Unless you plan on buying a new computer every year, it may be for the best if you knew how to take care of the one that you already have. No matter how advanced your hardware is, the performance will dwindle with time. Here are some important tips on how to extend the lifespan and improve the performance of your computer.
Reinstall your Windows regularly: this is the simplest and the most obvious solution. If your computer is exhibiting severe performance issues such as taking a long time to launch applications or constantly crashing, then reinstalling your Windows is the best solution for your troubles. Even though you will have to reinstall your drivers and most of your programs as well, it's generally worth the effort.
Read the texts posted by installers: this might also be incredibly easy for most, but some simply skip this process. The idea is that you don't pay attention to the technical information provided by the installers, however, some programs might want to install other software along with the main application. In some cases the installation is very "transparent", still quite often the setups are rather sneaky and you need to pay attention in order to avoid useless (and sometimes even malicious) software from being installed on your PC. I'm not saying that every installer is bad, just that you should be informed about what you "let in".
Stay away from shady websites: again, that's pretty obvious, but for those of you who don't know this, obscure websites are frequently infected with some nasty malware. To avoid unpleasant surprises you can install McAfee SiteAdvisor. The application is free and the information that it provides is generally reliable.
Try not to overcrowd the startup programs list: the startup list contains the applications that are automatically launched by Windows. As a result, the long list can noticeably delay the loading time of your operating system. The best way to avoid the overpopulation is to only allow the applications that you need and use frequently to "start with Windows". For further assistance, you can install a startup manager like Quick Startup (freeware).
Don't store personal or important files on the C drive: actually, this is not a PC maintenance advice as much as it's a tip on to avoid unwanted complications. If something goes wrong with your Windows, the partition called C (or the one where your system is installed) will most likely be compromised along with the files on it. Instead of wasting time and efforts trying to recover them, you could simply store your important files on a different partition and diminish the chance of losing them.
Use the proper shutdown procedure to turn off your PC: don't take shortcuts to shut down your PC. If you just push the power button without running the Windows command, you risk compromising your operating system and the data on your hard disk. Moreover, it is much worse to unplug the power chord, as there is a pretty high chance that you can even burn your HDD.
Uninstall the programs that you no longer need, don't just delete them: if you simply delete the programs that you no longer use, you will create registry errors and inadvertently slow down your Windows. This is why you should remove your programs using their uninstallers, the add/remove programs feature found in the Control Panel or, even better, a specialized uninstaller like Revo Uninstaller (freeware).
Don't start cleaning temporary and junk files unless you really know exactly what you are doing. If you are not totally sure about the outcome of your actions, it is better that you either seek assistance from a more experienced computer user or entrust this job a cleaning program like Wise Disk Cleaner (freeware). The biggest advantage of using a specialized tool to clean the junk files is that it will most likely create a backup point before starting its work. Thus, you will always have a safety net in case something goes wrong.
Use a malware detector and a firewall. Spyware, Trojans, worms and keyloggers are just a few of the nasty surprises which you can encounter in the computer world. Since it's much easier to prevent an infection than to deal with its consequences, having an anti-malware application can come in pretty handy. MalwareBytes is a good program to help you out, in case you don't already have the one that you prefer. Firewalls block access to your computer and are good tools against the direct hack attempts. In this regard, you can use tools like ZoneAlarm or Ashampoo Firewall which also have freeware versions.
Try to keep your hardware clean: dust forms venting barrages that can cause the overheating of the various parts of your computer (CPU, hard-disk, power source, etc) and slow the PC down, crash it, or, at worst, simply burn it out. This is why, no matter how clean your house is, you should clean your hardware at least once a year. If you don't know how to do it, ask a friend who does or simply consult a computer repair technician. While you have the case opened, you should also check if your CPU has enough thermal gel.
These are a just a few small tricks that you can use in order to get the most out of your computer. The applications suggested throughout the list are based purely on personal preference and on the fact that they are free. If you have a program that you like better or that your are satisfied with, you should probably stick with it.