Nothing bothers me more than a capable computer system completely bogged down by useless and ineffective pre-installed software. Many people don't realize it, but your common Windows computer comes pre-installed with 10-100 trial programs, a very sarcastic 'Thank You' from your PC manufacturer or retailer. These programs will slow down your startup, your shutdown, hurt your battery life, and even cause system instability! My favorite forum and review site, Notebook Review, has posted a great New Years article How To Remove Bloatware From Your Notebook.
I suggest giving it a read if you’ve got a new notebook or desktop this year! Heck, give it a read even if you don't, the tips are fairly general.
Here are some additional tips for cleaning up your PC:
1. Try running a program such as CCleaner (Crap Cleaner), it will get rid of most temp files that accumulate over time. Think of it as a systemwide "delete internet cookies" so expect saved passwords to need re-entering!
2. After a good Crap Cleaning, run your built-in Windows Cleanup software (Start Button > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup), everything is safe to check, except the hybernation clean up option if you use system sleep or hybernation. Before pressing ok, go to the second tab and click "clean up" under "System Restore". This will delete extra system restore points if that feature is active on your system, they can take as much as 15% of your hard drive, it is safe to delete these. Then, go back to the main tab and click ok. Be prepared to wait a few minutes if you've never done this.
3. Make sure to defragment your computer after you are done (and before you go to sleep), this process may take many hours to run, but it can result in a noticable increase in startup and shutdown times, as well as a smoother overall computing experience. (Start Button > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter) Click Defragment, and then enjoy your first sleep of the New Year. When you wake up (and preferably after a restart), your system should be on it's way to a great 2009.
Happy New Year!