It’s Time for Some Hi-Tech Spring Cleaning


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It's Spring time ...warmer temperatures, flowers start to bloom, the grass needs cutting and lots of pollen fills the air.  Every year at this time we break out the rakes, the weed whacker and the lawn mower to do a little spring cleaning.  

So why should we treat our technology any different?  After all, a year is a long time online.  A lot can happen to all your tech devices in a year. You load new apps, write and save documents, browse the web thousands of times and save and delete files, right? All of this activity effectively rearranges the information stored on your hard drive and begins to slow down our machines. Websites, free apps, adware and other programs can easily clog our tech with accumulated junk until they slow to a crawl. The number one complaint of any computing repair service is “my computer is really slow.”  So I thought I’d take the time to show you how to shake out the bugs in order to clean up your computers, tablets and smartphones.

Step #1: Clear Out Unused/Unwanted Apps


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If you’re a Windows user, start off by opening the control panel and accessing Programs and Features.  This will bring up all the programs that are currently running on your desktop or laptop.  Presented in alphabetical order, the first thing I do is click on the “Installed On” tab at the top of the page.  This causes the programs to be listed by the date of install, which is a much better way to clear out the cobwebs.  You’d be amazed at the number of unused programs, add-on programs and all sorts of other digital detritus that can make its way onto your machines without your knowledge.   Many times when you install a program, other add-ons are installed as well.  By date sorting them, you can forensically trace when and where these programs made their way onto your system. Then it’s just a matter of weeding them out.

On Android tablets and smartphones, you need to peruse the apps that populate it and decide where to start trimming.  You’d be surprised at how much faster your smartphone or tablet will run once you have weeded out little-used apps.  To edit and/or remove unwanted apps, hit the app icon and the “Edit” tab.  This will highlight your apps and allow you to uninstall them by clicking on the app.

Step #2: Update and Beef Up Your Security


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No matter the device, you can never have too much security.  Every week, millions of cyberattacks take place.  This results in the loss of data and dollars.  If your virus protection has expired, you need to renew it.  If you’re only running one form of protection, you need to augment it by adding anti-malware software.  I personally have three layers of protection on all my devices, including my smartphone.  That’s because the hundred dollars or so that I pay in antivirus/anti malware software is a small price to pay to protect my business and financial data. Many of the top names in antivirus will do. Here at Working the Web to Win, we use TrendMicro as our primary line of defense.

Some programs such as Advanced System Care 8.1 not only help you protect your system, it also clears out junk files, optimizes your hard drive, checks and fixes shortcuts.  Just make sure that you buy it direct from iobit.com. We also recommend Malwarebytes as a great triple defense treat to keep the bad guys and bots at bay.

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Another thing you should do at least twice a year is change your passwords.  Make your passwords at least ten characters long.  Add a couple of numbers and special characters as well, just for good measure. Eight character passwords are all too easy to crack. 

Step #3: Backup Your Data or Lose it!


You wouldn’t drive a car or own a home without insuring it, would you?  The reason you pay your premiums month in and month out is to protect two of the biggest investments you possess.  Then why don’t more people backup their data?  Especially when you consider the small cost of storing your data on an external drive or on the Cloud, making a backup of your hard drive is one of the cheapest insurance policies around.  Or, you can wait until some hacker compromises your system or the hard drive crashes before you start backing up your drive.  Google will provide you with free cloud service for an individual where you get 15 gigs of data storage free. Upgrading to 100 gigs is $1.99 a month. This also includes the use of Google Office as well. If you purchase Microsoft Office 365 Business Essentials, your annual license not only provides you with Office, but a terabyte of cloud storage as well. Also, wireless backup and hard drives are cheap. They start as low as $79 on sale. A 128 gig flash drive can be had for as little as $32 each. Anyone could buy three of them for under a hundred dollars and create a three rotation back-up system to protect their data.

Step #4: Deal with the Dust Bunnies - They Can Kill!


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A couple of months ago, my laptop started sounding like a Boeing 757 winding up for takeoff every time I started it up.  Then it simply stopped working one afternoon, leaving me with a “Cooling Fan Disabled” warning that Iheeded immediately by shutting down the system and driving it over to a local computer repair shop.  An hour and $100 later, I received a call from the technician.

“I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news,” he told me.

“What’s the good news?” I asked.

“Your laptop is running as good as new and I didn’t even have to replace the fan.  All I did was pop open the case and blow out a warren of dust bunnies.  When I plugged it in, it fired up right away.  The dust had piled up inside of the cooling fan enough that it had jammed.”

“Then what’s the bad news?” I wondered out loud.

“I still have to charge you the $100 laptop service fee.”

When I considered that I not only didn’t have to sweat the cost of replacing the cooling fan, but the time it would take for a supplier to ship the part to me, I considered the $100 cleaning a bargain.  As soon as I got back to the office, I popped the case off my desktop and gave it a thorough dusting as well. (All it takes is a screwdriver and a can of compressed air.)

Step# 5: Defrag to De-Drag


If it’s been more than three months since you last defragged your hard drive, then spring cleaning is definitely time to perform this chore.  While it could take an hour or more to do, it will speed up your drive’s response time considerably.  However, if you have a solid state drive, defragging it does little or no good.  SSD drives write information differently than hard disk drives do. Read the articlein PC World that shows this is unnecessary. You might want to also watch this video as well. 


Step# 6: Update Your Hardware Drivers


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If you’re using out of date drivers, especially those associated with your system’s operating system, then you are leaving the door wide open to hackers.  The reason companies spend so much time and money tweaking their drivers is predominantly because there are millions of hackers who spend billions of man hours searching for vulnerabilities in systems and software.  I’ve known users who intentionally disabled the automatic updates, or who don’t allow updates to take place when notified by their system. Then they complain when their system gets hacked. A note of caution here: Not all hardware drive update programs are created equal. Before you update any hardware drivers in your system, make sure you create a restore point of your system. This way, if the new hardware drive isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, you can roll the system back to how it was before you tried to upgrade the hardware driver/s.

While all these tasks could collectively take you the better part of a day to perform, when you consider the increased speed and security that a little DYI hi-tech spring cleaning can provide, you’ll more than make up for it in added productivity.  On top of that, many can of these cleaning programs/procedures can be automated in a “set-it-and-forget-it” fashion. Some will even allow you to start the maintenance.

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Now you can happily sing the little ditty from the Beatles’ “Penny Lane”: “It’s a clean machine.” Your devices may even join you in the chorus.  

In this article, I covered six very important steps that everyone should take in performing their annual hi-tech spring cleaning.  Each of these six functions will keep your digital devices running fast, smooth and free of pesky bugs, pop-up, malware and keep the hackers a bay. Neglecting this necessary chore will cost you a lot more (usually five times more in real dollars) than the time and expense you go through when doing it.

If you like this article, you can find more by typing “spring cleaning” or “hacking” in the search box at the top left of this blog. I further recommend reading “Spring Cleaning Means Taking Out the Cyber Trash, and TheHack Attack Is Back.  

If you found this article useful, please share it with your families, friends and coworkers. If you have a comment related to this article, leave it in the Comment sections below. I hope you found this article useful.

Thanks for sharing your time with us, until next time.

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When he isn’t cooking up tasty stories online, Carl Weiss is CEO of Working the Web to Win, a digital marketing agency based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also the co-host of the online radio show of the same name on Blog Talk Radio. You can reach him at 904-410-2091 or email him at CarlW@workingthewebtowin.com.

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