Although this goes against my "no-fixing-your-computer" mantra, I will give you some tips since you'll be doing all the work.
During my many years of using and fixing computers, I've come to find a handful of programs that has helped me keep my machines happy. All of the software that I'm listing are free, but they do have paid version for those of you who would like to support these companies.
Let's get started! First, you'll need protection if you don't already have one, or if your current protection software came with your computer and is about to expire. The following are my choices for anti-virus/firewall protection:
AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition - This free anti-virus program provides basic protection against viruses, spyware, and other threats. I recommend this program for those who already have some kind of firewall protection and are just looking for basic virus scanning and protection
Comodo Internet Security - CIS is a free, all-in-one suite that includes a firewall, anti-virus, and malware protection. I strongly recommend this program for those who do not have a firewall or anti-virus protection. The program is completely free and not hindered in any way. It's also perfect for those trying to save money. Why would you pay $50 or more for protection when you can get one for free?
Malwarebytes Anti-Malware - Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware is an anti-malware application that effectively removes malware and spyware. I strongly recommend running this program every two weeks to make sure that your computer is not infected and to identify any threats that might be hiding in your computer.
Now that your computer is secured and protected, I'm going to share with you some tools that will you keep your machine humming along at it's peak performance.
CCleaner - This is a freeware, system optimization, privacy and cleaning tool. It removes unused files from your system - allowing Windows to run faster and freeing up valuable hard disk space. It also cleans traces of your online activities such as your Internet history. Additionally it contains a fully featured registry cleaner. I recommend using this program as every two weeks at the very least. The more you use this, the less junk will accumulate on your computer. Tip: When doing a registry clean, make sure to choose to make a back up of your registry just in case something goes wrong.
Free Registry Defrag - Over time, the Windows Registry normally becomes fragmented as new registry entries are being written, modified, or removed by your applications. This will eventually result in your computer taking a longer time to find the right registry entries to start up your computer. Free Registry Defrag is a free program and was designed to remove gaps and extra spaces that have developed within your system's Registry resulting in faster processing of your registry. Keep in mind that this program only defrags your registry and doesn't actually fix any registry errors. I recommend using this program after you do a Registry Clean up using CCleaner.
Auslogic Disk Defrag - Disk Defrag will speed up your computer by optimizing file system by consolidating free space and move system files to the faster part of the disk to get the most out of your hard drive's performance. I recommend this over the default Windows Defrag program because it's a lot faster. As for Windows Vista users, you'll notice that there isn't a built-in defragging program in Windows and Auslogic Disk Defrag is a great substitute.
Revo Uninstaller - This free software is an uninstall utility that scans before and after you uninstall an application to identify all the parts of the program. After the program's regular uninstaller runs, you're given the option to remove additional unnecessary files, folders and registry keys that are usually left over on your computer. I recommended using this over the default Windows uninstaller application when removing programs because it cleans up all the files and registry entries that your program may be leaving behind.
Now, there are more tools out there that you can use to clean and tweak your system, but I believe these is a good start. I purposely omitted any advanced tools that I use to avoid you accidentally breaking your computer. If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to drop me a note.
You can ask me anything but I'm still not fixing your computer!