Spring is here. Time to clear all the junk you’ve accumulated during the winter months and tidy up the house. It's an annual tradition for some. While you’re cleaning up, now is a great time to take a look at your PC and make sure it's running well.
Most of these suggestions require little effort on your part — you only need to set the process in motion, and then let the PC hum to complete the task.
1. Back up your data
Should your PC crash, backing up can save a lot of headaches. We’re also moving into the stormier months: all it takes is one lightning strike or power surge to fry that hard drive full of important data. Purchase an external hard drive, and use the built-in backup functions of your PC. In Mac OS, it’s called Time Machine (Click Finder > Applications > Time Machine), and in Windows Vista and 7, Backup and Restore (Click Start > Control Panel > System Maintenance > Backup and Restore). Using a wireless drive can also reduce cable clutter. For Macs, there is Apple's Time Capsule and for Windows, Lacie’s Wireless Space or Clickfree Automatic Backup.
2. Deal with spyware
If your computer is running slowly, you might have infiltrators known as spyware or malware. Run your anti-virus software to remove it, or use anti-spyware programs such Malwarebytes Anti-Malware for Windows or MacScan for Macs. Malwarebytes is free and MacScan is $40 after a 30-day trial. But seedy websites aren't the only ones that dish up malware. Many legitimate sites are infected, and the people running them don't know it. In addition, many legit sites track your Web surfing in order to serve you more targeted ads. If that makes you uncomfortable, you can also use these applications to delete those “tracking cookies.”
3. Clean up your computer desk
Reorganize your cables using cable organizers. Clean off your monitor and peripherals of dust using a damp rag or compressed air (don't use glass cleaner). Check to see if your surge protection is working correctly. Most surge protectors have an LED, which lights up when surge protection is active. These steps will not only make things easier to find, but will protect your computer investment and the data within.
4. Clear out your apps
Do you really need all those programs? Perform an inventory of installed software. Uninstall programs you aren’t using to free up hard drive space, especially those that run in your system tray in Windows (lower right of your screen) and on the Mac (upper right). These slow down the computer as they run continuously in the background. Use “Add and Remove Programs” in Windows to remove those programs you don’t need, and drag unused applications from the Applications folder to the trashcan on the Mac. For a thorough cleaning that removes all files related to the app, try Revo Uninstaller for Windows or AppZapper for Mac.
Image: Shutterstock / thieury