Clean Out Your Computer Day 2021: 3 Tips for a Cleaner and Faster Computer

    Observed on the second Monday of February, Clean Out Your Computer Day promotes taking some time to perform basic housekeeping on your computer.

    All computers need regular maintenance to perform reliably, and our team implements tools for our clients that handle many daily. There are, however, ones that we should each regularly perform to keep ourselves better organized and extend the life of the tools we use.

    There are many ways to observe Clean Out Your Computer Day on personal and work computers:

    • Organize your files and folders
    • Delete junk files and remove duplicate files
    • Remove software that you’re no longer using
    • Update the software that you are using

    I try to take a few minutes end of the week for basic housekeeping tasks and will be dedicating time, on Clean Out Your Computer Day, to 3 tasks that I neglect all too often.

    Cleaning your screen

    A 2018 poll of 2,000 office workers revealed that we spend, on average, six and a half hours in front of a screen each workday – that’s almost 1,700 hours a year! Why spend all of those hours looking at a messy screen if you don’t have to?

    Cleaning a computer screen is simple, but typical cleaning products – even something as unassuming as a roll of paper towels – can lead to damage if you’re not careful.

    First things first, turn your screen off. If you have a laptop, shut it down completely. Doing so makes it easier to see any grime, fingerprints, etc. Cleaning a screen that is on can lead to damage or an electrical shock.

    Wipe your screen with a soft cloth, avoiding paper towels if possible. Some of the best choices are microfiber cloths or even just an old (clean) shirt.

    Regular cleaning helps prevent a mess from accumulating on your screen. If you run into some stubborn gunk, try using filtered water or a gentle cleansing solution. No matter what you choose, never spray liquid directly on your screen. Instead, moisten the cloth you’re using.

    Clearing your downloads folder

    I’m sure that we’re all guilty of having a messy downloads folder, at least to some degree. We download a file, handle a task it’s associated with, and then it just sits there. Was the file edited? Maybe. Will I need it later? Probably. Did I create a potential headache for myself? Absolutely.

    In reality, your downloads folder is a temporary space for downloaded files to sit until you move them to a more appropriate location – or delete them. Establishing a habit of organizing files as you download them can help reduce clutter, and today is a great time to get started.

    When clearing your downloads folder, take your time. Evaluate which files are needed and which can go. As I mentioned earlier, it is entirely too easy to edit files in your downloads folder, so deleting them in a broad stroke can lead to losing important data. Sorting the contents of your download folder by their last modified date can help speed things up a bit, placing the least touched files towards the bottom of your list.

    Organizing your inbox

    A quick way to introduce better organization into your inbox is to create folders for different categories of emails – coworkers vs. external contacts, folders dedicated to clients or projects can help separate the information you need from everything else.

    For example, I have a folder where newsletters I make a point of reading each day is automatically moved to when they arrive – and a 2nd newsletter folder for the ones I’ll read on occasion. It’s an approach that helps me separate what I need to read from what I want to read, which can always wait until later.

    It can also be easy to get carried away and have an inbox that is a bit too organized; introduce changes over time. Most importantly, rely on inbox rules to place incoming emails into their appropriate folders.

    Combining folders with a set amount of time each day to delete messages that aren’t of value will lead to an organized mailbox that’s much easier to manage.

    Clean Out Your Computer Day is only a single day of the year, but that doesn’t mean tasks like these only need to happen annually. Use the day to establish healthy habits around your technology; the benefits of doing so will pay off in dividends down the line.

    Matt has spent the better part of 2 decades building systems, managing IT departments, and developing websites and applications for the education, publishing, and technical service industries. As an MCSE...

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