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Start 2012 with a decluttered computer PDF Print E-mail
Written by Holyoke Enterprise   
Tuesday, 03 January 2012 21:08

New Year’s resolutions have been made, and 2012 is already off to a great start. Regardless of whether or not people have kept their promise to run five miles a day or cut back on sugary drinks, January is a good time to start fresh and do a bit of decluttering, both at home and at work.

Monday, Jan. 9 is National Clean Off Your Desk Day, and the U.S. Census Bureau website reports that the average person uses just 20 percent of the stuff on their desk to accomplish 80 percent of their work.

OK, so maybe there are a few extra paper clips on the desk. What’s more important is the junk cluttering up that desktop or laptop computer. January also happens to be National Clean Up Your Computer Month, and there is no better time to take a few minutes and make sure the computer is clean and secure.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than three-quarters of U.S. adults use a computer either at home or on the job, and the same proportion use the internet. Sending e-mails, getting maps or driving instructions, watching videos and buying a product online are the most common computer uses.

Few computer users have not experienced the rotating hourglass icon or the spinning rainbow ball that generally signifies the system is working but can sometimes mean it is bogged down by something. Over time computers can collect bits of information, fragmented files and other data that might wreak havoc on the inner workings that make a computer tick.

The average lifespan of a computer is now 4-5 years, so even though sometimes it’s simply time for a computer to bite the dust, there are still preventative strategies people can take to ensure their computers are working properly.

While some people are tech wizards, much of the general public is not so knowledgeable when it comes to understanding computer language or even moving beyond basic tasks. However, taking the time to run maintenance on the machine or asking an IT professional to assess the computer and make recommendations can improve the function of the computer and reduce stress over the slowing down or freezing of applications.

Depending on the platform used (PC or Mac), there will be certain procedures exclusive to that platform. But, in general, there are strategies anyone can take to clean out their computers and keep them running optimally.

—Free disk space. One of the first steps is to take inventory of what has been saved on the computer and delete extraneous or unused program files and other items. Delete optional factory-installed components that aren’t used, as well.

Check out files that have been personally saved and get rid of old things, especially photos, videos and other data that takes up a lot of space. Temporary internet files take up a lot of space because the browser caches each page visited for faster access at another time. Removing these temporary files can make the computer run more quickly.

—Update software. Both Mac and PC platforms have routine updates that are recommended for the operating system and the programs installed. Some software errors may be remedied by the updating of applications when indicated. Avoid clicking the “Remind Me Later” button over and over again, and simply take the time to do the updates.

—Use spyware and virus protection. Visiting the internet opens computers up to contamination by any virus or spyware software contained on that site and through any downloads conducted. Protection products will locate errant files on the hard drive and notify users for deletion.

—Secure the wireless network. Wireless is a too-good-to-be-true technology for easy internet access, but just because it’s easy to use doesn’t mean it should be easy for people to hack.

Many users do not password protect their wireless connection, or they use easily guessible passwords. Consider changing the password to something other than a phone number or a name/birthday combination.

—Back up files to external sources. Having full photo and video compilations stored on the computer may be convenient, but what will happen should the hard drive become damaged and data not recoverable? Protecting oneself by keeping backups of important files and information can prove a saving grace should anything happen to the computer down the line.

—Inspect start-up items. Certain applications can be designated to launch with start-up, and this can bog down the machine and cause sluggishness. If speed issues are behind the clean-out, consider modifying the number of applications in the start-up menu.

—Monitor activity. There may be something that is hogging your processor or using a lot of RAM. By seeing what is being used on the machine and when, the user can make adjustments.

—Disinfect the computer. While cleaning the inside of the computer, don’t forget the outside, too. A study in Britain found the bacteria and germ levels on office keyboards can be up to five times higher than those commonly found on a toilet seat!

Compressed air can be used to get rid of crumbs and dust buildup on keyboards and screens. Use cleaning products specially designed for computers to disinfect the machine.

While not every tip will be applicable to all particular situations, it is important to realize that a computer is a machine and it will need maintenance. Also, as technology advances at light speed, it will be necessary to keep up with the proper updates that will enable the computer to work at full capacity.

If this computer talk is all gibberish, don’t be afraid to call in a professional. Make Clean Up Your Computer Month a priority and get that feel-good feeling that the computer is as up-to-date and protected as it can be.


Holyoke Enterprise January 5, 2012