Let's Spring Clean Our Computers!

by News Editor on March 28th, 2013 in How to.

It's springtime! It's the familiar time to tackle the grime that's built up in our homes over the winter months. You may know all the tricks when it comes to scrubbing, polishing, and organizing your house. Confused when it comes to your PC? Freshen up your computer with our roundup of 11 time-tested cleaning tricks, on the inside and out.


There are two aspects to thoroughly clean you PC: There's the physical cleaning, or manually cleaning actual gunk out of your computer, and the digital cleaning, or using tools to get the Windows operating system back in fighting shape after gaining all that holiday weight.

On the Outside (Physical Cleaning)
Tackle cleaning the outside of your PC by taking a look at these four main areas, below. (Remember, to be safe, turn off and unplug your computer before cleaning).

1.    Your desktop - First and foremost, dust your desktop and workplace area. It's important to do this on a regular basis to keep grime from clogging the air vents behind your PC.

2.    Your monitor - Use a soft cloth and monitor cleaning spray to remove buildup.

3.    Your keyboard - Gently turn your keyboard upside down and let loose any dust, crumbs and grime that may have fallen between keys. Use a cotton swab or compressed air for additional cleanup between the keys.

4.    Your mouse - Clean the top and bottom of your mouse with a soft cloth, and the inner components with a cotton swab. (Some PC pros recommend slightly dampening your cloth with rubbing alcohol for added cleanliness. If you go this route, be sure not to over-saturate and to thoroughly dry before replacing the mouse cover or components.)


On the Inside (Digital Cleaning)
The steps necessary to put a shine on the inner workings of your computer. Whether you’re using a laptop or a desktop PC, here are the main cleaning tips we recommend:

5.    Back up all your important data. The last thing you want is to accidentally delete your family photos or the projects you’ve worked so hard on. You could use a program that syncs files with other computers or save them on external hard disks, but the safest way to store your data is on a safe online drive.

6.    Update with the latest patches. Check the status of your operating system, security software, and all other applications that you use to ensure that you're up-to-date. To be in top shape, your computer needs an updated operating system and fully patched programs. It’s not just about performance and speed. It’s about computer security, too. Outdated programs are responsible for vulnerabilities and secret entryways into your system, all of which can be used by hackers and malware to compromise your internet security. You can get these critical patches and updates from the manufacturer’s website yourself. Or you can save time and effort by having a piece of software known as a vulnerability scanner that automatically detects outdated programs and points you to the necessary updates. Some internet security suites come with this time-saving tool.

7. Get rid of the clutter in your system. Start with the most visible places – your desktop and the system tray or taskbar in the bottom right corner. You’ve probably gathered a whole collection of files, photos and MP3s on your desktop, but do you really need them there? Take your time and neatly arrange them into specialized folders. And what about the small icons you see in your taskbar? They all start up when you turn on your computer and that takes time and resources. A simple right-click will remove or turn off the ones you don’t actually need on a daily basis.

8. Remove the programs you don’t use. Old programs always seem to find a comfy spot in your system to relax after you’ve forgotten about them. The rule here is “Trash whatever you haven’t used in over a year”. Otherwise, you’re just wasting space and slowing down your work.  Deleting the files won’t do it, though. You need to uninstall them from the Control Panel or using their own uninstall kit.

9. Reorganize your hard drive. The information you use on your computer every day gets stored onto the hard drive in bits and pieces, wherever it can find a place. This saves valuable time on given tasks, but it does have long-term consequences. When the information gets too disorganized, your computer has to work overtime to find it. You can put back the order in your hard drive by using the defrag tool that comes with your operating system (Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter).

10. Update your software. To be in top shape, your computer needs an updated operating system and fully patched programs. Software is never actually “finished”, but continuously improved and patched. No program is perfect, so providers work hard even after they’ve sold it to you. And it’s not just about performance and speed. It’s about computer security, too. Outdated programs are responsible for vulnerabilities and secret entryways into your system, all of which can be used by hackers and malware to compromise your internet security. You can get these critical patches and updates from the manufacturer’s website yourself. Or you can save time and effort by having a piece of software known as a vulnerability scanner that automatically detects outdated programs and points you to the necessary updates. Some internet security suites come with this time-saving tool.

11. Clear your cache of temporary files. Every browsing session leaves behind small files in your Temporary Internet Files folder. So you can imagine how, over time, a huge collection of such items can affect your browsing speed and reduce the free space on your hard drive. You can get rid of them directly from your web browser or you can leave this task to a special tune up tool that comes with some internet security programs.

Happy spring cleaning!