Patrick Marshall answers your personal technology questions each week.
Q: Ever since the beginning of Windows (I think I’ve had every version and I’m currently using Windows 7 Professional and Windows 10 Home), the operating system starts out relatively fast, but without fail it gets bogged down. I am to understand that these slowdowns are caused by installing and uninstalling programs and just use in general?
I have invested in many “cleaners.” I haven’t been impressed or found success with any of them; I usually get myself in trouble by deleting something I needed. Is there anything that works to identify and clean up all that junk that slows the OS?
— Mike Haucke
A: I understand and share your concerns about relying on “cleaner” programs. I don’t, however, really put the blame on the cleaner programs. They are trying to do a very complex job for consumers. The real problem is with applications that don’t behave nicely even after they’ve been uninstalled, leaving behind registry settings and even pieces of code that can impact the performance of your computer.
Some users who don’t install a lot of programs may find that a registry cleaner will work just fine. But the more programs you install, the more likely it is that you will run into some that impact performance that your registry cleaner can’t fully remove. I haven’t found a best-of-breed program that can do it all.
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Accordingly, I recommend two things. First, be very selective in what you install. And if you want to install sketchy software — such as games and other apps from unknown manufacturers — consider doing so on a second computer.
Secondly, when my main computer starts to drag, rather than cleaning it, I generally just start over. Yes, reinstalling the operating system and applications is a bit time consuming, but it’s definitely the most surefire way to clean things up.
Q: I am not a computer-friendly person and I have a flash drive with pictures on it from my vacation. How exactly do I transfer them (knowing that I don’t know very much about computers), and how do I delete from the flash drive when the process is finished?
— Ron Long
A: Depending on how your computer is configured, Windows may prompt you to select what you’d like to do with the contents of the flash drive when you insert it. For example, if you have photos on the drive and Adobe Lightroom installed, Windows will ask if you want to import the photos.
If nothing happens when you insert the flash drive, open Windows File Explorer and scroll down the list in the left-hand panel until you see the USB drive. Select the photos you want to move, right-click on one of them and drag to the folder you want to save the photos in. When you let go of the mouse button Windows will ask whether you want to move or copy them. Select “move” and they’ll automatically be deleted from your flash drive.