Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How-To: Declutter Your Computer

Computers these days seem to have so much space on them - so many giga- or terabytes of storage. In contrast to the past, when hard disk space was so much more expensive, it can be tempting to never delete anything, to never "virtually declutter" your computer. However, the ease of using your computer can be improved by following some of these steps:

  1. Regularly go through the list of installed programs and uninstall any old programs that you no longer need, including those programs that you installed and didn't use more than once. If you still want the program installed, for just in case, remove short cuts and menu items used to access the program, so it is easier to find the programs you do regularly use.
  2. Conversely, make sure it is easy to run the programs you regularly use. I have a Mac and have shortcuts for all the programs I regularly use, and only those programs, in the dock at the bottom of the screen. When I used to use Windows XP, I had two rows of shortcuts in the toolbar.
  3. Minimise the number of icons and documents on your desktop. As their number increases, it becomes hard to find the one you want, and if you already have any programs running or documents opened, you need to minimise them to acess the desktop icons. There is a program on Windows computers that runs by default and prompts you to move unused icons to a sub-folder.
  4. Develop a system for storing documents (instead of keeping them on your desktop!) In your Documents or My Documents folder, create sub-folders for the different documents you store. Choose your own folder system, and every now and again alter this system to stay up-to-date with your current use.
  5. Regularly go through and delete old documents, including from the location where downloaded documents are automatically saved. (Ideally documents you are permamently keeping should be moved to an appropriate folder.) If you're uncertain whether you should delete something, move it to an archive folder or burn it onto a CD or DVD first.
  6. Empty your recycle/trash bin. It's easy for a huge number of files to accumulate here if you never empty it.
  7. If you have a Windows computer, every now and then run a system defragmentation (generally overnight). This basically attempts to store entire files together, rather than split up into fragments, improving the speed to run programs and access large files.
  8. This is also a good time to make sure your virus protection program is up-to-date (plus a full virus scan has recently run), your operating system is up to date and your files have been recently backed up.

Additionally, there may also be a utility application already installed on your computer that will help you detect temporary files and other files taking up space on your harddrive that can be safely removed.

(image: Shandos Cleaver)

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