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Your Computer Not So Great?

Follow what we do to professionally cleanup your PC System

Professional Steps to a PC Cleanup

Slow laptop computer system with frustrated woman

For well over a decade our professional PC technicians use a set of steps to quickly cleanup and get to the nitty gritty of what is ailing a customer's computer system. Follow these simple steps to improve your computer's stability and performance today, and for the future.

Important: Save a shortcut to this page to your desktop, we'll be rebooting a few times in this guide. You can follow these simple instructions.

  1. Getting System to 'Baseline'
  2. Prepare Cleanup Tools
  3. Run Rootkit Scan
  4. Run Adware/Malware Scans
  5. Run CCleaner - 2nd Time
  6. Check Health of Hard Disks
  7. (Optional) Use Malwarebytes
  8. System File Check
  9. Conclusion

#1 : Getting System to 'Baseline'

Okay so the first thing we do is obtain the professional version of CCleaner. Yes, you do have to buy it but you'll get it for a one-time payment (= no monthly fee). Well worth it for what we're about to do. Read on!

I don't know if you have heard of CCleaner, but it's a truly awesome bit of genius software made by a company called Piriform.

CCleaner is a PC cleanup and registry cleaning tool. There are LOTS of registry cleaners out there, and we've found most of them affect your system badly. As 25 year veteran PC technicians, we only trust CCleaner on all our customer's cleanups.. in upwards of 10,000+ times.. and it still holds a flawless record today.

You could use the free version, but frankly we go for the pro version everytime since it has a more extensive cleaning engine and does a better job. And we really want to clean the machine first go. It's not expensive and you get a lifetime license as well.

Pro Tip: We recommend running it every month or so - this'll keep your computer running smoother and more secure!

The pro version has these additional features over the free version; Full Cleaning: Cleans the entire computer, Real-time Monitoring: automatic background cleaning, Up-to-date: Built-in cleaning engine updating, and Unlimited Support

Okay, so purchase and install CCleaner Professional. Don't worry about losing this page, it'll open in a new tab/window and you can continue on with this guide after installing CCleaner.

NB: Later in this guide we'll be using another of Piriform's products, Defraggler - for this we only need the free version, but there is a 4-in-1 bundle 'Professional Plus' edition that has CCleaner, Defraggler and some awesome extras.

Perform 'Baseline'

STEP 1: Fire up CCleaner Professional. It'll open in the Cleaner panel.

STEP 2: Immediately click the Run Cleaner button at the bottom right. Let it run to completion. This sometimes can take a few minutes, so grab a coffee.

Start CCleaner Professional scan

STEP 3: Click the Registry panel icon on the left, taking us to the registry cleaner part of CCleaner.

CCleaner Professional - Registry Cleanup

STEP 4: Click the Scan for Issues to start scanning for registry corruption.

CCleaner Professional - Start Registry Scan

STEP 5: Click the Fix selected Issues... , save a registry backup when prompted, and allow CCleaner to remove the unwanted registry keys.

CCleaner Professional - Fix Registry Corruption

This gets us to what we call our 'Baseline'. We know it's not quite the right word for it, but it has been the terminology we used when talking to our clients.. and it's stuck with us. Ok, onwards to step 2.

#2 : Prepare Cleanup Tools

Now that we have achieved our 'baseline', we need a few tools downloaded before we move onto the next steps of this guide. The five programs, TDSSKiller, RKill, JRT, AdwCleaner and Autoruns listed below should be downloaded and saved to the desktop.

We're going to run these tools in this order and will involve a number of reboots to your system.

Note: If you haven't already, now would be a fantastic time to save a shortcut of this page to your desktop. See article: Create Desktop Shortcuts for Web Pages

Bleeping Computer - TDSSKiller Download page

Download TDSSKiller

TDSSKiller is a small program, designed to remove the TDSS rootkit family and it's variants Rootkit.Win32.TDSS, Tidserv, TDSServ, Alureon, and others such as ZeroAccess. Download the EXE version since it's easier to run. Download TDSSKiller

Bleeping Computer - RKill Download page

Download RKill

RKill, developed by BleepingComputer.com, attempts to terminate known malware processes so you can get a chance to run other cleaners. This tools does not remove any files and as such you should always run JRT & AdwCleaner without rebooting beforehand. Download RKill

Bleeping Computer - JRT Download page

Download Junkware Removal Tool

Junkware Removal Tool is an excellent security utility that hunts and removes common adware, toolbars, and unwanted programs from your system. Download JRT

Bleeping Computer - ADWCleaner download page

Download AdwCleaner

AdwCleaner is the 2nd adware tool we'll be using and does an awesome job of removing adware and unwatned programs that JRT misses. Download AdwCleaner

Microsoft - Autoruns Download page

Download Autoruns

Autoruns is a Microsoft tool that allows us to see what programs get loaded into the system at startup. Download Autoruns

#3 : Run (basic) Rootkit Scan

TDSS Rootkit Scanner by Kaspersky

Run TDSSKiller

Before we start further into the cleanup, we do a quck scan for common rootkits and use TDSSKiller to achieve this.

When using the program, you should already have the EXE version on your desktop. It is easier to download the EXE directly and run this. We only download the compressed file (ZIP) if your system or Internet connection fails to download of EXE version.

STEP 1: Run your downloaded TDSSKiller. It will check for updates quickly. Accept the End User License Agreement and KSN Statement to get to the main window.

STEP 2: Click Change parameters and tick Detect TDLFS file system. Click OK to go back to the main window.

STEP 3: Start the scan by clicking the large Start scan button. It will check for updates quickly. Accept the End User License Agreement

STEP 4: Allow the scan to complete. It doesn't take very long, but if it asks to quarantine or remove, allow it to do so. Reboot if it requests it.

It is important to note that many rootkits target the name of the TDSSKiller executable so that it is terminated when you attempt to run it. Therefore, after downloading or extracting the executable you should rename it to iexplore.exe so that it can more easily bypass any protection routines a particular rootkit may use.

Allow the reboot if it prompts

#4 : Run Adware/Malware Scans

RKill by BleepingComputer

Step 1 : Run RKill

RKill is a program that was developed at BleepingComputer.com that attempts to terminate known malware processes, so other cleanup tools get a chance to run and clean your computer of infections. RKill will only terminate malware/adware's running processes and does not delete any files. We use RKill before running JRT and AdwCleaner because it gives us a much better clean rate.

To run RKill, launch RKill and take all defaults.

Junkware Removal Tool

Step 2 : Run JRT

Junkware Removal Tool is a security utility that searches for and removes common adware, toolbars, and potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) from your computer.

To run JRT, launch JRT, allow it to update if possibe, and take all defaults. JRT will remove the traces of these programs including their files, registry keys, and folders. After it completes, a log file is displayed, showing what has been removed.

AdwCleaner Malware Cleaner Tool

Step 3 : Run AdwCleaner

Using AdwCleaner is very simple but powerful tool to remove adware, toolbars, and unwanted programs that normally piggy back a 'free' program.

To run AdwCleaner, launch AdwCleaner and agree to the terms of use. You will then be presented with a screen that contains a Scan and a Clean button. The Scan button will cause AdwCleaner to search your computer for unwanted programs and then display all the files, folders, and registry entries found on your computer that are used by adware programs.

When the scan has completed, check through the scan results and uncheck any entries that you do not wish to remove. Usually we do not uncheck anything.

To clean, simply click on the Clean button. This will cause AdwCleaner to reboot your system and remove the adware components it found in the scan. Finally, AdwCleaner will display a text file showing the files, folders, and registry entries that were removed.

#5 : Run CCleaner - 2nd Time

Ok, so now we should have the system running quite a bit smoother, with likely a ton of adware, unwanted programs, and old Windows temp files and registry keys removed. We now need to run CCleaner that we purchased in Step 1 for a 2nd time and repeat this step's procedure.

We do this purely to clean up Windows again since we have performed a cleanup and keep it trim.

#6 : Check Health of Hard Disks

Defraggler in action, by Piriform

Our next step is usually to check there is no hardware issues with the primary hard drive of the system.

This is because there are two critical reasons why your computer can run slower than normal. One is adware/malware related and hopefully the steps leading to this has improved this. The other is a failing hard disk.

Windows has a nasty habit of not alerting you to this!

We're now going to check the health of our main drive. In this step we're going to explore two methods in reading what is called S.M.A.R.T., which stands for Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology. S.M.A.R.T records events that happen on your hard drive.

In simple terms, when a S.M.A.R.T. threshold is broken, the status goes from OK to WARNING or BAD.

Option 1 : Using Defraggler (Preferred Method)

Note: If you you purchased Piriform's Professional Plus 4-in-1 package earlier, you will already have Defraggler installed. If not, you can easily get the free version here. We did say you don't need the paid version, but you can support Piriform by buying it here.

Open Defraggler, go to the Health tab, and check the Health status in the main windows. Usually this will say GOOD. Other statuses, which aren't so great — such as "Bad", "Caution", or "Unknown" — can indicate problems with your drive, or an issue reading the S.M.A.R.T. information.

Option 2 : Command Prompt S.M.A.R.T. Check

There is an alternative way to check S.M.A.R.T status of your drives. You can check very basic S.M.A.R.T. status of your hard drives directly from the Windows Command Prompt.

To open the Command Prompt, hit Start, type Command Prompt and then press the Enter. Type the following (or copy/paste);

wmic diskdrive get status

Getting basic S.M.A.R.T. health - Windows command prompt

After you run this command, you should (fingers x'd!) see the status OK displayed for each hard drive on your system. The other status, that aren't so great — such as Bad, Caution, or Unknown — can indicate possible problems with your drive or an issue reading the S.M.A.R.T. information.

BAD or FAILING Status?

If you receive a bad or failing status in either of the above methods, you need to perform an immediate backup of your data. However, if all looks good with an OK status being displayed, move onto the next stage of this guide!

Obtained a BAD or FAILING status? - STOP following this guide, and immediately BACKUP your data!

#7 : (Optional) Use Malwarebytes

Malwarebytes 3.0 Premium

Still have Malware?

At this point of the cleanup, your computer should now be fairly clean of adware and system reasonably optimized. If your main cause for running this guide was malware, you should be mostly clear of this as well.

If the signs of malware are still apparent, we now download and run Malwarebytes to give it a once over. Click the Malwarebytes logo or here and install the 14 day trial or paid version, allow it to update and run a full scan.

Malwarebytes 3.0 Trial or Premium Download

Install Malwarebytes

Malwarebytes has an awesome reputation amongst computer technicians and well renowned for removing subborn malware active in a system. Download or buy Malwarebytes

Along with CCleaner, we regard Malwarebytes as one of the strongest products in it's class. We've found it to clean even the most stubborn viruses from a system, where normal anti-virus software fails.

#8 : System File Check

System File Checker is a utility in Windows that allows users to scan for corruptions in Windows system files and restore corrupted files.

To run the SFC utility;

Open an administrative Command Prompt; hit Start, type Command Prompt, then right-click on the Command Prompt at the top and choose Run as Administrator.

Type the following (or copy/paste);

sfc /scannow

Tip: There's a space between sfc and /scannow. Running the SFC command with its /scannow option next to it without a space will result in an error.

SFC /scannow repair - Windows command prompt

Important: For the sfc /scannow command to work properly, it must be executed from an elevated Command Prompt window in Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10.

Hint: Sometimes it takes up to two or three tries for SFC to fix the issues. Run it more than once!

Conclusion

This guide should help in resolving and cleaning up your computer system - you'll find a definite speed improvement by completing these steps.

If malware was your main concern and find you still have issues, download and install Malwarebytes to your system, and allow it to perform a full scan.

We also usually uninstall and reinstall your antivirus program because quite often malware may have damaged the installation and cannot trust it. If you have an expired anti-virus or want a better choice, head over to our top 10 antivirus products of 2017.