(WHTM) — Since the year 2000, the second Monday in February has been National Clean Out Your Computer Day. It’s the day to spend a little time (or a lot of time) cleaning out the physical and digital gunk that might be slowing down your desktop computer, laptop, cell phone, tablet, or even your gaming system.
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But wait, you might ask, does this mean physically cleaning up your brain-in-a-box, or bringing order to the myriad of files and folders that are pushing all your drives into the red-line area? Both. Computers do need to be physically cleaned once in a while; dust and dirt can get in through vent holes (or sucked in by cooling fans) and settle on components. (Remember, the phrase “bug in the system” actually started with a bug in a system.)
There are all kinds of advice for cleaning out computers to be found online; some important things to remember are to turn off and unplug the computer, give the computer some time to dissipate any electrical charges, don’t clean your computer with water unless you want to see sparks when you plug it back in and don’t use a vacuum cleaner to clean up dirt unless you enjoy tearing apart the cleaner bag to find the small but important chips that got sucked off the motherboard. (Using a gentle squirt of compressed air is much safer.) Or just leave it to a professional…
Then there’s the other clean-out – ridding your computer of old emails, documents, photos, that video you thought was side-splittingly hilarious five years ago, or old programs you haven’t used since downloading that video. Computers, in the process of computing, are constantly writing and re-writing data on their hard drives. If the drive is almost full, this becomes harder to do and can cause a computer to slow down.
You’ll also want to do something about the duplicate and triplicate copies you created out of an abundance of caution. There’s an adage amongst computer security experts – “If you don’t have your data in three places, you don’t have it,” but if your three places are all on the same drive, well, you still don’t have it. You can make your duplicate files more secure, and speed up your computer as well if you transfer them to an external hard drive or a cloud storage service.
You’ll also want to run your anti-virus program. Many anti-virus programs these days run quietly in the background, but running a full scan of all your drives is worth it once in a while.
Make sure the programs you use regularly are updated. Keep in mind that many updates are bug fixes.
Sort out your desktop folders – Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, and Videos. You’ll probably find documents in downloads, downloads in music, music in videos, and videos in pictures. (Mea Culpa.)
Create folders – finding files is much easier if you sort them into folders.
Find a naming convention that works for you. My personal favorite is to start files with the date in yearmonthday format. (20240212, for instance.) If you name files systematically they will sort themselves for you.
Last but not least, don’t stop at 12:01 a.m. on February 13. In the long run, your life will be easier if you keep plugging away by systematically naming and sorting your files throughout the year.