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If you missed the observance of National Clean Up Your Computer Month this January, never fear! This is a chore you can do any time of the year.
Cleaning video screens and the outside of your devices is fairly straightforward. Turn the device off or, better yet, unplug it. Blow off loose surface dust with canned compressed air, then wipe with a microfiber cloth using a gentle circular motion. If any smudging remains, lightly dampen the microfiber cloth with distilled water (moist, not dripping!) and wipe again. For stubborn spots, use 50:50 distilled water and vinegar in the same fashion. Never use Windex or other household cleaners and never spray any liquids on electronics. Do not use paper towels or old cleaning rags – they can cause scratches on video screens.
Invert your keyboard and dump out the accumulated cookie crumbs; blow out the crevices with compressed air. Don’t forget to clean the bottom of your mouse; use a toothpick to scrape out the debris that collects around the plastic sliders and a tiny new artists brush to get the fuzz out of the camera lens cavity.
Some devices have removable air filters which need washing or vacuuming. Check your owner’s manual, which is probably a file in your computer. Desktop computers have fans which draw air in from the front or side and exhaust in the back; debris collects in the innards. Remove the side panel and blow out the collected dust, pollen and pet hair coating the innards with canned compressed air. Wipe stubborn areas with your microfiber cloth or use a soft new paintbrush. Remember to do this outdoors unless you were planning on cleaning an entire room anyway!
Take a careful look at your installed programs, especially those preinstalled by the system builder. Uninstall the ones you never used or have stopped using – like the software for the printer you discarded two years ago. Carefully review the programs set to constantly run in the background, particularly on devices that have limited memory or are battery powered. On my smart phone, I removed or inactivated more than half of all the original software. This tripled the battery life and the responsiveness of the phone noticeably improved.
Review your emails and toss those that have become irrelevant. Do the same exercise with your files – be ruthless with information that has no real remaining relevance. If you have not sorted information by subject or date, this might be a good time to do just that. Backup all the files you really want to keep. Use an online “cloud storage” service if you want to access the information from multiple sites or devices. If you’re really careful, you will routinely backup on a regular basis to more than a single location. Remember that most automated backups only save data files; you may also want to do a full system or “image” backup which will enable complete recovery from a hard disk failure.
If you can’t remember the last time you went through this exercise, today just might be a good time to get started.