National Clean Out Your Computer Day (COYCD), which falls on the second Monday each February, provides a great excuse to clean up those files and folders you’ve been neglecting over the past several months (or years). Everyone needs a little TLC every once in a while — your computer is no different.
As an IT professional with more than 25 years of experience, I’m sure I’ve seen just about everything when it comes to the upkeep and maintenance (or lack thereof) by some individuals and companies. Luckily, observing National Clean Out Your Computer Day is one way to help you get back on schedule in taking care of your valuable equipment.
But, why is cleaning out your computer so important? Over time, the data from files and programs you download to your computer begin to build up and hinder your machine’s memory and performance. The Institute for Business Technology, which founded the holiday in 2000, recognized that this can make your system malfunction or perform sluggishly and wanted to remind people to take care of their computers. Furthermore, systems that are not up-to-date on their security and software updates are more prone to falling prey to data breaches and other cybersecurity issues.
So now, with National Clean Out Your Computer Day finally here, it seems like the perfect time to get your computer up-to-speed and running smoothly.
Observing National COYCD
There are, of course, literal and figurative interpretations to “cleaning” out your computer. On one hand, it can mean cleaning out your computer’s digital desktop by organizing files and folders and deleting old programs or files. On the other, it can refer to the physical cleaning of your computer’s internal components. Luckily, this isn’t an either/or situation and you can do both.
Take this day to get your computer running in top condition. I’ve outlined several ways that you can help clean the digital and physical spaces of your computer.
1. Organize Your Files
A great way to start celebrating COYCD is to go through the files and programs on your computer. After all, you can’t start really cleaning your house until you’ve put away your belongings and make space to work. By moving any files off your desktop and storing them in more appropriate storage areas (such as your Documents folder), it can help your machine run faster and operate more efficiently.
2. Declutter Your Hard Drive
When you’re going through your files and folders to organize them, it’s a great time to decide which files you need or want to keep, and which ones you can get rid of to save memory. This means deleting old and duplicate files, as well as uninstalling programs you no longer use. Just be sure to never delete or uninstall files and programs that are essential to your computer’s operations.
It also is a good idea to periodically clear your web browser cache as well. Since most browsers automatically download cookies from the websites you visit to help them load faster during future site visits, it quickly builds up aggregate data that can slow your computer.
3. Defragment Your Hard Drive
Ah, yes, the dreaded “D” word. Defragmentation is an important process for every computer. Even though your computer stores all of your data and valuable information on the hard drive, many users neglect to regularly defrag their computers, which can lead to slow performance and malfunctions. But, what does it mean for your operating system?
Data fragmentation makes your hard drive work harder than necessary by making it search for your data in multiple places. And, the more that information continues to fragment without being “defragged,” the slower your machine will begin to perform over time.
4. Update Your Security Systems
Your firewall, antivirus, antimalware and anti-spyware protection software are your computer’s first line of defense against a cybersecurity threat or data breach. This is why it’s important to ensure that your security software is up-to-date and have the latest patches. However, simply having these systems installed isn’t enough to keep your system healthy. You also need to run full-system scans to ensure that nothing slips through the cracks of your digital security defense.
For Los Angeles businesses, it’s imperative to use proactive system maintenance solutions to help keep your data and computer systems safe. In addition to hard drive maintenance, FPA’s IT managed services for monitoring and alerts include:
- Protection Software Maintenance and Management
- Firmware Upgrades
- Service Pack Deployments
- Network/Active Directory Optimization
- Remediation of Monitor-Generated Alerts
5. Use Cybersecurity Best Practices to Keep Your Computer (and Network) Healthy
While it’s important to get your computer running efficiently, it’s also critical to practice good online safety and computer habits to ensure your system stays that way.
Cybersecurity Awareness Training
Cybersecurity is a growing concern as cyber attacks continue to reach record numbers each year. And, since the majority of Americans lack basic cybersecurity knowledge, a great way to ensure that your company’s users are developing and using smart online safety habits is to offer an effective cybersecurity training program.
Don’t Open Emails from Unknown Users
One of the smartest yet most simple email habits to develop is like following your parents’ advice when you were a child about not talking to strangers: Don’t open emails from people you don’t know. Phishing is a serious problem that affects businesses and individuals globally. According to statistics cited by CSO, “In early 2016, 93 percent of phishing emails delivered ransomware.” This disturbing statistic means that millions of emails are being sent each day with the goal of trying to capture users’ online account information for malicious purposes.
Avoid Untrustworthy Sites and Content
A third healthy online habit to keep your computer running optimally is to avoid pop-up advertisements, banners, and websites that host malicious content. You can use ad blocking software to help with this task and to enable you to surf the web a bit more safely. Just be careful about the websites you choose to visit. Try to limit yourself to only visiting websites with reputable domains.
Regularly Backup Your Files
The fourth thing I’d like to mention is especially important: For both personal and company computers, it’s important to backup your important data and files. This way, in the event of a cyber attack, power surge, or any other event that causes you to lose your data, you’ll be able to quickly and efficiently recover your information. Don’t allow your small to mid-size business (SMB) to become an unfortunate statistic.
6. Physically Clean Your Computer (and Surrounding Areas)
Just like any machine, a computer requires regular physical maintenance to ensure it continues to perform optimally. This includes the removal of dust and dirt that can collect in the air vents and fans. These blockages will force your computer to retain the heat that it generates, which can result in a system breakdown or overheating of your electrical components. For this reason, it’s also important to keep the area around your computer clean as well, as any nearby dust or dirt can get sucked into your computer.
As one final note, I’d like to point out that these steps that should be completed throughout the year and not just on this national day. If you’re not sure how to clean your computer, there are plenty of websites out there that can provide directions on how to safely clean your computer by yourself. However, if you aren’t comfortable doing this job yourself, it’s always a safe bet to bring it to a computer professional.
What are your thoughts? Be sure to share some of your favorite cleaning tips and recommendations of anything you think should have been included on the list in our comments box below. Also, you can always shoot me an email if you’d like to discuss this topic more in-depth. Happy Clean Out Your Computer Day!