If you followed my suggestion over New Year’s, this will go faster than you expect, but still, plan to set aside a couple of hours. Grab a coffee or tea, get a comfortable chair. Put on your problem-solving hat, and get started:
- Make sure your firewall is working. Windows comes with a built-in one. Maybe Mac does too. Leave it active. It’s under Control Panel-Administrative Tools. Sometimes, they turn off by themselves (I have no idea why). Check it to be sure it remains active.
- Run Spybot or a similar antispyware program. Spybot is free, which is why I like it. I’ve had good luck with it. Download.com says this about Spybot: The program checks your system against a comprehensive database of adware and other system invaders. The Immunize feature blocks a plethora of uninvited Web-borne flotsam before it reaches your computer.
- Keep your antivirus software active. If you’re paranoid like me, run an antivirus scan weekly to be sure nothing is missed.
- Run Ad-aware once a week to keep malware and spyware off your computer. It has a stellar reputation and is still free to all (although there’s an upgrade you can pay for).
- Sort through your My Documents files and get rid of those you don’t need anymore. That includes pictures, videos, faxes, all that stuff. It’s intimidating, like a file cabinet that hasn’t been opened in months–or years. Do it, though. You may not need the hard drive space, but you don’t need the computer fingering through unnecessary files every time it searches.
- Back up all of your files to an external drive or cloud storage. If you have an automated system like Carbonite (see my sidebar for a link), skip this. If you don’t have one, consider getting one. They not only automatically back up your work, but they make it accessible from wherever you are–home, work, your accountants, the soccer field. If you use Windows, try their ‘backup’ program. It’s easy to find: Click the Start Button and search ‘backup’.
- Empty the trash folder. Don’t even look in it. If you haven’t missed a file by now, it won’t be in there.
- Learn to use that program you’ve been promising you would. Evernote is a great example. Use it (and you won’t be sorry) or delete the email from your best friend exhorting you to. Move on.
- Go through your programs and delete the ones you no longer use. Here’s what you do:
- go to Control Panel>Programs and Feature
- Peruse the list and pick the programs you downloaded by mistake, meaning to use, or used to use and no longer do
- don’t look back
- Update any software that needs it. I don’t mean BUY a newer version. I mean click the free update that’s been nagging at you (Adobe Reader and Windows, for example)
- Clean the junk off of your desktop. Put it in folders or create a folder for ‘Working on’ or ‘Desktop Stuff’. Don’t know how to create a desktop folder? Here’s what you do:
- Right click on the desktop and select ‘New>folder’
- Clean up your Start Button. Remove shortkeys you no longer use (with a right click>delete). Add those that are now your daily go-to sites. How? Right-click>add to Start Menu.
That’s enough. I’ll have more for you during Holiday Cleaning. Now take a break.
More on cleaning your computer:
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. In her free time, she is editor of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.