Computer a mess? Your quick 5-step plan to clean it up
Digital waste accumulates too quickly. Look no further than your phone and all those blurry photos and old screenshots in your gallery. What you don’t see are invasive tracking cookies stored in your smartphone.
Clutter on your computer can be even more difficult to resolve. Start with your Recycle Bin on a PC or your Recycle Bin on a Mac. You have to manually empty it from time to time. Tap or click on the files and folders you should also be throwing away for good right now.
Cleaning up your computer doesn’t take a long time. But you have to do it right and smart. I can help.
1. Remove sensitive files from your desktop
How many documents are stored on your computer and you really wouldn’t want someone else to get your hands on? I know people who have an Excel spreadsheet loaded with their passwords stored out in the open on the desktop.
Maybe you keep financial records well organized or have a file with all of your essential medical documents. Beyond the risk to privacy, think about the pain it would be when your computer finally bites the dust. You don’t want to find yourself in a pinch because you’ve never saved those files somewhere more secure.
My recommendation: back up anything you don’t want to lose to the cloud. Whichever option you choose, stick to what tech pros call the 3-2-1 rule. Keep three copies of your important files: two on different storage media and one in an offsite location. (Yes, the cloud matters.)
If you insist on saving private documents locally, at least give a snoop a harder time by naming the folder something off-base like “Vacation Photos.” Make sure that your computer automatically locks when you are away and that it also requires a boot password.
Speaking of photos, I can help you clean them up as well. Tap or click for a smart guide to sorting your huge photo collection.
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2. Remove programs you no longer need or use
Programs take up a decent amount of space, so clean up anything you don’t use on a regular basis.
Beyond that, outdated apps could put you at risk. By keeping old programs on your computer, you potentially leave a door wide open for cybercriminals to slip in.
Here’s how to find and uninstall space-consuming apps.
On a Windows PC:
- Click it Start button and search for the app or program. Press and hold (or right click) on the app and select Uninstall.
On a Mac:
- At the top left of your screen, click on the Apple icon, then click About this Mac.
- Select the Storage room in the middle of the pop-up window.
- On the right side, select Manage. You’ll see everything taking up space – and how much space it consumes. You can also check out Apple’s recommendation to free up space.
- On the right, click Applications. Click on a program you no longer want and select Wipe off at the bottom right, then validate.
RELATED: Are you moving to a new computer soon? Here are three options to delete files and completely erase your hard drive.
3. Stay up to date
The latest version of the operating system you are using is the most secure. Updates, even minor ones, fix major security issues and vulnerabilities.
One caveat: When a brand new version of an operating system is deployed, such as Windows 11, it may take some time to resolve issues. Unless you are comfortable with fixing new issues and reverting to a previous version if necessary, wait a little longer to update.
If you want to update to Windows 11 or if you have already done so, tap or click for five tips, tricks, and features to try right now.
To update Windows:
- Click it Start button > Settings (the gear icon).
- To select Update and security > Windows Update.
- If an update is available, select Download and install.
To update a Mac:
- Click it Apple icon > System Preferences.
- To select Software update to see if there are any updates available.
- Then click on the Restart now button.
4. Take a look at what’s going on in the background
Consulting your task manager or activity monitor is a great way to see if something strange is going on in the background. Sudden spikes are a bad sign. If you see that your activity has increased even though you haven’t done anything intensive, it could be a sign that your computer is infected with malware.
If you see anything strange, run an antivirus or anti-malware scan.
Check your activity on a PC:
- hurry Ctrl + Alt + Del.
- To choose Task Manager. Here you can see how much of your CPU and memory is being used. Look for processes that you don’t recognize, especially those that are using a large percentage of your processor or memory.
Check your Mac’s activity:
- Open a Finder window, then choose the Applications folder> Utilities.
- Select the Activity monitor.
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5. Don’t forget the exterior
It’s important to clean the inside of your computer, but don’t forget the outside. Dust, dirt and grime can get into every nook and cranny.
Apple now sells a polishing cloth for $ 19, but a good ol ‘microfiber cloth is fine for cleaning your screen. Do not use scratchy paper towels. A dry cloth can wipe away most dirt and debris. For stubborn stains and fingerprints, dampen the cloth lightly with distilled water. Never pour or spray water directly on a screen and also stay away from glass cleaner.
I prefer pre-moistened electronic wipes. They are so easy. I buy a great value pack from Care Touch. They are great on small screens like phones, tablets, and laptops. For televisions and larger monitors, these Weiman wipes work like a charm.
Your keyboard, mouse, and ports need love too. Tap or click here for my complete guide to properly cleaning your tech. Choose the wrong products or methods, and you can cause serious damage.
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Pro tip: know the signs that you have been hacked
A cluttered computer is one thing. Another person is infected with malware. There are a few warning signs, like the temperature of your machine. If you put a hand on the screen or keyboard and it’s hotter than you remember, don’t ignore it.
Malware can consume storage space, overwork your processors, and send your fan overdrive. Tap or click here for more ways to find out if your computer or phone has been hacked.
What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s National Radio Show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen or watch The Kim Komando show on your phone, tablet, TV or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.
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Discover all the latest technologies on The Kim Komando show, the country’s biggest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and gives advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacking. For his daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit his website at Komando.com.