The Windows operating system has long been criticized because it tends to get bogged down over time. Installing applications, patches, drivers, etc., causes the OS to become cluttered. As a result, performance slowly diminishes. Fortunately, a number of applications can optimize your system and help restore performance.

Note: This article is also available as an image gallery and a video hosted by TechRepublic columnist Tom Merritt.

1: Advanced System Optimizer

Advanced System Optimizer (Figure A) is a thorough tool that examines and optimizes a number of areas within your system. The application checks for everything from junk files to registry errors to spyware. It even looks for outdated drivers. Once it optimizes your operating system, you can configure the tool to perform regular maintenance on a scheduled basis. Advanced System Optimizer sells for $39.95; a free trial version is available for download.

Figure A

2: WinASO Registry Optimizer

WinASO Registry Optimizer (Figure B) is designed to correct inefficiencies within the Windows registry. It checks for about 20 conditions, including problems with Add/Remove Programs, File Extensions, Device Drivers, and Fonts. Registry errors it detects are categorized and are rated by severity. You can correct an error by selecting it and clicking the Repair button. WinASO Registry Optimizer sells for $29.95; a free trial is available for download.

Figure B

3: WinUtilities Free Edition

WinUtilities Free Edition (Figure C) is handy for performing basic PC maintenance. There is also a professional edition of this tool that performs other functions, such as registry and disk defragmentation, file level deduplication, file recovery, and disk cleaning. As you would expect, the application performs basic tasks such as fixing broken shortcuts and correcting invalid registry entries. In addition, it cleans up your browser and your recent file history.

Figure C

4: ARO 2013

ARO 2013 (Figure D) is a system optimizer that examines various aspects of your system, focusing primarily on the registry. It starts out by scanning the system registry for problems with things like application paths and shared files. Then it cleans up and optimizes the registry.

Figure D

There were two things I really liked about this application. First, it allows you to choose which areas of the registry you want to scan, repair, and optimize. That’s great if you have certain portions of the registry you want left alone. I also really liked that the software can back up the registry for you in case it makes a mistake that causes registry problems. ARO 2013 sells for $29.95; a free trial version is available for download.

5: CCleaner

CCleaner (Figure E) is a free tool for cleaning up and optimizing your system. As Jack Wallen mentioned in Five apps for degunking your system, this is an outstanding tool. It can clean up the operating system (the Recycle Bin, temporary files, clipboard, etc.), Windows Explorer (Recent documents, Thumbnail cache, etc.), and Internet Explorer (History, cookies, etc.). It also features a registry cleaner, which — like ARO 2013 — lets you choose the areas of the registry you want to work with. CCleaner includes some other nice tools as well, such as a file finder, a drive wiper, and an uninstaller.

Figure E

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Other system optimizers

What tools do you turn to when you need to tune your systems? Share your recommendations with fellow TechRepublic members.