With the sun shining and the fresh air coming through the windows, you’re bound to feel the irresistible need to clean everything you’ve neglected during the cold winter months. So you move around the furniture, clean the windows until they squeak, and put away all those dreary winter hats and coats. But what about your PC, doesn’t it deserve some attention, too?
Unused programs, temporary internet and operating system files, and a disorganized hard drive take their toll on your computer, compromising its speed and performance, even its internet security. A serious spring cleaning will make your computer run faster and smoother, which means more free time for you to enjoy the new season.
Whether you’re using a laptop or a desktop PC, here are the main cleaning tips we recommend:
- 1. First, back up all your important data. The last thing you want is to accidentally delete your family photos or the projects you’ve worked so hard on. You could use a program that syncs files with other computers or save them on external hard disks, but the safest way to store your data is on a safe online drive.
- 2. Get rid of the clutter in your system. Start with the most visible places – your desktop and the system tray or taskbar in the bottom right corner. You’ve probably gathered a whole collection of files, photos and MP3s on your desktop, but do you really need them there? Take your time and neatly arrange them into specialized folders. And what about the small icons you see in your taskbar? They all start up when you turn on your computer and that takes time and resources. A simple right-click will remove or turn off the ones you don’t actually need on a daily basis.
- 3. Remove the programs you don’t use. Old programs always seem to find a comfy spot in your system to relax after you’ve forgotten about them. The rule here is “Trash whatever you haven’t used in over a year”. Otherwise, you’re just wasting space and slowing down your work. Deleting the files won’t do it, though. You need to uninstall them from the Control Panel or using their own uninstall kit.
- 4. Reorganize your hard drive. The information you use on your computer every day gets stored onto the hard drive in bits and pieces, wherever it can find a place. This saves valuable time on given tasks, but it does have long-term consequences. When the information gets too disorganized, your computer has to work overtime to find it. You can put back the order in your hard drive by using the defrag tool that comes with your operating system (Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter).
- 5. Update your software. To be in top shape, your computer needs an updated operating system and fully patched programs. Software is never actually “finished”, but continuously improved and patched. No program is perfect, so providers work hard even after they’ve sold it to you. And it’s not just about performance and speed. It’s about computer security, too. Outdated programs are responsible for vulnerabilities and secret entryways into your system, all of which can be used by hackers and malware to compromise your internet security. You can get these critical patches and updates from the manufacturer’s website yourself. Or you can save time and effort by having a piece of software known as a vulnerability scanner that automatically detects outdated programs and points you to the necessary updates. Some internet security suites come with this time-saving tool.
- 6. Clear your cache of temporary files. Every browsing session leaves behind small files in your Temporary Internet Files folder. So you can imagine how, over time, a huge collection of such items can affect your browsing speed and reduce the free space on your hard drive. You can get rid of them directly from your web browser or you can leave this task to a special tune up tool that comes with some internet security programs.
Whether you carefully go through all the steps or just some of them, the time you spend now looking after the computer will actually save you a lot more time and effort in the long run. After all, you’ll have a clean, high-performance system to work with all year.
Do you have a set schedule for cleaning your computer? Or do you ignore it until it starts playing up or slowing down? Tell us your habits.