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Given the important role that computers play in the daily tasks of business owners and employees everywhere, it’s not hard to see how trying to use a slow, unreliable computer to do any type of work that needs to be done efficiently can be a real problem. Or what a hassle it can be when you need to locate that one specific file and it is suddenly nowhere to be found because you’ve never implemented an organizational structure for the folders cluttering up your desktop. Or how frustrating it can be a when you need to save something new and suddenly find out that your storage space is too full.

Sound familiar? You’re definitely not alone. Everyone has to do a little spring cleaning on their computer every now and then to prevent this kind of hiccup in their workflow. But in spite of our increasing familiarity with all sorts of useful and still relatively new technology like smartphones and tablets, there’s a surprising gap in the knowledge of a lot of otherwise tech-savvy people when it comes to doing some pretty standard computer maintenance – including how and why it is beneficial to declutter your computer and then keep it that way. If you’re already feeling intimidated by the process, have no fear. Below, we’ve compiled a handy, comprehensive guide to help you get started.

Speeding Things Up
Unless you’re in a work environment that shares or reuses computers, there’s a good chance that you started with a machine that ran pretty quickly and only had the programs you would need or use most on it. But as we’ve all probably learned at some point, without an organization plan in place to handle everything you’ll need to use or send or save (or, let’s be honest, just forget to delete), it doesn’t take long for this simple set up to get buried by an inevitable mountain of digital detritus. When this happens, your computer will become sluggish and you will probably become irritated.
Fortunately, there are a lot of things you can do which will probably give you back a little of the boost you’ve been missing.

Get Rid of Files You Don’t Need – If it’s not something you’ve been keeping up with already, you’re probably going to be surprised at not only how many files you have in general, but how many of those files you don’t even need. You’ll probably see some duplicate files – you’ll only need to keep one of those and can delete the copies. There are several tools you can use to automate this process – (CCleaner is a good one – and free), but if using a program to scan and remove files you don’t need makes you nervous and you don’t have an overwhelming amount to go through this is something you can do manually.

Check Your Downloads Folder – Anything you’ve saved from the internet (pictures, music, PDFs, programs, etc.) that you didn’t specifically save to another folder has probably gone into your Downloads folder by default. If you don’t want this to happen in the future, you can change your settings to alter where things go or prompt you to choose a location for each thing you download. But for now, take a look in your Downloads folder. Delete anything you are certain you won’t need again and save anything you do want or need to keep in a properly labeled folder.

Uninstall Any Programs You Don’t Use – Find the list of all the programs installed on your computer. This can usually be accessed from your start menu – it differs based on the operating system you’re using and whether you have a Mac or PC, but it shouldn’t be hard to find. You should be able to see useful info about each program, like how large it is, when the last time you used it was, etc. Anything that you have never used should be uninstalled, and it will be up to you to make the call on what should stay or go for programs you don’t use often and are just be taking up space.

Empty Your Trash – After you’re done purging all those superfluous files and programs, don’t forget to empty your trash (or ‘recycling bin’ on some computers) to permanently be rid of all that dead weight.

Take Care of Some Odds & Ends
There are a few other things that may be contributing to a decrease in speed and it certainly won’t hurt to cover all your bases, particularly if these are things you either don’t do regularly or have never done at all.

  • Clearing your web browser’s cache/cookies/history
    • The method by which you should do this differs based on which web browser you use, but in a general sense, what you’re doing is getting rid of any old bits of information stored in your browser which can cause things to run more slowly.
  • Defragmenting your hard drives
    • Some newer computers do this automatically and those with solid-state drives don’t need it, but if neither of those things apply to your computer it’s a good idea to defragment your hard drive from time to time. Put as simply as possible, defragging reorganizes the blocks of data on your hard drive that have been spread out into sequential order, making it easier for your hard drive to read it.
  • Scanning your system for viruses and malware with anti-virus and anti-malware software
    • There are several useful and free programs that you can set to scan your system for problems regularly.

Now that you’ve gotten rid of all things you don’t need, the next step is to put some thought into where all the things you do need are going to go.

Contact us today if you have any questions!