With the arrival of spring, our culture changes. We throw open our windows, spend more time outside, and start thinking about spring cleaning. While spring cleaning is usually focused on our homes, why not do the same with our computers?
A computer that is not maintained will gradually become less efficient. Luckily, there are many options for getting your computer back into shape.
It’s best to start simple. Computers run a certain number of programs as they start up. Sometimes there can be too many, which can lead to poor performance. A temporary, immediate fix is to manually close open programs you won’t be using but have been opened anyway (for Windows, look to the task bar at the bottom right of your screen. For Macs, it is along the bottom of your screen by default) with a crisp right-click.
Another option is to look at the icons on your desktop. Delete ones you don’t regularly use. Make folders and categorize the icons manually if you have several.
Do you have a bunch of videos, music and documents filling up your desktop? Chances are you do not need such immediate access to them (you likely access them through another program like iTunes) so why not organize them into the Documents, Music and Video folders?
For more thorough cleaning, there are free programs available online. They are optimized to clean only unnecessary files and you can often decide what does and does not get cleaned.
One of the better programs is CCleaner. Piriform, the creator, offers both a Windows and Mac version. The software streamlines many of the aforementioned spring cleaning processes for you, such as configuring what will programs will open on start-up, uninstalling unused programs, and cleaning your computer of unwanted files.
Similar programs are nCleaner and IOBit.
Defragging Your Computer
Defragmentation is a little more complex. Essentially, defragmentation rearranges the files of your computer’s hard drive for quicker access.
CCleaner’s Piriform offers a stand alone program called Defraggler. It is very user-friendly and simple because it’s oriented exclusively towards the process of defragmentation.
Besides running slow, our computers can also get dusty and smudged from frequent use. Here are some tips on cleaning LCD monitors and keyboards.
To clean an LCD monitor screen, make a solution of half vinegar and half distilled water. Spray it onto a soft cloth (like an old t-shirt) and rub your screen in a circular motion. This process will ideally remove smudges and return the sheen to your display. Be sure your computer is off and that you do not put the solution directly onto the screen instead of on the cloth.
Keyboards are treated similarly to any other surface that needs a cleaning. You can use a cotton swab (q-tip) to clean between the keys, removing dust and any stray debris.
Another strategy for keyboards it to acquire canned air and blow between the keys to force any settled debris out. Canned air serves another purpose for computer maintenance: removing dust from fans.
First, locate the vent on your computer (for laptops, it’s usually on the side, and for desktops, there’s a front and back fan on the tower.)
When spraying canned air, make sure the can’s bottom is facing down or else the hazardous substance inside can be sprayed and drastically damage your computer. The can should be sprayed about 5 inches from the vent. A dusty fan risks getting caught on itself and breaking or damaging to adjacent components.
Resources for Cleaning
For further reading on the topics discussed here, check out these links:
Windows PC spring cleaning
Mac PC spring cleaning
Disinfecting an Apple keyboard
In-depth tutorial of keyboard cleaning
Cleaning dust from internal fans