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It’s been almost a year since the pandemic forced people from the office cubicle to the dining room table. After months of using our computers for work, school, streaming, and social media, it’s likely they are moving slower than a toddler at bedtime.
As the days lengthen and the warm weather returns to the Northern hemisphere, dusting and refreshing around the household is an American tradition. Before you start moving furniture or mopping floors, here are six ways to bring spring cleaning to your computer, all without breaking a sweat.
1. Fine-tune your mailbox
It's time to delete unwanted emails. You receive hundreds of them on a daily basis. Even if you delete the most annoying ones, there's still a lot of garbage to sift through. It takes time and effort to get rid of older messages and deleting an email doesn't mean it's gone forever. Make sure you not only delete emails, but empty your email trash bin to speed things up.
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2. Delete outdated files
The packing list for that trip to your high school reunion. The grocery list for that fad diet you wanted to try in 2011. It’s time to let those files go. Take the time to go through your hard drive and delete files you no longer need. However, it's best not to hit the 'delete' key all willy-nilly. Some of those files are there to help you.
"People should not relax their security settings or remove the anti-virus/malware filters on their computer," Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center tells Yahoo. "Those settings and filters are there to keep people safe."
This space on your computer can sometimes be more valuable than money. Keep it clean. Check for bloat stored on your devices, and you’ll most likely find: music, partial programs, photos, contacts, notes, calendars, and so much more. Search for files in the following formats: .mp3, .avi, .jpg, .jpeg, .png, .docx, and .doc. Get rid of what you don’t need. Keep the rest.
3. Revisit which apps to launch at startup
If you have a lot of programs that boot up when your computer starts, it could slow you down in a big way. But it isn't complicated to fix that.
In Windows PC, go to Control Panel>System and Security > Administrative tools > Startup programs to see what software is in startup mode. If a program automatically starts that you don't need, you can disable these unnecessary items.
For Mac iOS, the easiest way to disable an app from launching on startup is to do it in the dock. Right-click on the app and hover your cursor over Options in the menu. Applications that are set to open automatically will have a check mark next to Open at Login. Tap to uncheck it and deactivate it from opening.
4. Take out the trash
Okay, you deleted files by putting them in the recycle bin and then emptying the recycle bin. Was that enough? No! You need data erasure software to make sure you get rid of your personal data, and that you can't recover it.
After deleting the files in the recycle bin, run a data erasure software on your computer to overwrite the items in the trash bin. It's really important to delete personal data from your computer, so there is no chance of someone recovering it.
5. Uninstall unused and unwanted software
Delete software you haven't used in a while. It will free up storage space and make your computer operate faster. And it's not just about programs you don't use anymore. Your computer might also contain a Potentially Unwanted Program (PUP).
These are programs that are unknowingly installed when you install other programs. For example, when you downloaded that picture-sharing app, you might have been asked if you want a different search engine as your default. Or a pop-up might briefly appear to ask if you want to download another application, usually unrelated to what you originally meant to download. Unfortunately, question boxes are normally ticked 'Yes' by default so you as a user will click 'Next' without realizing you are agreeing to install a program to your hardware. Or even worse, the programs are sometimes automatically installed without your knowledge.
PUPs can significantly slow down your computer, so take care next time you are installing software to make sure you aren't getting any unwanted programs.
6. Spring clean your hardware, too
After you’ve worked on the inside, it’s time to work on the outside of your device. With the power off, take off the laptop case and give the device a good cleaning. Take care to make sure the fan is clear of dust or other obstructions. A slow fan will cause the hardware to heat up, which, in turn, can slow down the performance of your computer. For desktop machines, turn off and unplug your machine, gently wipe around and under the monitor and keyboard.
Special cleaners will blow dust particles away from your keyboard; follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning your laptop case and bag. While you’re at it, check your USB cords and mouse to make sure everything works properly.
Taking the time to spring clean your computer is a great way to get back disk space while also rechecking your online security. Now that you’ve got your tech running smoothly, you can relax and enjoy the comfort of your living-dining-office-bed space.
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