Today is national “Clean Out Your Computer Day”! Since you can’t typically SEE the digital clutter, it’s really easy to ignore it. The more you ignore the digital clutter though, the faster your computer will wear down and slow down.
With today being the day set aside to clean out your computer on an annual basis, it’s a great day to get it done! I went on a local lifestyle show to talk to them about these tips. You can watch the clip here.
This doesn’t have to take a lot of time. You can clean out your computer in 30 minutes to an hour. If it’s a huge mess, it may take a bit longer. If you are dealing with years of digital clutter, it may be best to take the whole week and just tackle one of these tips each day.
Scan for malware
First things first, you should definitely scan your computer for any malware that might be lurking behind the scenes. Malware can range from viruses to adware (that cause a lot of pop-ups) and more. I like to download the free version of Malwarebytes and run a quick scan on my computer from time to time.
There is generally no need to keep Malwarebytes on your computer after you have run your scan and cleaned up anything it has found. For virus protection going forward, I recommend ESET.
Remove old applications
The next step will be to go through the applications that are installed on your computer and remove anything that you no longer use. I install programs all the time to test them out. Some I end up using and some I don’t. So my applications can be filled with programs I no longer use.
On Windows 10, right-click the start button and select “Apps and Features”. Look through the list and click one you don’t need anymore and then click “uninstall”. Be careful when you are doing this though. Sometimes programs are used on your computer behind the scenes. Don’t remove anything that you don’t know. If you really think it can be removed do a Google search for the program to see exactly what it does.
Clean out Downloads Folder
When we are browsing the internet, or files arrive in our inbox, or we just need to install a program, we will usually download the file or the program’s installer. These downloads typically go to a folder on our computer called “Downloads”. I know, it’s a super unique name that is hardly descriptive.
This downloads folder can become filled with files and installers that are no longer needed. After you install a program you downloaded like Chrome or Spotify, you don’t need the installer file. Sometimes these installers can be very large too, which could be eating up a ton of space on your hard drive.
Browse through your downloads folder and delete anything you don’t need, like your Spotify download or that PDF document you already filled out and sent along. It will make it a lot easier for you to find downloads you actually need once it’s cleared out.
Clean Out and Organize Your Photos
Once a year I go through the photos on my computer. I delete all the extra junk and move the pictures I want to keep into a folder labeled for that year.
Most of my photos are automatically uploaded to Dropbox from my phone. Anytime I take a picture or a screenshot on my phone, it gets added to the “Camera Uploads” folder.
You can imagine how much junk ends up there. So I look through all the pictures once a year. Good photos get dragged to the appropriate year (I just did 2019) and then whatever is leftover in the folder gets deleted. This way I know that all the pictures in the 2019 folder are photos I actually like and want to keep.
Use Canned Air
Cleaning out your computer doesn’t just mean the digital junk that is cluttering up your computer. It also means physically cleaning it out. Computers can gather dust, dirt, crumbs and more. Keyboards are especially dirty and need the most help.
For a laptop, turn the computer off and then open it as wide as it will go. My Yoga can lay flat, and most laptops should be able to get pretty close. Turn it over so the keyboard is facing the desk and start lightly tapping on the bottom. This should start to loosen any crumbs trapped under the keys.
Once you’ve gotten most of the crumbs and dirt out with the tapping, take a handheld vacuum or canned air to dislodge any more debris. Then take a lightly damp washcloth and wipe down the keyboard. This will also work with a standalone keyboard (one that goes to a desktop) but you don’t have to be as gentle with your tapping.
Next, take the vacuum or canned air and blow out any of the other crevices on the device. For a laptop, there might not be that many, but a desktop has a lot of empty space. You should be able to open the desktop and use the canned air on all of the components inside.
Once all the dust and debris are cleaned out, wipe it all down with a very lightly damp washcloth. Do not wipe down the components inside the desktop! The computer should run a little better now that it doesn’t have to work as hard to get you what you need.
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Sarah Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 16 years of her career as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on KSL News, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website SarahKimmel.com