Your computer needs a good Fall cleanup just like your office, home, or yard does.  Take a little time this month and follow a few easy steps to accomplish this.  Not only will you feel more oranized and efficient, your computer will run faster and smoother as well.  Not a bad way to get ready for the new year!
1. Start by purging old folders and files. Generally, the same rule of thumb used when you clean out your closet can be applied to your computer documents and files – if you haven’t touched it in a year, get rid of it.  The exception to this is tax related documents, such as receipts and gas logs, or things you may need to reference, such as warranties or user manuals, or legal documents, such as client or vendor contracts. 
It’s a good idea to make a folder marked “Save” or something along those lines, then subfolders labelled “warranties,” or “contracts,” or such , for documents you need to keep for an indefinite time.  That way when you get on a spring or fall cleaning binge, you don’t accidentally delete something you need and when you need to reference an old document later, you always know which folder to start looking in.

While you’re organizing your files, make new folders (right click, then select “New,” then “folder”)  for those loose documents just hanging out in your C drive.  They’ll be easier to find later and your computer will look less cluttered.  Use folder “hierarchies” to organize your documents.  For instance, if you typically look for things by client, then by type of document, label a folder “clients,” then in that folder, have a folder for each client, then within each of those have folders labelled, “statements,” “correspondence,” “invoices,” you get the idea.  If you look for documents by month instead, then make folders for the year, then for each month, then each client.  Think about how you use your documents and that will help you determine the best way to organize them.

2.  Uninstall programs you’re not using. Let’s preface this one by saying, check with your IT manager before you uninstall something you don’t think you need. Some programs you use may depend on other programs to run properly, whose names you might not recognize.  You can really mess up a program if you uninstall something it needs to run.  If you don’t have an IT person to ask, and aren’t sure if you need a program, you can always google it to see what it does.  If you still aren’t sure, you better leave it for now.  That said, to uninstall programs in Windows 7 and XP do this:  

  • Start menu/control panel/programs and features
  • Select program
  • Click “uninstall” at top of program menu and follow prompts (For XP users, the option is “add or remove programs”)

3.  Free up disk space.
  Use the Windows disc cleanup tool to free up space on your hard disk and improve your computer’s performance.  This tool does several things, including:

  • Removes temporary Internet files (these take up the most amount of space because your browser “saves” each web page you visit for faster access later
  • Removes downloaded program files (such as Microsoft ActiveX controls and Java applets)
  • Emptys the Recycle Bin
  • Removes Windows temporary files such as error reports
  • Removes optional Windows components that you don’t use
  • Removes installed programs that you no longer use
  • Removes unused restore points and shadow copies from System Restore
To use disk cleanup, the steps are similar for both Windows 7 users and Windows XP: 
1.  Go to start menu/all programs/accessories/system tools/disc cleanup
2.  Select the drive you want to clean
3.  Scroll thru the files and UNcheck any that you do NOT want to delete (For more options, such as cleaning up System Restore and Shadow copy files, under Description, click Clean up system files, then click the More Options tab)
4.  Answer yes when prompted if you want to delete the selected files
5.  After a few minutes, you’re done


4.  Speed up access to data.  Use the disk defragmenter to piece fragmented files back together so they can be found quickly when you want to open them.  Files become fragmented when you make changes to them over time.  For instance, you might create document A and it’s saved in the next available space in your drive.  Then you create document B and it’s stored in the next available space, right behind document A.  Then you might add another page to document A so it would be saved in the next available space, behind document B, or even further away depending on how many other documents and pages you’ve created or changed.  Your files could end up scatted all over your computer.  This is normal, but it slows down your system performance because your system has to piece your files back together everytime you want to open them.  Make sense?  Follow these steps to use Windows disk degramenter tool and speed up your PC:5.  Scan and isolate spyware and viruses.  Spyware finds its way onto your computer from sites you visit, programs you download, attachments you open, and other insidious ways.  It collects personal information without your permission and also slows down your computer’s performance.  There are several good antispyware programs you can use that are free and that topic is a post all its own that we’ll be tackling very soon.  For now, an effective, trustworthy antispyware program is Microsoft Security Essentials.  Learn more about it and download it HERE.
6.  Do a good old fashioned spit shine on the outside.  Well, not spit exactly – rubbing alcohol is best.  Never spray anything directly on your computer or screen, but you can put a little rubbing alcohol on a microfiber or cotton cloth and gently wipe the surface clean.  For the keyboard, a can of compressed air works very well.  Unplug the keyboard first so you don’t accidentally start a function by pressing on the keys.  Shake out the keyboard, then spray some compressed air to get out dust and particles.  You can use Q-tips with a little rubbing alcohol for stubborn spots or to clean cracks and crevices.  Also, gently wipe the vents to clear any dust or debris that may have accumulated.
Investing a little time and following these steps will leave your computer more organized and performing better.  For more details and tips on speeding up your PC, go to Microsoft at Work and Microsoft at Home.  They have some great practical tips for maintaining and operating your PC.