Spring is finally here, and you’ve probably already spent a fair amount of time cleaning your home, yard, garage, and even your car. But have you taken the time to clean your computers and mobile devices?
Twenty years ago, personal computers were used for web browsing, creating and editing documents and spreadsheets, and playing video games. Today, we rely heavily on a wide array of computing devices to manage our daily routines, so much so that it’s hard to imagine our lives without these devices.
Our digital experience today includes photography, work email and calendars, shopping, banking, processing your income taxes, even fitness progress.
As our lives become more driven by technology, and the data becomes more personal and confidential, it is important to set aside a little time to make sure this technology is optimized, clean, and secure.
1. The most important thing you can do for your personal technology is to backup up your devices. Mobile devices offer backup solutions you can install on your laptop or desktop, and the software can be configured to automatically backup the device as soon as you connect it to your computer. This should be done regularly and is easy to forget.
If you lose your device and need to restore your backup to a new device, you might be stuck restoring an old, outdated backup. Also remember to transfer photos when you connect the device to your computer. Apple and Google (Android) also offer cloud services for backups which can also be configured easily for automatic backup.
Lastly, remember to backup your personal computer. All operating systems include built in backup software that can be configured for regular backups. External hard drives offer a lot of storage for relatively little cost and can serve as a destination for your backups.
2. Run a good antivirus program regularly. Even though prices of personal computers and mobile devices are dropping, they are still expensive purchases that are not taken lightly by most buyers. Don’t drop your guard when it comes to an antivirus solution. There are free programs available, but many providers now offer software packages that cover multiple devices.
Antivirus software is one of the more inexpensive protection options available. New viruses are hitting the net all of the time. Install a good solution (there are many out there), and schedule regular computer scans and definition updates.
3. Install updates monthly and reboot your computer. If you’re a Microsoft user, don’t ignore the popup every month from Windows Update alerting you to new updates that are available.
These updates are being released to address and correct security issues that your computer is exposed to. Many updates are created in response to new viruses that have been detected and will help protect you from these viruses in the future. Your computer will thank you for it, and it will probably run better too.
4. Rebooting your devices gives them a fresh start. It clears out storage and other resources such as memory and CPU that are “in use” by applications and services, even if you aren’t actively using them. Most mobile apps don’t actually close when you close them. Instead they minimize into the background and continue to run and use up resources. Check your device’s user manual to learn how to close these programs completely and free up those resources. You can also clear your browser history manually through the Settings or Options screens/apps. Also, review the list of programs and apps that are installed on your devices and uninstall those that you don’t use or no longer need.
5. This is also a good time to change your passwords. Today it seems just about everything requires a password, and the more there are the harder they are to remember and keep track of. Hopefully you are not using the same password for everything. That’s very insecure, and if that password becomes compromised, then your digital life could turn into a nightmare. Protect yourself now by using good, strong, complex passwords and change them regularly. There are also some good password management tools available online that can help you better manage your passwords securely.
6. If you use social media, check your profiles on these sites and see what information about you is publically available. Many sites offer public and private profiles or the ability to make certain profile data private, but a lot of times this data is public by default. Also, review the data you’ve posted to these sites. It might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but maybe now it should be removed.
Also, be careful when posting photos to these sites. You may have GPS data attached to these photos, and once the photos are on the internet that GPS data can be retrieved. For some photos that may not be an issue, but it can also lead to some tech savvy users knowing something you don’t want public, such as where you live. You can turn off this feature on your mobile devices. Consult your user manual for the process specific to your device(s).
7. Finally, physically clean your computer and mobile devices. If you have a desktop, carefully remove it from its hiding place, cleanup the dust that has collected and wipe down the case. Use a can of compressed air to clean out your ports and your keyboard. Wipe down your touch screens with proper wipes.
Remove the case from your smartphone and give the case a good cleaning. Let it dry thoroughly before putting it back on your phone. While your case is drying, take the opportunity to wipe down your phone to remove the dust and dirt from around the ports.
Use some compressed air to blow the lint and dirt out of the ports that has collected from being carried around in your purse or your pocket. Be very careful to keep moisture from getting into the ports during the cleaning process. You’ll be surprised how new some of your devices can appear after a quick cleaning.
Regular maintenance can extend the life of your devices. Protect your digital experience and make “spring cleaning” a regular task.