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8 Computer Spring Cleaning Tips for 2016

The days are getting longer, the nights are getting warmer, and the birds are once again chirping their heads off. Spring is here. What better way to celebrate than with some electronic spring cleaning?

No, you don't have to break out the duster and the scrubbing gloves (You probably shouldn't, actually — computers and cleaning solution don't really mix). Instead, follow these eight simple tips from top-rated computer experts for cleaning out your computer. By the time you're done with this list, you'll be shocked at how much faster, more efficient, and all-around more fun your electronics are.

  1. Update Your Anti-Malware Program

Your computer's first line of defense against viruses, trojans, worms, ransomware, and all other types of malware is its anti-malware (or antivirus, if you're going to be old-fashioned about it) program. Most anti-malware developers routinely issue updates and patches that account for newly-discovered threats. If you don't download and deploy them as soon as they become available, you expose your system to unnecessary risk. This spring, open up your anti-malware software and review all the patches and updates that you have yet to deploy.

  1. Run an Anti-Spyware Program

Not every computer has an anti-spyware program — but every computer should. This spring, figure out if you're protected against spyware. If not, download anti-spyware software at your earliest convenience. If you already have an anti-spyware program, make sure you're running it regularly. Not all anti-spyware programs run in the background, as is the case with modern antivirus programs. One scan per week should be sufficient to root out spyware.

  1. Defrag Your Hard Drive & External Drives

As files pile up on your computer's hard drive, they cause what's known as "fragmentation" — a creeping entropy that literally fragments key files and reduces the system's overall efficiency and speed. This spring, run your operating system's defragmentation (defrag, for short) program overnight or while you're at work. You'll be amazed at how much better your system works when it's done. If possible, repeat the process with any major external drives.

  1. Delete Unused or Redundant Programs

This really puts the "cleaning" in electronic spring cleaning. If you haven't used a program in six months (or, let's be real, ever), delete it from your hard drive and move on. You won't miss it. Likewise, if you find redundant versions of the same program on your computer, delete the less current version. This frees up space on your hard drive and revitalizes the programs you actually use.

  1. Delete Unnecessary Files

This spring cleaning task is a bit more tedious than deleting redundant programs, but that's why it needs to be done. This spring, spend a few hours combing through the nether reaches of your computer's hard drive for files that you simply don't need. If you're worried about preserving copies for posterity, back up everything you delete on an external hard drive.

  1. Clear Your Browser History & Cookies

When was the last time you cleared your browser's history and cookies? This is something you can do as often as you like — and probably should — depending on your browsing habits.

  1. Organize Your File Folders

No matter how cluttered your hard drive has gotten over the years, there are probably files you actually need. Make sure these are organized into like folders. There's no right or wrong way to organize, but the most successful systems generally use folders ordered by chronology, project and/or theme.

  1. Get Familiar with Little-Used Programs

Think of this as your second semester homework assignment. Your computer probably has a few programs that you either aren't quite sure how to use or don't know much about beyond the basics. If you determine that they're not useful, you can delete them (see #4). Otherwise, break out their manuals (or help wizards) and learn how to get the most out of them.

Once a Year Might Not Be Enough

In many households, spring is a time for renewal and reorganization — the perfect opportunity to tackle projects that have been put off for months (or years, let's be real) and tame the wilds of one's basement, attic, garage, shed, storage unit, or all of the above. It makes perfect sense to subject our electronic lives to the same discipline.

But computers and electronics don't live on the same schedule as garages and attics. They need more upkeep, more TLC, more attention overall — and on much shorter timeframes. If you're serious about keeping your electronics in good working order, one big "spring cleaning" binge per year might not be enough. You might want to plan for summer, fall and winter cleaning sessions as well.

What's your top electronic spring cleaning project this year?

If you have any questions, please ask below!