Five Quick Ways to Clean Out Your Computer
Even if you don’t always stick to the manufacturer’s service schedule, chances are you make sure to give your car an oil change every once in a while and get it washed from time to time. It just makes sense, right? Good maintenance prolongs the working life of an important and expensive piece of machinery that would cause headaches if it stopped working reliably.
So, why don’t most of us do the same with our computers? Just imagine how quickly your small business would grind to a halt if you and your staff couldn’t use them, or had to deal with constant breakdowns.
Monday, February 12 is Clean Out Your Computer Day, an annual reminder to give that vital piece of business machinery some much needed maintenance. And you don’t have to be a tech wizard to perform a basic tune up. Here are five ways to give your computer some tender loving care.
De-clutter your desktop
They say a clean desk is the sign of a clear mind. But even if your actual desktop is spotless, your virtual desktop might still be a mess. And if your computer’s screen is overstuffed with icons and full of unnecessary folders, chances are you’re slowing down its performance. Sure, computers these days come with bigger hard drives and more memory than ever before. But files are getting bigger and bigger, too, and it doesn’t take many spreadsheets, client presentations, digital photos, videos or MP3s to fill all the available space.
Spend some time going through your files and deleting duplicates or anything you don’t need. Back up the important files on an external storage device or use an online service like Google Drive or Dropbox for universal access, and delete those files from your computer to free up more room. While you’re at it, consolidate all your desktop icons into folders and empty your computer’s trash or recycle bin.
Software and systems
The next step is to eliminate any applications or programs that have outlived their usefulness. If you’re not sure what’s redundant or safe to delete, you can download free software to help figure it out: System Mechanic and CCleaner are two popular choices.
If you’re using a PC, consider running the built in disk cleanup and disk defragmentation programs from your ‘System Tools’ menu; the first will identify hidden files that can be deleted, while the second will improve hard drive performance.
Next, take a look at the programs that automatically start every time you turn on your computer – there may be a few you can remove and help it come to life more quickly. Finally, make sure your operating system is up to date and still supported. If not, it could be time for an upgrade.
Vaccinate against viruses
Malware, spyware and adware are nasty little beasts that can slow your computer to a crawl. And they’re just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to virus woes. Give yourself some protection by using popular free downloads like Spybot, AVG’s Anti-virus software or the Anti-Malware program by Malwarebytes. If you have a firewall program installed, make sure it’s on and working to keep you safe.
Also, while you’re focused on cleaning up your files, it’s also a good idea to do a deep virus scan of your entire system. It takes a while to complete, so set it up to run overnight and you can check the results the following morning.
Clear your cache
As you surf around the internet, your browser builds up all kinds of files and cookies that accumulate over time and slow down your machine. Take care of that by clearing out your cache of temporary internet files and, if you wish, your browsing history. If you want to go even further, you can also delete any cookies you’ve picked up. Bear in mind, however, that wiping out such files will mean you’ll have to log back in to some sites.
Deleting these files is slightly different depending on which browser you use. For Internet Explorer, go to ‘Options’ from under the ‘Tools’ menu. With Safari, it’s ‘Privacy’ in the ‘Preferences’ menu, while with Chrome, you’re looking for ‘Privacy’ under ‘Advanced Settings.’ If you’re on Firefox, it depends whether you’re on a Mac or a PC, but start under the main menu or the ‘Preferences’ menu and look for ‘Network’ or ‘Clear Recent History.’
Bust the dust
Whether you use a desktop or laptop, chances are your computer is something of a dust magnet. And when fan vents get clogged, your computer runs the risk of overheating. Modern, sleek machines are less prone to this problem, but the little cracks on keyboards can still fall victim to crumbs and other detritus, especially if you and your computer are constantly on the go.
Pick up a can of compressed air from your local computer or office supply store, unplug your computer and, in a well-ventilated area, give it a good spray, concentrating on fan vents and ports. If you’re a desktop user, it’s a good idea to remove the outer case first to give yourself improved cleaning access.
Make sure to wipe or blow any gunk off your keyboard while you’re at it – studies have shown the average keyboard has more germs than a toilet seat! Finally, dampen a microfibre cloth and wipe down the screen, keyboard and mouse. For extra cleaning power use a mixture of equal parts distilled water and vinegar, and use cotton swabs to get stubborn grime off your mouse and keyboard.
Now that you’ve done all the hard work, make life easier on yourself by setting up automatic backup programs, virus scanners and programs to detect duplicate files. That way, you’ll keep your computer clean longer and improve the speed of your system.