Have you ever worked through lunch sitting in front of your computer or taken your laptop to the coffee shop and used it to read the news while you had your morning scone? Most of us have.
Take a look at your keyboard. Right now. Just look down at your keyboard. What do you see?
- Bits of chocolate or other snacks
- Other things you would prefer not to identify
- Hand lotion alone is enough to make for sticky keys
Now take a look at your monitor. You may want to turn it off to get the full effect. Do you see fingerprints? Smudges? Dust? More of that other stuff?
Don’t you think it’s about time you showed your computer some love?
The second Monday in February is Clean Out Your Computer Day. What better day to get started? Cleaning out your computer can take more than a few hours, so you might want to prioritize your process.
Getting Physical with your Computer
Give your hardware a surface clean. But first, unplug everything. Please.
- Start with your monitor. An LCD flat screen or plasma screen is a long way from the 50 pound CRT, and requires a different touch when it comes to cleaning care. Don’t spray anything on either monitor. Start with a clean, soft cloth, and gently wipe the screen down. Don’t press against the screen. If you still see fingerprints, it’s time to use a cleaner. You can purchase a cleaner, or you can whip up your own. Check out About.com’s article for a home-made recipe. One thing they didn’t mention: use white vinegar, not apple cider vinegar.
- Next, the keyboard. Q-Tips (lots of them) are your best friend. So is canned air. Pick up the keyboard and turn it over, giving it a shake. Then blow the canned air up and down and back and forth to get rid of the lint and crumbs. Next, clean the sticky keys. All of them. You can use the same vinegar and water mixture here too. Use a barely damp Q-Tip to clean around and over each key.
- Don’t forget the mouse. Use the cloth to wipe down the mouse. If you have a trackball, remove it and clean around it.
Some people may want to stop here. I caution you, however. If you’ve never opened the case on a computer, you’re in for a nasty surprise. Remember the dust bunnies under the dresser? Yeah. Did I mention powering down and unplugging everything? You may choose to leave the computer plugged into a grounded socket. The power supply in your computer will have an additional on/off switch — make sure it’s switched off.
- The outside of the case should be dusted and wiped down.
- Unplug all your peripherals, and open the case. Keep track of any screws.
- Static electricity is a problem when working with computers. At the very least, neutralize a static charge by touching the case before you touch the internal parts of the computer. Read this article for more tips about static electricity.
- Be careful working around the power supply — it can hold a charge. Be sure its switch is off.
- Use your canned air to blow out the dust, pet hair, and other detritus. Do not use a vacuum cleaner, unless it’s specially made for computers.
- You may need to use the damp cloth on the fan blades.
- While you’re in here, reseat the computer memory, and test all the connections. When you remove the memory, take a look at the gold contacts. (You can skip this step: If you see any residue on the contacts, you can very gently clean it off by rubbing a white pencil eraser over it. Make sure the eraser is very soft. Don’t use the hard red ones that are on most school pencils. Mechanical pencils tend to have the white ones.) Replace the memory, and secure the locks.
- Replace the cover, reattach the peripherals, and then plug the computer back in.
Decluttering the Mind
There are again many levels of cleaning. We’ll start with the most basic: cleaning out the files.
- Take a look at your folders, and then the things that are not in any folders. How many folders do you have called New Folder? Are they empty? Delete the empty ones.
- Review the folders. Do you have redundant folders? Folders of vacation photos sitting under the Documents folder? Use a few minutes to decide how you want the folders to look. You might want to rename folders, consolidate some, and create new folders.
- Now look at all the files that are sitting on your desktop, and the ones that are not in any folders at all. Make a decision about where they should go. At the very least, put the documents in the My Documents folder, the photos in My Photos, the videos in My Videos.
- Delete multiple copies of files. Wait. When’s the last time you backed up your computer?
- Email. The biggest bugaboo. If your email is stored on your computer, you need to clean that up too. Be brutal.
Next, basic hard disk maintenance:
- Back it up. There are many options for backing up your computer. You might just back up the files to the cloud, or onto a flash drive. You might chose to ghost or mirror your drive. At the very least, save your documents and photos to a detachable drive or the cloud.
- Depending on your operating system, run the utilities that will clean your disk and then defragment your drive, unless you have a solid state drive (SSD). Do not defrag an SSD.
- You may want to create a new system restore point both before and after you do this maintenance.
- Using the latest version of your virus software, run a complete system scan, and follow it with a utility to seek out Trojans and other backdoor villains. Run the virus software again.
If your computer has been running really slowly, and you’ve been getting a lot of errors, it’s time to break out the big guns. Only do this if you’re very comfortable with your technical skills. Make a list of the software that you’ve added since buying your computer. This will take some time; be prepared for a lot of waiting around.
- Reinstall your operating system. There’s nothing like a fresh start, but back everything up first to an external source. Don’t forget to find the drivers you may need. Download all the updates.
- Reinstall your applications. Check for updates, and install those too.
There you have it. Your PC will show its love by working faster, running cooler, and lasting longer. What more could you ask for?
What’s your best tip for cleaning out your computer? Tell us in the comments below.
Happy Clean Out Your Computer Day!
~Catherine Buck Morgan
Corporate Media Specialist, DPP
Image by kax01 on Deviant Art