Binary boot camp: 10 apps to get your PC in perfect shape

The apps that make your PC a lean, mean computing machine

New Year is when many of us head for the gym to work off all those mince pies, but a January boot camp doesn't just benefit humans – it can be good for your PC, too. A regular cleanup can do wonders for your PC and make it the lean, mean machine it was when you bought it – and making your PC better can make you more productive too. Here are some of the apps that can help get your PC back in peak condition.

1. SiSoftware Sandra

Sandra is the electronic equivalent of getting a full medical check: it analyses your PC and lets you know how well each part of it is performing, producing benchmarks that you can then compare against similar systems.

SiSoftware Sandra

SiSoftware's Sandra delivers comprehensive benchmarks on every aspect of your PC's performance.

It can tell you the state of your hard disk, analyse the speed of your network, let you know if any part of your system is delivering less than stellar performance or identify conflicts between bits of your system, and while it's probably a little over the top for casual computer users, it's a great tool for PC power users and the insatiably curious.

2. CCleaner

Running CCleaner on your PC is like sweeping it with a brush: it gets rid of the dust and cruft that can accumulate over time and that can make your PC work harder and/or use up more disk space than it really needs to.

CCleaner

Give your PC a spring clean with the simple and effective CCleaner.

The app makes it simple to get rid of temporary internet files, system files and unwanted installers, clear log files and remove redundant Registry entries, clear applications' temporary files and prevent unwanted apps from running when Windows starts. It's simple, user-friendly and very quick, and there's a portable version if you want to run it from a flash drive or CD.

3. CrystalDiskInfo

Want to know what state your hard disk or solid state drive is in? Then you need to get S.M.A.R.T. It's short for Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology, and it's a system that essentially means your hard disk can tell you whether it's feeling poorly.

CrystalDiskInfo

Is your hard disk or SSD days from disaster? CrystalDiskInfo knows.

CrystalDiskInfo lets you see the S.M.A.R.T. information for your drive(s), enabling you to see whether a drive is running too hot, if it's starting to report more and more disk errors or if it's about to go boom and take all your important data with it. It's a useful tool to have.

4. DriverEasy

If you're using Windows 7 or later you can skip this one, as Windows Update does a great job of keeping your system drivers up to date. On older systems, though, staying on top of driver updates can be a pain – albeit a necessary one, as driver updates often eradicate bugs and security flaws.

DriverEasy

Stay on top of driver updates on older Windows machines with this useful app.

DriverEasy promises to make the whole process painless by analysing your system and comparing what you've got to its driver database to let you know whether anything needs updated, and while it doesn't install the new drivers automatically - that's in the paid version - downloading manually isn't too much hassle.

5. Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+

Ad-Aware is designed to remove unwanted programs and to prevent them from getting onto your PC in the first place from malicious websites and infected emails. It scans for viruses and other dangerous software, and it also looks for adware and spyware.

Ad Aware Free Antivirus

Banish unwanted programs and prevent nasties from getting onto your PC in the first place.

The first of these is software that blasts you with unwanted ads, and the latter tracks what you're doing and uploads that information to third parties. A full scan of a typical PC can take ages, but it's worth doing – and once you've done it then the real-time protection should help keep your PC free of net nasties.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Contributor

Former lion tamer, Girls Aloud backing dancer and habitual liar Gary Marshall (Twitter, Google+) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to .net, MacFormat, Tap! and Official Windows Magazine as well as co-writing stacks of how-to tech books. "My job is to cut through the crap," he says. "And there's a lot of crap."