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Speed up computers by removing clutter

By Mariah Smith
Extension Center for Technology Outreach

Smith click to enlarge

Obsessive-compulsives are not the only ones who should note that the second Monday in February is National Clean Out Your Computer Day. Cleaning a computer is a great way to speed up the computer, find files more quickly and prevent pesky viruses and spyware from taking control of the hard drive.

Start with the desktop. If there any unused icons or files saved on the desktop, delete them. Most desktop icons are simply shortcuts for easy access to other programs installed on your computer. I have a bad habit of saving photos people email me to the desktop so I can find them easily. Photos take up a lot of space and should be moved to the “My Pictures” folder under “My Documents.” The fewer documents, photos and other files saved to your desktop, the faster your computer boot-up time will be.

Don’t forget to clean out your recycle bin, which can be found on your desktop. Carefully review the items to be deleted and then empty the recycle bin. Once items have been deleted from the recycle bin, consider them gone for good. Technically speaking, they can be restored but it will take a great deal of time, effort and money to pay a technician to retrieve the lost files.

Next up is that jungle known as the “My Documents” or “Documents” folder. I always have the best of intentions of organizing my files, but the phone rings, the dog barks, and I’ve simply saved another file randomly in the My Docs folder. The only problem is that over time it can be increasingly difficult to find those files. Try organizing your documents folder much like a filing cabinet. Create folders under documents for various topics such as banking, taxes, family and church. To create order out of chaos, open the docs folder and right-click in a blank area. In the pop-up menu, left-click “New” and then left-click “Folder.” Name the folder and press “Enter.” If you accidently click off of the folder and it will not let you type in the name field, just right-click on the folder and in the pop-up menu left-click “Rename.”

Once you have created your folders, you can left-click once on the document that needs to be filed and then hold down your left mouse button and drag the file to the folder. When the file is hovering over the folder, release the mouse; the file has been successfully moved. Continue until all of your files have been organized.

Honestly, most of us are not going to take the time to organize our files. So, the next best thing you can do is to defragment the hard drive. Every computer has a program called Disk Defragmenter. You can find yours by going to “My Computer” and doing a search for “Disk Defragment.” Once you find it, open the program and left-click “Defragment.” Defragmenting takes all of the same types of files and organizes them on your hard drive so the computer can access them more quickly.

Another great tip for cleaning a computer is to delete temporary Internet files and cookies. Any time you get out on the World Wide Web, cookies and temporary files store on your computer. Over time, they can slow the computer down and lead to annoying pop-ups. To delete them, open Internet Explorer and left-click “Tools/Internet Options.” In the “Delete Browsing” box, left-click “Delete.” Check cookies and temporary files, and left-click “Delete.” If you haven’t done this in a while, it may take a few minutes to complete.

Last but not least, run a program, such as Spybot Search and Destroy, which looks for spyware, malware and adware on your computer. The program is free and can be downloaded from http://www.safer-networking.org/. Once the program has been installed, left-click “Check for Updates.” It may take several minutes for the program to run. When finished, it will give a listing of the problems it found and ask if you want the program to fix them. Left-click “Yes.”

Now that the cleanup is done, it’s time to start the party. Celebrate National Clean-Up Your Computer day with friends, family and coworkers.

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Released: January 31, 2013
Contact: Mariah Smith, (662) 325-3226

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