So, you’ve heard of spring cleaning?  Well, now is as good a time as any for computer cleaning.  Since you are seeing this on some form of computer, I can offer you some hints to get that computer to run more efficiently by removing unnecessary processes and unnecessary files that are taking up space.

First, a quick primer on what you are dealing with.

Imagine that you have very little focus and are easily distracted.  (Like me.  Go look at my overthinker articles if you are unclear about what I mean.)  That is what your computer is like.  Imagine quadruplet five year olds constantly yelling for things from you.  That is what we do to our computers, and yet they somehow are okay with it.  Think of this as their processing power: aka, just how much they can take before they are going to TURN THIS CAR AROUND AND THERE WILL BE NO DINNER FOR ANY OF YOU! Also known as a crash, or in IT speak, the “blue screen of death.”  You want to make sure that what you are asking it to do does not include unnecessary asks, like when you are driving to school and your kid asks you who the best one-armed baseball player of all time is (Jim Abbott) while you are trying to make a left turn at the yield sign.

The other thing to remember is their data storage capacity, which is the computer’s memory.  Imagine knowing where all of your memories were in your mind and could call them up as needed.  That is what a computer can do.  Like if you had a list of everything in your garage, right down to where each individual rubber band in the junk drawer was located, and when you needed it, you could go right there and get it to use in your “rubber banding the potato chips closed” application.

If you have a tablet, like an iPad or Surface, or a phone as your primary computer, (and they are all just little computers that also happen to be phones,) then you don’t need to do much cleaning.  All you can really do is reduce the apps you have on there that you are sick of, and clean out unnecessary files.  Here is a good article on how to do that for Apple products, and here is one for Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy.  Basically, what they both say is to remove programs and applications you don’t need, like finally taking that furniture out of your garage and putting it on the sidewalk with a FREE sign on it, and dismissing it from your mind so you no longer give it any thought.  Another thing they tell you is how to clear your browser history and cache, which is probably a good idea.  Additionally, something you can do to free up space is to store your photos remotely, like in iCloud or Google Drive (which is like renting space in someone else’s garage), or on your computer. Here is how to do that for non-apple users, and here is how to put the photos in iCloud or your computer for iPhone and iPad enthusiasts.  This will give you more space for all those new photos or musicAlso for Android phones.

However, for those of you who have desktops and laptops, there are several more options and things you can do.

  1. The first thing is to make sure your anti-virus and security software is up to date and run a full scan. Most people have either, McAfee, or Kaspersky software on their Windows-based computers.  (Click on the link for yours to see the instructions)  Usually there is none on Apple machines, which is a bit of a risk, but a calculated one.
  2. Then think about doing a disk cleanup. Think of this as throwing things away to free up space in the garage.  This is a great link to tell you where to start for Windows computers.  It walks you through the steps to do a disk cleanup, and from there you can uninstall programs you no longer need.  Also when you do that, you might see if there were any sneaky little toolbar add-ons in the list.  When you are scrolling through the list of programs, look for things that say “<something you don’t recognize> Toolbar,” and uninstall them.  Here is a page showing some of the common ones and how to remove them.  For Apple users, you should at least try the trial version of Malwarebytes if you are worried, or if you see new junk popping up on your internet browser toolbars.  I know people say Macs are immune, and the reasons why people believe that are complicated.  Suffice it to say that the Mac brain is different from the Windows PC brain, and it is a little harder to get a Mac to change its mind.  Additionally, there are many fewer Macs out there and they are far more common to be home users rather than business users, so it is not as lucrative to try and hack them.  But for a quick guide to removing unnecessary applications on your Mac, even the difficult ones, look at this page.  Also, if you feel ambitious, here is a page showing some cool Mac tricks and tweaks like turning off things that hog your battery, or being able to sign things on your trackpad, etc.
    Clean Out Your Computer Day Uninstall Programs
  3. After doing that, go to your browser and check to see if you have unnecessary browser add-ons that you can disable or remove. On the link above, it gives you instructions on how to do it for most major browsers.  Of course if you want to keep your Chrome browser add-on that changes every picture of a certain president to kittens, then go ahead.
  4. Now that you have dealt with all of those things, you should empty your recycle bin (Windows), or your trash. (Mac)
  5. If you are me, then next thing you would do is get rid of unnecessary emails. Most email clients will allow you to sort by Read/Unread, or who the email is from, or some other grouping that will allow you to delete a bunch of emails at one time.  For example, if you search for unread emails, and there are hundreds and hundreds advertising ONE DAY SALES from two years ago, or from schools that your child no longer attends, or anything else that you will never read again, perhaps it is time to delete it.  Personally, almost nothing is as satisfying to me, and whatever place I am on the spectrum, than to see the number of my unread emails or unsorted ones drop chunk by chunk to zero.

Clean Out Your Computer Day Emails

In any case, it is likely that some of these things will make your computer run faster, be safer, or at least become less cluttered.  While you are at it in this time of change and renewal, perhaps it is a good time to change your desktop wallpaper, or screensaver, or pajamas, or ringtones, or your pet’s name, or…

Nevermind, it probably isn’t time to do all of those things.

Tony Moir is a cyborg who holds world records in synchronized luge and panda steeplechase. Or maybe he isn’t. But he lives in San Francisco with his lovely wife and three outstanding sons.

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