By Katie Schreiber
January is National Clean out your Computer Month. Who knew there was such a thing right? But when you stop and ponder it for a moment, it makes sense. January is the start of a new year and many people choose “to get organized” as one of their top resolutions every year, so it’s actually great that the two coincide! By utilizing National Clean out your computer month, you are actually setting yourself up for a great year! You will know where everything is in your files, and you won’t have so much junk in general sitting on your computer taking up space and slowing down your whole machine.
BACK IT UP
Before you start the process, it is generally a good idea to backup your data first. That way, just incase anything goes wrong, you can revert and start over and you haven’t lost anything in reality. There are a couple ways to do this. The first is one that you can utilize an external hard drive, though we don’t generally recommend this method anymore because of method two. The Cloud is our preferred method these days. Utilizing the cloud has become safer, more secure, and more reliable than ever before and eliminates the risk of hardware failure that can sometimes be an issue with an external hard drive. Once you’ve backed up, you’re ready to move forward.
Cleaning out your files is a great idea, but like all great ideas, you should have a solid starting point to get you going. Your photos file is always a great place to start. It is often surprising how many photos we take in a day or week or month, and that really adds up over the course of a year. Photos take up space on your phone and your computer, and often times when imported from one to the other they end up with funny names that make no sense; something along the lines of 646img4478d11m16y.jpg look familiar? By starting with photos you get to clear out a lot of space relatively quickly, and it’s fun! You get to reminisce over the past year (or more in some cases) while you delete the accidental pictures of your foot or the blurry picture of your friend.
You also have the opportunity to name the photos so that you can actually find them when you need them. Thus 646img4478d11m16y.jpg becomes Hiking Day 1 River Break.jpg, which is much more meaningful and searchable. It is then easier to put your photos into groups by year or month or even event.
Photos are a good lead for sorting through your documents. Going through old documents might be more difficult. There will be files that you know right away that you can get rid of, but there also might be files that you don’t know about, especially document that might be digital copies of hard paper documents; usually the same rules will apply for both. For example, if you have a digital copy of your tax returns the generally agreed safe period of time before you can start discarding is 7 years. But you might want to plan to even keep them longer because there is an unlimited amount of time that the IRS can investigate for fraud. Just remember if you are keeping records like this on your computer to make sure you have safe backup files. Organizing your files, and making sure that they have clearly identifiable names will help you find your files more quickly, and make sure that the files you have are the files that you actually need.
PROGRAMS AND DOWNLOADS
Once your files are named and organized nicely, going through the programs and downloads that are on your computer is another good process. Look for programs that you don’t use and downloads that are no longer necessary to keep. Downloads can usually be put straight into the trash, but make sure when you are removing unused programs that you are correctly uninstalling them. Deleting them doesn’t uninstall and leaves the program on your computer to take up space without any way to alter or remove it because the operating file is gone. It makes things complicated, so uninstall properly! De-cluttering is one way to free up space on your computer and keep the machine performing like it should.
File clean up on your computer is great, but organizing your online presence is another way to de-stress your life. Email is a great place to start with this section. Creating different files for work, friends & family, and personal will help you sort all those incoming messages so they can be dealt with in the timely manner required for each. Also going through your inbox and deleting old emails that no longer require attention clears out your messages for new ones. This is also a good time to deal with the many email lists you are on. It might be a good time to unsubscribe from email lists that you are no longer interested in so they aren’t currently bombarding you and giving you more work to do to have to clean out your inboxes. There are plenty of websites out there too that will help you unsubscribe from all email lists if you want to go that direction.
Your Internet settings and bookmarks are more areas you can organize. Going through your settings and making sure old saved usernames and passwords get deleted can help reduce login confusion. Deleting your cookies and history can help speed up your internet and make sure that your actions online are tracked as little as possible. Organizing the bookmarks toolbar makes going to frequently used sites easier and frees up space by deleting unused bookmarks. Don’t stop at your search preferences or Internet preferences; make sure your Facebook and other social media accounts are updated and that your security settings are what you want them to be. You can even go through pictures, posts, and friends on your accounts to make sure you control your audience and the media you are putting out.
Finally, if you have old machines lying around, laptops, computers, tablets, make sure that you dispose of them properly. Urban E Recycling is one company that helps with this type of clean out. The hard drives in these old machines are shredded to protect against identity theft. Recycling will also keep the environment healthier because it keeps the harmful components of computers out of landfills, and actually helps recover materials for reuse. Plus cleaning out that old closet full of electronic junk from the 90s and early 2000s can help make space for other things, like organizing your winter coats or paper files that you need to hang onto for the next 7 to infinity years.
Cleaning out your computer keeps your life more organized and secure. It makes your machine more efficient and makes sure that there is room for what you need. It’s a great way to start a new year off on the right foot, and tackle that “Get Organized” Resolution.
Katie is the Public Relations Coordinator for Urban E Recycling. A No-Charge electronics recycling company in Tampa, FL that specializes in Free Data Destruction through hard-drive shredding and EPA certified recycling of electronics. For more information visit: https://urbanerecycling.com//