CCleaner 101

CCleaner is a computer “cleaning” tool for Windows and Mac created by Piriform. For many, CCleaner is an excellent utility program that allows users to clean out temporary Internet files and history, clean up the registry and remove potentially unwanted files and data.

Don’t know what it is? Here’s a quick CCleaner 101 to get your familiar with the program.

CCleaner Features:

Here’s the definition from Wikipedia:

“CCleaner supports the cleaning of temporary or potentially unwanted files left by certain programs, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, Safari, Windows Media Player, eMule, Google Toolbar, Netscape, Microsoft Office, Nero, Adobe Acrobat, McAfee, Adobe Flash Player, Sun Java, WinRAR, WinAce, WinZip, GIMP and other applications, along with browsing history, cookies, Recycle bin, memory dumps, file fragments, log files, system caches, application data, autocomplete form history, and various other data.  The program also includes a registry cleaner to locate and correct problems in the Windows registry, such as missing references to shared DLLs, unused registration entries for file extensions, and missing references application paths.  As of v2.27, CCleaner can wipe the MFT free space of a drive, or the entire drive itself.

“CCleaner can be employed to uninstall programs. In addition, CCleaner allows the alteration of start-up programs, similar to the Microsoft Windows MSConfig utility. Users can disable start-up programs. As of version 2.19.901, CCleaner also allows users to delete system restore points.”

Our personal experience with CCleaner has been excellent, and we use it on a regular basis with our clients. If you’re still in doubt, CNET gives CCleaner a 5/5 rating, calling it a “highly recommended” product, and even awarded it a 2009 Editor’s Choice Award.

For more information on CCleaner, or to download the program, visit

Why You Should Clean Your Computer

Admit it: cleaning your computer isn’t on your regular to do list, if it even makes the list at all.  But, it’s one of the most important things you can do to improve performance and extend the life of your computer.

Whether you have a desktop, laptop or both, here are things you’ll need to get your computer free of grime and dust.

  • Can of compressed air
  • Flat-tip and/or Phillips screwdriver
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Cotton swabs (Don’t use a cotton ball, because they can leave debris)
  • Cloths (Lint-free, paper towels, anti-static cloths)
  • Water

Important notes before you start: Make sure your computer is turned off, and that it’s disconnected from the power source.  Also, check your computer’s warranty before removing any covers or back plates. Doing so may void any existing warranties.

When you’re ready to clean your computer, you’ll want to start on the inside.  For a desktop computer, there are many ways to remove the outside cover.  Most modern desktop computers will use around two fasteners for the rear cover, two push button-style fasteners, or use Phillips screws for the rear or side cover.  When in doubt, refer to your computer’s owner’s manual.

For laptop computers, place the computer upside down on a flat surface.  To avoid scratching the computer, you may want to place a towel or something soft on the table.  Remove the battery first, then look for the vents for the cooling fan.  Remove the screws, and remember where each screw goes.  You may need a smaller Phillips screwdriver to complete this task.

Once you get inside your desktop or laptop, try to touch as little as possible.  Use your compressed air to clean out any dust or debris.  Be careful when using compressed air on the vent fan, and use short air bursts to clean it. For larger dust debris inside the computer, use Tweezers or a cotton swab to safely remove them.   Lastly, blow compressed air into the CD/DVD drives and large ports, aiming the air so it blows the debris out of, not into the computer.  You should also use a lightly damp cloth to wipe down the trays of the drive.

Now move to the outside of the computer.  Use rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab to clean around all the computer’s openings. Flip the swab over and use the dry end to finish.

Now comes the keyboard. Flip the keyboard/laptop over and lightly shake it.  A lot of the crumbs and debris will most likely fall out.  Use compressed air to clean out any remaining debris.  Next, take a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol and clean the tops and sides of the keys. Don’t be afraid to use a lot of swabs.  Once one starts to get dirty, switch to a new one. It should be noted that you shouldn’t use a vacuum to clean your keyboard or laptop, as it can create a static electricity buildup.

Now you’ll clean your monitor.  For a glass screen monitor, use a glass cleaner to clean the screen, unless the manufacturer recommends differently. For an LCD laptop or flat-panel display, use a lightly dampened lint-free cloth.  Spray the cloth, not the screen, and lightly rub the screen to clean it. You could also use a computer monitor cleaner, which can be found at computer retail and supply stores.

Finally, you’ll come the mouse or touch screen. First, we’ll focus on the mouse. Disconnect the mouse from the computer. Rub the top and sides of the mouse with a paper towel dipped in rubbing alcohol.  Remove any grime buildup with a fingernail.  If you have an optical mouse, be sure that the optical lens is clear of dirt and debris.  For a mechanical, ball-style mouse, remove the ball and use compressed air to clean out the area.  To clean the ball, wash it with water and let it dry.

Article adapted from an original post that appeared on the Microsoft at Home website.

An Explanation of the “F” Keys

Along the top of most computer keyboards are a series of function keys. They are numbered from F1 to F12, and go from left to right.  But do you know what they actually do?

Most of the function keys are pre-assigned to perform certain actions when they are pressed.  These are usually called shortcut keys. This holds true primarily for function keys F1 through F7. Other keys, such as F8 through F12, are typically not assigned for regular computer use, but instead have more programming related functions.

While each key typically has a universal function, there may be some variation as to what each key does on a user’s computer. Below are the functions that each of these keys are generally assigned to (on a Windows-based computer).

  • F1 – Opens Windows help.
  • F2 – Opens the title line of folder so it can be renamed.
  • F3 – Search function.
  • F4 – Shows address bar list display for Windows Explorer or My Computer.
  • F5 – Refresh the active program.
  • F6 – Runs through items on desktop or window.
  • F7 – Runs the Spell and Grammar check in the open program.
  • F8 – Runs Windows in Safe Mode.
  • F9 – Break point debugging use when used with the Shift key. On some programs, it has no assigned use.
  • F10 – Opens the File menu for the active program.
  • F11 – Shows full screen view in Internet Explorer.
  • F12 – Bypass debugger – Command prompt access.  On some programs, it has no assigned use.

The source for this article was “What Do the F Keys on a Computer Do?” written by Nina Nixon, originally published on

How the Keyboard Got Its Shape

Ever wondered why a keyboard’s keys are arranged the way they are?  The modern keyboard arrangement can be traced to the late 1800s when Remington & Sons manufactured the first commercial typewriter, called the Remington Number 1. It was similar to our modern keyboard, with the letters Q, W, E, R, T, Y starting the top row, giving it the nickname of “qwerty.” While the first qwerty keyboard and typewriter weren’t perfect, its future development would help shape the keyboard as we know it today.

Another keyboard that challenged the qwerty layout was the Dvorak keyboard. This keyboard design placed the most-used keys in the middle row, making the distance a user’s fingers traveled shorter.  It is also designed to make the hands alternate on consecutive letters.  But, while the keyboard was designed to increase efficiency, it didn’t catch on like the more popular qwerty keyboard.

A study performed in the 1950s showed that while the layout of the Dvorak keyboard was deemed as more efficient, typists maintained the same rate of typing with both systems.  This helps explain why the qwerty keyboard has remained the standard.

While the keyboard on your computer is most likely a qwerty keyboard, you can try out the Dvorak keyboard layout by visiting this website.