How to declutter: Spring cleaning your computer for better security

How to declutter: Spring cleaning your computer for better security

Thursday, 30 March, 2017

Just like our homes, our computers accumulate stuff we no longer need or use. But while we can throw physical things out regularly, our PCs, laptops and tablets may have thousands of tiny files taking up space that just sit there gathering virtual dust.

That free demo you downloaded or that game you completed? The forest of icons covering the desktop? All produce cookies or temporary files that you don’t use, but sit there hidden away.

A hard drive that’s never been decluttered can also make your PC or laptop disorderly and slow.

What’s more, a cluttered computer leaves you vulnerable to the unwanted attentions of cybercriminals.

Time to declutter out-of-date software

There’s a good chance that software on your computer that you very rarely use is not being updated – or in tech-speak: ‘patched’.

This leaves those programs vulnerable to cyberattack.

Think about the Flash Player you once downloaded and never used, or the Adobe Shockwave Player that seemed a good idea at the time. All can be a gateway for cybercriminals if they are not properly updated.

Gathering information from a survey of 116 million Windows users a recent global survey found almost 50 million had outdated Javascript programs running on their PCs and laptops.

And, astonishingly 99 percent of those surveyed had never updated their Flash software.

These are an open invitation to cybercriminals and should be removed.

Windows users can do this through their Control Panel (Start ¬ Control Panel ¬ Programs and Features ¬ Uninstall a program).

How to declutter: Spring cleaning your computer for better security

How to declutter ‘end-of-life’ programs

According to another recent survey, on average we have 72 programs installed on our computers downloaded from 25 different vendors. But many of these have reached their end-of- life status for which patches and updates no longer exist, again leaving them vulnerable to cyberattacks.

So it’s time to get out the cyber-broom and clean up your PC.

Top tips for cleaning your computer

These ideas are primarily for Windows users but the principles can be applied to all systems.

  • Clean up your desktop. The desktop is usually the go-to place for email attachments, photos and downloads. It can soon resemble a very cluttered screen.
  • We recommend you create a temporary folder specifically to place all those everyday downloads that will be – by their nature – temporary. If you right-click anywhere on your Desktop you’ll get the option to create a New Folder.

How to declutter: Spring cleaning your computer for better security 1

  • Experts suggest opening your desktop in File Explorer as it is easier to navigate and identify files, folders and shortcuts you don’t really need.
  • How many times have you used Windows System Tools like the Disk Defragmenter? This is a useful program that allows users to get rid of all the little spaces and leftover files in your computer’s hard drives, making them run faster and smoother.
  • One of the oldest system tools from Windows is the Disk Cleanup. This is particularly useful for clearing out temporary files, cookies and offline websites. While limited it has its uses. You can acccess Disk Defragmenter and Disk Cleanup by going to Start ¬ All Programs ¬ Accessories ¬ System Tools

How to declutter: Windows disk defragmenter

  • There are a number of useful programs that can clean-up your PC more effectively, like CCleaner, which you can download for free at the Piriform website. Norton Security also offers a similar program.
  • Any software you decide to keep, look for auto-updating tools such as AVG TuneUp.
  • Just like your house – that we’re sure you clean more than once a year – maintenance of your PC or laptop is essential. Develop the habit of regular clean-ups, deleting software as its usefulness comes to an end and making sure programs are updated on a regular basis.
TG Bamford author picture


A veteran freelance journalist writing extensively on internet news and cybersecurity.

News What's the story?

Keep up with the latest developments in UK broadband.

UK 5G network goes live – are you up to speed?

Here's everything you need to know about the new mobile broadband network.

UK 5G network goes live – are you up to speed? Read more

TalkTalk offers exclusive £80 reward to new fibre customers

The huge bonus is available to anyone signing up for a 'Faster Fibre' bundle through

Read more

TikTok ‘gifts’ empty kids piggy banks

Children are most vulnerable to 'influencer' donation pleas

Read more

Netflix ruins 90’s cartoon, enrages internet

The streaming giant came in for criticism for 'straightwashing' Japanese cult classic anime.

Read more

Porn-block pushed back by clerical errors

Further delays to the child-protection measure, with the process mocked as an 'utter shambles'.

Read more

How to watch Wimbledon online for free

How to make sure you don't miss out on the action from your favourite sports stars.

How to watch Wimbledon online for free Read more

Fast fines for ISPs could end the “Loyalty Penalty”

But could the proposed measures mean worse deals for those who shop around?

Read more

Boris Johnson mocks full-fibre roll-out plans

The likely next PM boasts plans to beat current targets by 8 years, but is it all just hot air?

Read more

Broadband and phone companies to put Fairness first

Telecoms providers commit to raising standards.

Read more

UK to get legal right to decent and affordable broadband

New legislation will ensure minimum speeds for every UK household.

Read more

GDPR – One year on

The landmark legislation gave people the ‘right to know’ when their data had been hacked.

Read more

Help Learn with us

Make the most of the internet with our broadband library.

Why Ofcom’s USO is more than pie in the sky

Why Ofcom’s USO is more than pie in the sky Read more

Protecting your small business against cyber attacks

Read more

Could 5G end fixed-line home broadband?

Read more

How broadband availability varies across the UK

Read more

Which social media platforms should I be on?

Read more

Will you get online on holiday?

Stay connected during your get-away.

Read more

Make the most of your broadband overnight

Make the most of your broadband overnight Read more

The main causes of slow internet connections

Slow broadband can be more than just an irritant - but what causes it, and what can we do to fight back?

Read more

Do you need to ramp up your broadband controls?

Read more

The different types of home computer

Read more

Will we all need gigabit broadband one day?

Read more
Back To Top