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How to Remove Unwanted Items from Your Computer - Part I

Removing an unwanted item from your computer can range from the
trivial, to the downright nerve-wracking. Part I of this article
describes some of the most basic types of unwanted items. Part II
discusses specific procedures aimed at their removal.

First let us classify the various types of 'unwanted items' in
existence. Also for the purposes of this article, assume that a
Windows-based computer is the object of this exercise.

Unwanted items in the most generic sense may appear in the form
of files (items of data), or programs (executables), either fully
installed in the normal fashion (using the Windows Installer
program), or simply stored in some folder location. The latter
simply needs to be clicked on for it to run as intended, or
unintentionally triggered by some other process. Moreover,
programs may be 'hostile'. In other words they may be malware - a
virus, trojan, spyware or Adware.

Below are listed some of the more common types of unwanted items
that may be found on your computer.

Unwanted Data:
Removal of unwanted data can be simply by identifying, locating
and deleting the data file, followed by emptying the trash can.

However, you should be aware that if security is an issue, simple
file deletion as described above will not completely remove all
traces of the data. To ensure that sensitive data is removed
'forever' the data must be overwritten with new data designed
according to recognized secure methods. Details of such a
procedure are beyond the scope of this article.

Since it is theoretically possible to retrieve even data that has
been overwritten, some would argue that the only secure way to
prevent sensitive data from ever being retrieved is to physically
destroy the hard disk originally used to store the data. It is
safe to say, though, that such retrieval would be way beyond the
capabilities of all but the most technically sophisticated.

Cache Files:
Cache files are used by Windows to help speed up the execution of
routing and/or repetitive operations. While these are not
'unwanted' in the strictest sense of the term, over time the
cache file size may grow unnecessarily large, thereby degrading
computer performance.

Internet Temporary Files:
During the course of the normal use of Internet Explorer of other
Internet browser, many temporary files are created.

Windows Temporary Files:
Windows creates temp files during software installation as well
as various other operations. These files provide the ability to
easily recover from various possible 'glitches' that may occur
during execution of a given process.

Similar to Cache files, Windows uses 'temp' (temporary) files to
provide smoother operation of various installed programs. Temp
files are conspicuous by their '.tmp' file extension. For
example, you will find temp files being created whenever programs
such as MSWord or Excel are used.

Unwanted Installed Programs:
Any program originally installed using the Windows installer may
be uninstalled by the usual (recommended) method of going to the
Control Panel and running the 'Add/Remove Programs' utility. Many
programs are also supplied with their own uninstaller. In such
cases this feature should be used as a first option for its
removal from your computer.

It should be noted that if the program's own uninstaller and/or
Windows Add/Remove Program utility fail to remove the program,
other more intrusive means of removal may be employed. This
option will be covered in Part II of this article.

The removal of malware (spyware, adware, etc.) is typically the
most challenging of all the procedures described thus far. In
fact, the initial obstacle is recognizing that such an
'infestation' does indeed exist.

Some of the first signs of possible malware infestation are:
- Erratic computer operation.
- Computer crashes.
- Slower-than-normal operation.
- Pop-up messages warning of virus infestation or other problem
(trying to scare you into taking some particular action, such as
visiting a website promising to fix the problem).
- Your Home Page suddenly being changed from the normal site
(home-page hijacking).

To be sure, there are other factors that may slow down your
computer or cause erratic behavior, such as file corruption, or
software bugs. However, there are a few procedures you can follow
which will reduce or eliminate the possibility that your computer
is in fact the victim of a malware 'attack'.

It makes good sense to run a complete check for malware and
remove any items found, and then perform routine maintenance
procedures (temp file removal, etc.).

The basic recommended procedures for removal of unwanted items
from your computer are discussed in Part II of this article.

To Your Success,

Leon Edward


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