This post is for those of you who may have gotten a new PC for Christmas (or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or your birthday, or because it was on sale).

New PCs come with a lot of “stuff” loaded on them.  Some of the “stuff” is the operating system, which is needed to get things going.  Some of the other “stuff” is useless demos, and software that somebody has paid to get onto your PC, and generally is junk that you don’t need.

Worse than that: it can be hurtful.  I worked with a guy who was doing his college course-work on a PC, using a trial copy of Word that had come with his new PC.  The 3-month trial expired just as he needed to finish a paper for a class.  It wasn’t Microsoft’s intention to hold his work hostage, but that was the effect: buy our product and you can get to your paper again!  (In this case, Open Office worked just fine.)  A week ago, for our church’s play the Sunday evening before Christmas, we needed to play some sound effects from a PC.  The default sound-playing application was MusicMatch Jukebox, which has the annoying habit of announcing itself by playing some ta-da sound.  Bad news for when you want only the sound effect, and definitely not a sound effect announcing the sound effect.  (Here, Media Player Classic did the trick by playing sounds through drag-and-drop, and not announcing itself before-hand.)

So you could try and track down all this extra junk that’s on your shiny new PC, and go through all the Control Panel | Add/Remove Programs, and pick programs one by one.  And never be sure whether this one or that one is good or not, whether taking it off will turn your PC into a zombie.  That’s the old way to do it.

The new way is to use the PC Decrapifier.  Jason York got bothered over all the junk software on a new Dell (back in 2006), and wrote the Dell Decrapifier.  After expanding the program (and getting a friendly note from Dell), he genericized the name.  And it works.  It goes out to the hard drive and sees what non-essential software exists (and what it checks is extensive).  It lets you approve the list of what will be removed before you hit the “do it” button.  This works for XP, Vista, and Win7.  Not surprisingly, it removes both the MS Office demo and MusicMatch Jukebox.

The other part of improving your PC’s performance and lessening your disk space usage is CCleaner.  This guy cleans out temp storage, unused log files, cached web pages, and old MS hotfixes.  (I mean, really, Microsoft: do you ever think I’ll want to remove fixes that patch security holes?)  I would be careful before approving everything that’s found using this software.  I don’t want my cookies removed, or my form history or my URL history.  I like the convenience of having my browser keep track of my fantasy football URLs, and I don’t want to log in to my web sites again (and remember all those passwords), so I keep cookies, browsing history, and Recent Documents.

Finally, to make maximum use of all the disk space you now have, you should defrag your hard drive to consolidate all the empty space (think of it as storing your stuff in a warehouse instead of in a thousand coat closets).  My recommendation for this task used to be JKDefrag, but Jeroen Kessels changed the name to MyDefrag as of version 4.  Same author, same defragging goodness, same strange interface.  I’m running the Defrag, and then the Optimize.

Happy computing!