IE history file to temporary files to the history
files for individual applications (including those that are part of Microsoft Office). Also, a really nice aspect of this
software is that it accommodates plug-ins, so it's very easy to add programs to the list of applications that Privacy
Eraser Pro tracks. This gives the software expandability and configurability that the freeware options can't compete
with. With Privacy Eraser Pro, it's even possible to schedule automated cleaning sessions and shred files.

  Removers Of Spyware, Adware & Viruses

It's nearly impossible to use email or the Internet without exposing your computer to some type of unwanted file—be it
a malicious virus, spyware that tracks your browsing habits or logs your keystrokes, or adware that causes annoying
advertisements to clutter your screen. Every computer needs software installed that will track down these types of files
and kill them.

To get rid of viruses, we recommend going with a subscription-based commercial product such as Norton AntiVirus
($49.95; or McAfee VirusScan ($39.99;, or perhaps considering a free
alternative such as AVG Anti-Virus 7.0 ( or avast! 4 Home Edition ( All of these
packages provide access to antivirus databases that are constantly updated and can be configured to run automated
antivirus scans. Just remember never to install two or more antivirus programs on your computer at the same time
because they may interfere with one another and fail to work properly, if at all.

If you want to rid your computer of spyware and adware, Microsoft's Windows AntiSpyware (free beta; is an excellent choice, but it's still in beta testing, so all of its features are not
complete yet. We also highly recommend Ad-aware SE Personal (free;, SpywareBlaster (free;, and Spybot Search & Destroy (free;, which can all be used
together to remove spyware and adware from your computer and prevent these programs from infiltrating your system
in the first place. For more information about spyware and adware, see "Find & Exterminate Spyware" on page 66.


Most hard drive cleanup utilities remove files from your computer, but defraggers reorganize existing files on the drive
so they can be accessed much more efficiently than if they are scattered all over the drive. The Disk Defragmenter
utility that comes with Windows does a decent job. You can access it from the Start menu by clicking Programs (All
Programs in Windows XP), Accessories, System Tools, and Disk Defragmenter. (For more information, see "Clean
Routine" on page 56.)

Microsoft's Disk Defragmenter should provide enough power for most home users, but if you want more power and
control, you should consider a third-party defragger such as PerfectDisk 7.0 ($44.95;, O&O Defrag
6.5 ($44.90;, Diskeeper 9 ($29.95;, or Abexo Disk Defragmenter ($19 to $35,
depending on version; All of these products are faster and more efficient than Microsoft's Disk
Defragmenter, and Diskeeper 9 even has a fully automated mode that defrags the hard drive on the fly, so you never
have to worry about scheduling defrag sessions.

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                                    Windows comes with an Add Or Remove Programs utility (Add/Remove Programs in
                                    Windows 98/Me) that's designed to help users quickly uninstall software, but this utility
                                    doesn't always complete the job. It sometimes leaves entries behind after removing
                                    software, and there are some entries that won't let the utility uninstall associated
                                    programs. If such remnants are clogging your hard drive, consider purchasing a product
                                    such as Advanced Uninstaller Pro 2004 ($27; or Your
                                    Uninstaller! 2004 Pro ($29.95;, both of which open much faster,
                                    have better interfaces, and let you uninstall programs by simply dragging and dropping
                                    shortcut icons. (For more information, see "Clean Routine" on page 56.)

                                       Tools For Registry Maintenance

                                    The Windows Registry is an enormous database containing all of the settings and other
       Protection from              details that Windows and installed applications need in order to function properly. If the
       viruses doesn't              Registry becomes corrupted or damaged, Windows may crash for seemingly no reason
        have to cost a              or refuse to boot. Also, if you frequently install and uninstall applications, they
      fortune; excellent            sometimes leave remnants of themselves in the Registry that clutter up this essential
      programs such as              database and eventually lead to slow system performance as the Registry becomes
       AVG Anti-Virus               unwieldy. For these reasons and more, it's very important to regularly clean and back up
       are available to             the Registry. You can learn more about such tasks by reading "Dust The Registry" on
     consumers for free.            page 68.

                                       All-In-One Packages

We've already mentioned several applications that are good at doing one thing, but there are many hard drive
maintenance products that can perform several tasks. These products tend to be more expensive than standalone
apps, but overall, you can save money by eliminating the need to purchase a bunch of software separately. Having
multiple tools available under the same interface also is very convenient.

System Mechanic 5 ($49.95; is a powerful integrated package that combines a disk defragmenter,
Registry cleaner, duplicate-file deleter, uninstaller, Internet- and temporary-file eraser, along with other tools. Norton
SystemWorks 2005 ($69.95; bundles one of the best antivirus programs available with several
hard drive optimization tools, as well as Norton's GoBack utility that makes uninstalling programs or recovering files a

There also are less expensive options. McAfee QuickClean ($29.99 to $39.99, depending on which package you
purchase; comes with an uninstaller, a file shredder, an Internet history eraser, a temporary-file
eraser, and a tool that helps clean up your email files. We also like Ace Utilities ($29.95;, System
Cleaner ($29.95;, and Super Utilities Professional ($49.95;, each of which
comes with nearly every type of hard drive cleaning tool (except for an anti-spyware or antivirus program) for a very
reasonable price.

  Keep It Clean

The price of a clean hard drive is eternal vigilance. Schedule a complete cleanup routine at least once per month
(more often if you handle a lot of sensitive data). See if you can configure the software to automatically scan the hard
drive at regular intervals to make the cleanup chore easier. And, of course, be relentless about your mission. Taking a
few extra minutes each week to deal with useless, duplicate, or downright malicious files is preferable to trying to
recover from an invasion of your privacy and/or a cluttered hard drive.

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