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With regular use of your computer you will want to do some regular cleanup.  Cleaning up the file system will help speed performance. You can use the Windows Disk Cleanup tool to: Remove optional Windows components that you don't use. Remove installed programs that you no longer use. Remove unused restore points and shadow copies from System Restore.   Also remove Windows temporary files, temporary Internet files, downloaded program files (such as Microsoft ActiveX controls and Java applets), and empty the Recycle Bin.  Optionally, you can also clear cookies, history, and recent docs.

Clean and/or defrag the system registry for
*Related: Windows Cleanup,  CCleaner, 

Everyday computer use (creating and deleting files, surfing the internet) can cause your hard drive to become fragmented.  Remember, from The Beginning section, that information is saved in sectors on the hard drive.  When you delete information, you end up with empty sectors (see pic to the right).  Future information then gets saved to the empty sectors first.  The problem is this, let's say that the file you're about to save will require 5 sectors.   The hard drive fills empty sectors first so your file will end up saved in separate pieces around the disk.  Because the hard drive has to go back and forth from sector to sector to read the information, it takes longer to retrieve.  (It can also cause information to become corrupted.)  You won't really notice at first but as you add and delete more information, over time you will eventually start wondering what is up with your pc.  There may even be shouting of obscenities involved.

You can prevent this by using the Disk Defragmenter program that comes with Windows.  The Defrag program takes the information off your hard drive, uses a free area on the hard drive to rearrange it so that files of information are all together, and then fills the hard drive back in (see pic to the left).
So now that you know WHY you should defrag, I'll show you HOW.

Before you defrag, let me make a few suggestions.
First, run defrag when you won't be using the computer for an extended amount of time.  I haven't found any such thing suggested from Microsoft but it makes complete sense to me.  Defrag is moving files around on your hard drive so, if you too are working with files, it makes sense that something could possibly go awry.  Better to be safe, close any windows & programs, and run defrag when you're not using your computer.
Second, when defrag has finish, shut the computer down for at least a minute.  Don't Restart.  Shut it down completely so that any temporary storage can be cleared and your computer can refresh.

To Defragment
Click Start, and then click My Computer or double click My Computer on the desktop.
Right-click Local Disk (C:) and then click Properties.

Local Disk shortcut menu with Properties selected

Click the Tools tab, and then click Defragment Now.

Tools tab with Defragment Now button selected

The Disk Defragmenter appears. Click your hard disk drive, and then click Defragment.

Disk Defragmenter window

*Note:  Your version of Windows may be different but essentially this works the same on all.

It will take Disk Defragmenter anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours to finish. When prompted, click Close.

Disk Defragmenter dialog box