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Computer Basics: Spring Cleaning Your Computer

As the weather warms up in the spring, it's traditional to open your windows and clean out the house. Clear up the clutter, sweep out the garage, and donate your old clothes.

While you're in the mood, consider cleaning up your computer too.

Here are 10 ideas for Spring Cleaning your computer:


1) Review Your Backup Routine

Does your current backup system serve your needs? Are you wasting time backing up files over and over that never change? Have you reorganized your hard drive in any way that affects your backups? Make sure your process is still protecting your most important files.

Check your most recent backup and verify that all the correct files were included. While you're checking it, consider whether you want to purge your oldest backups to free up space (physical or digital, depending on how you store your backups).

2) Do a Full Malware Scan

If you usually use the "quick" scan feature of your malware scanning software, you should also occasionally do a complete scan of your entire hard drive. Carve out some time for a "full" scan.

Also consider using multiple malware scanners. Sometimes different scanning software picks up different problems. Some scanners interfere with others, though, so you should only leave one running permanently in the background.

3) Maintain Your Hard Drive

Use disk optimization and defragmentation software regularly. It saves disk space, speeds up software, and reduces computer errors.

In Windows 10, you can find the disk defragmenter from your Windows Start menu under Windows Administrative Tools. Look for the Defragment and Optimize Drives option. You can also schedule the defragmenter to run automatically.

4) Compress Database Files

If you use database software, regularly compress or compact its native files. While this may seem less important as hard drives have gotten larger and disk space is not an issue, it may help database access time. Also, many compact functions (like Personal Knowbase's compaction command) check for database errors.

5) Consider Updating Software

If you use an application regularly and aren't running the latest version, consider updating it. Do a survey of your active software. Weigh the costs of updating (if any) against the new features you'll get. Note that with some software, if you don't update, you may open yourself to security problems.

Before updating software, always run a full backup.

6) Uninstall Software You Don't Use

While surveying the software installed on your computer, note which applications you no longer use. Uninstall software you don't use and are unlikely to need in the future. Extra programs take up disk space and Windows Registry space, clutter your desktop and menus, and may be security risks if they require security updates. Simplify your digital life by removing what you don't need.

7) Review Your Desktop Icons

Close or minimize all your running programs and review your desktop. Remove desktop icons for programs and files that you no longer use. Your desktop is your starting position. Make sure it's usable.

8) Organize Your Downloads

If you store Internet downloads in a dedicated download folder (such as the /Downloads folder under your Users folder), consider organizing those files into more specific permanent folders or deleting them if they are no longer needed. Leaving everything in one large disorganized folder is a sure way to make things hard to find.

9) Clear Out Unnecessary Files

With large modern hard drive sizes, you can let old files accumulate indefinitely. But you may find it harder and harder to locate files in cluttered folders. Consider deleting obsolete files. If you don't want to delete superfluous files, consider moving them to an "archive" folder hierarchy separate from your working files.

For example, many programs create .bak files as backups of working files. Old .bak files and other old revision files can often be deleted.

While you're clearing out unnecessary files, purge your "temp" folders, empty the Recycle Bin, and clear your web cookies and temporary Internet files.

10) Organize Little Files into Personal Knowbase

If you have little text files all over your hard drive, try Personal Knowbase note management software to consolidate them as text notes with a keyword index.

Note that these are just suggestions. Not all will apply to your computer setup. But it's a good idea to give your computer some love once in a while to de-clutter it and keep it manageable.