In a perfect world, you could visit the doctor, discuss your symptoms, and get the cure before you walk out the door. But real life is a different story; getting the right diagnosis can be exasperating and treatments take time.

Your PC has a lot in common with your body- both are complex and vulnerable; disorders are bound to disrupt routine now and then. These PC symptoms may sound familiar:

  • During boot up, I get error messages.
  • My PC crashes haphazardly.
  • Moving from website to website feels like swimming through molasses.

Even when symptoms are obvious like these, treatments aren't. How do you fix a sick PC that chokes during boot up, is riddled with errors and isn't up-to-speed online?

Sometimes PC glitches are caused by hardware errors, but more often they're caused by lack of maintenance.

You could call a PC physician to diagnose and treat the symptoms every time-which may be like paying a brain surgeon to get rid of a headache-or you could invest in your own PC first aid kit.

With time and use, the instructions that run your computer can become garbled, separated, even lost. To bring your PC up to speed, you must do some spring-cleaning and basic repair on your computer.

Here are seven simple tasks that will perk up your PC. While you can accomplish these using separate software programs, PC system utilities are all-in-one solutions that combine the features of several software packages.

Clean Up the Hard Drive

Start by wiping out nuisance files. Unwanted files-spam, duplicate files and remnants of deleted files-pile up and bloat your system. In computers that are not maintained regularly, nuisance files can account for more than 30% of hard drive data.

Here's a short description of common nuisance files, an explanation of how they get stuck on your system and the key to clean them off:

Duplicate Files

While saving and storing data, you may accidentally duplicate files or sets of files several times. Unless these are backup files, you don't need them. (Backup files are best stored on a separate device or in a hidden location on your hard drive.) PC utilities software detects duplicate files and gives you the opportunity to delete these as a whole or one at a time.

Deleted Files

Deleted files (including spam) stay on the computer even after you hit Delete; these are stored in the Recycle Bin until you clean it out or until your computer writes over them. You can get rid of deleted files for good with a utility software cleaning tool.

Defragment the Hard Drive

The statement "order creates efficiency" is never truer than when discussing your hard drive. Defragging the hard drive is the key to bringing order to chaos. Data fragmentation happens as your computer takes advantage of small scattered vacancies on your hard drive in order to store data quickly. Your computer must not only remember where it stored each data puzzle piece, but how to put each puzzle back together-this takes time and memory.

When you defragment, you reverse this. You instruct the computer to gather, piece together and store each jigsaw puzzle in a single box (or at least store large chunks of puzzles in boxes together on the same closet shelf). This increases your computer's efficiency when retrieving files.

If you've never defragged your hard drive you're missing out on a treat. It's satisfying to see the visual graphic display showing your memory sorted, regrouped, and neatly stored-freeing up loads of free storage space.

Clean Up the Registry

When most people hear the term "broken links" they think of the message the browser displays when a requested webpage is unavailable. But your PC itself is filled with internal links.

When you move, delete or add files, links and shortcuts to your system, you eventually create a superhighway maze for your computer to follow each time you access a file. Over time, even your computer can get lost.

For example, most people filter and remove spyware and adware programs with spyware removal software, but data related to deleted spyware files (such as links) remains in your registry until you physically clear it out. You can rid your registry of all traces of spyware and adware-and all broken links caused by deleting programs-with registry cleaning tools found in PC utilities software.

Defragment the Registry

Registry defragging is serious spring-cleaning. This task will clear your registry of gaps, reorganizing all your vital information. A defragged registry conserves memory and speeds load time, including boot up time. But approach all registry tasks with caution. Always backup your registry before making changes in case you make a mistake and must revert. 

Be Your Own PC Doctor

These four fixes alone will mend the most common PC ailments. Frequently, PC problems are caused by nuisance files slowing the system and fragmented data interrupting flow and memory use. Hardware failure is rarely the cause for computer glitches, yet this is typically the first diagnosis most people make.

In short, you don't have to become a PC expert to fix your own PC. In fact, you can often fix your computer without ever learning what, exactly, was wrong in the first place. Wouldn't you love a medical doctor who could do that?