Cleaning out the Cobwebs

Fall is a great time to clean up your computer, both inside and out. Maintaining your computer will help it run faster and longer. It will also help protect important data – and we all know how important protecting data is to you as an attorney!

  1. Organize your saved files on your computer. Backup everything that you need to keep to an external hard drive. If the hard drive on your computer malfunctions, access the backup files on your external hard drive and you are back in business.
  2. Make sure all Windows Updates or Software Updates on a MAC are up to date.  These updates are critical because they plug security holes in your operating system, protecting your computer from unwanted intruders.  Verify that the Automatic Updates are turned on to ensure that your updates will continue to automatically update. If you are unsure how to set up Automatic Updates on a Windows computer or if aren’t sure if your computer has updated, visit the following website for instructions: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/help/windows-update. Set your system to update automatically with a schedule that works best for you. Remember that after every update, your computer will need to restart.

For Mac users, visit: http://www.apple.com/softwareupdate for information.

  1. Uninstall any unnecessary or “Trial” programs to free computer hard drive space and help your computer run faster. Deleting programs properly removes the files that the program may have installed on your computer. Visit the following Microsoft Website for instructions: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/uninstall-change-program#uninstall-change-program=windows-7

For Mac users, visit: http://www.support.apple.com for instructions.

  1. Manually update, and run your installed Virus protection, Spyware/Malware, and/or Adware programs to verify that they do not detect any malicious programs. Also, verify that your security applications are set up to automatically update.
  2. It is also a good time to clean out your internet browser’s history, cookies, and temp files.
  • Internet Explorer – Open up your Internet Explorer; go to Tools and then click Delete Browsing History. From here you can delete Cookies, Browsing History and, Temporary Internet files.
  • Firefox – Open the Options window, and then click Advanced. Next, select the Network tab. Under Offline Web Content, click the Clear button to clear out data.
  • Chrome – Click the Chrome menu on the toolbar. Click Settings, then Show Advanced Settings (at the bottom of the page). Under the Privacy link, click Clear Browsing Data. From here, you can select to clear your Browsing History, Download History, and Cache.
  • Safari – Choose Safari, and then select Reset Safari. Select the following options: Remove all webpage preview images, Empty the cache, Clear the downloads window, and Remove all website icons.
  1. If you use an email program such as Outlook or Thunderbird, go through your old emails and organize them into folders, or delete un-needed emails. Perform a backup on your email program. Once you are done backing up and deleting old emails, empty your Deleted Items folder in Outlook.
  2. Remove any unused shortcut items from your desktop. Deleting these icons will de-clutter your desktop and make it easier to find the icons used for frequently used applications. To delete the icons, right-click the icon and select Delete. The programs are still on your computer. They are not permanently deleted, just removed from your desktop.
  3. Once you have gone through your computer and deleted what you no longer need, empty the “Recycle Bin” or “Trash” on a MAC.  But be sure you no longer need the files in your Recycle Bin, because once you delete them, they are gone.
  4. Keeping your hard disk clean and defragmented is important to help keep your computer running fast and smooth. Start by cleaning up your disk. Disk Cleanup removes any unnecessary files on your hard drive – which in turn frees up more space. Open up Windows Explorer and navigate to My Computer. On the right, you’ll see your hard drives listed. Right-click your hard drive and choose Properties. The pie chart gives you a visual of how much space you’ve used and how much is still available on your computer. Click the Disk Cleanup button on the Drive Properties menu.   Now, select the checkboxes in each area that you would like to delete any files and then click OK.  If you are unsure about which files to select, just read the description, and then make a decision. If you are unsure what to do, best bet would be to not delete them!
  5. Once your disk is clean, scan your hard drive to find any errors in the disk sections. Go back to Disk Properties and click on the Tools tab. Click Check Now under Error-checking. Select both Check both boxes and click Start. Once the scan is complete, restart your computer.
  6. Finally, you need to defrag your drive. Defragmenting takes the bits and pieces of data that are on your drive, and reorganizes it, placing each file close together for more efficient storage. This process helps your computer run more efficiently. Go back into Disk Properties and click on the Tools tab. Under Defragmentation, select the Defragment Now button.  Next, click on the Defragment button. Be aware that defragmenting your drive can take several hours. Do not interrupt the process while it is running! When the Disk Defragmenter is complete, restart your computer.

If you use a MAC you typically do not need to defragment your disk, as the process is always running in the background. If you would like to manually clean your hard disk use the Disk Utility, which is located in the Utilities folder.

  1. Last but not least, wipe everything down. Turn off your computer, then unplug your keyboard, turn over a trash can and shake. Next, use a small brush or compressed air, to remove dust and debris from the keys. Use a small amount of rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab to clean the tops of the keys. Unplug your mouse, and use isopropyl alcohol to clean it, including the LED sensor. Wipe down the monitor screen by using either lens cleaning wipes that are safe for monitor screens, or a damp microfiber cloth.

Now your computer is clean and ready to go into the final stretch of the year with fewer cobwebs to get in the way of your productivity!

Desiree Lackey