Some people are neat freaks, while some are…not. Whichever category you fall into (don’t worry, we won’t tell Marie Kondo), chances are, the condition of your computer reflects your personal level of slobbery.
There’s no hard and fast rule, but if you find yourself sifting through massive piles of clothes each morning to get to the one shirt you really want, you might also be hoarding lots of extra computer weight. And just like holding on to lots of useless clutter takes a toll on your sanity, holding on to useless computer clutter also comes at great personal cost.
Why Clean Out Your Computer and Devices?
That’s why National Clean Out Your Computer Day was created back in 2000. The idea behind it was that most people have lots of “extras” running on their computers and these extras can really get you in trouble. Namely, that once you download an app, a piece of content or create a new folder, it usually sits there ad infinitum; and as the saying goes, outta sight, outta mind.
These forgotten-about items adversely affect your computer in terms of performance and capacity and moreover, can open you up to malware and other threats to your security and privacy. National Clean Out Your Computer Day reminds us to take a long hard look at the files, emails, downloads and software we’ve got and ask ourselves “Does this bring me joy?”
Tips to Help Spark Computer-Cleanliness Joy
To help you get started on your personal purge, here are some tips to consider:
Get rid of unused programs and update all software – Old, unused software can make your computer vulnerable to security threats. When you hear about patches being released, it’s because a flaw has been found in a piece of software or operating system. Patches prevent attackers from exploiting those potential entry points. But if you don’t patch and don’t get rid of programs that aren’t in use, you’re a sitting duck. So for this step, determine if the software in question is something you need. If not, ditch it, it’s not worth the risk. If it is something you need, make sure to update to the latest version to prevent attackers from exploiting it.
You can also take a look at what is consuming the most resources in Windows by going to Start —> Control Panel —>Programs and features —> Size. You might be very surprised to see what actually uses the most resources — and if you don’t need it, get rid of it.
Remove duplicate files – What, you didn’t realized you downloaded The Last Jedi twice? Well now is the perfect time to remove (at least) one of them. Duplicate files are actually quite a common occurrence and use up lots of space. There are a bunch of programs, some paid and some free, that can help you locate and delete duplicate files, such as Auslogics and Duplicate Cleaner Pro.
Protect your computer from malware and adware – Here is something that should be pretty obvious – malware and adware not only threaten your security and privacy, they also use up your computing resources. Be sure to prevent malware and adware from infiltrating onto your computer by using a reputable antivirus and malware solution like Reason.
Purge bloatware – Today, almost all computers come with some pre-installed software. No, it’s not because HP or Dell is terribly concerned that you might forget to install an AV or browser. It’s because of the ridiculously lucrative deals made between computer companies and software developers. Computer manufacturers fill their hardware with programs you never wanted and didn’t ask for, creating a win-win situation for them and the developers. But you, the consumer, lose out as bloatware can place a significant burden on your system.
To remove bloatware in Windows, you can manually uninstall programs by going to the Start Menu and typing “Control Panel”. Once it’s open, you’ll see a list of all programs you have. Remove the ones you don’t want.
If you aren’t sure if you should remove it, you can always double check at our sister site, Should I Remove It?, which provides valuable information on different programs and helps you get rid of the ones you decide that you don’t want.
Get rid of emails – Though it’s okay to give up on that elusive goal of maintaining an always-immaculate inbox, you should get rid of the emails you don’t need as they can eat up a decent amount of resources. But remember that even once you’ve deleted items, they will still be waiting for you in your trash bin — so you need to delete emails all you don’t want from there as well. Really getting rid of your unneeded emails should clear up some space on your computer.
Create a file/folder naming strategy – Soooo, you are pretty sure the family pictures you set aside for your “someday” project are somewhere on your computer. Wouldn’t it be great if you could actually locate them?
This is why it’s important to create a folder/file naming strategy that will help you find everything you want to keep in a flash. According to Stanford University Library, it’s possible to create a intuitive strategy that will help you keep your folders and files orderly. Just commit to being consistent and descriptive in naming files and folders, including project title, date and a unique identifier. You can use the following structure as an example: 20180211_Tahiti_Vacation_Pictures – it lists the date (2018, February 11th) and is descriptive so you know at a glance just what is inside.
Get rid of desktop clutter – If your desktop looks like the Mercedes Benz Stadium after the Super Bowl, it’s time to get cleaning. Think about your desktop this way – it should be reserved only for homing items that you know you need in a flash, such as a project you’re currently in the middle of. Anything else should be moved to the correct (properly named, see above tip) file.
Back up – One last tip that lets you have your cake and eat it too — backing up your data to the cloud or an external hard drive clears up room and allows you to keep the items you were on the fence about.
Once you’ve finished with all the tips above, your computer should be running much more efficiently than it has in some time. Keeping your computer clean is a good start to preventing vulnerabilities as well as keeping clutter-induced insanity at bay. Now if only you could apply this minimalist approach to everything in your life.
Hey, you gotta start somewhere, right?