Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Yes, Computers need Cleaning too

Kind of flukey that this happens to be National Clean Up Your Computer Month, because cleaning up my computer is on the schedule for today. A whole lot of people view their computers as a bottomless pit--what goes in never goes out.

You know all those files that you've been keeping because you never know just when you might need them? Time to be truthful--what are the chances that you might need to know how to cure thrips on a sword plant, especially since you no longer own the plant in question or never owned it? Yup, you hosted a meeting for a group of teens who were looking to start a chesed project in the neighborhood--12 years ago. Do you really need to know now who was invited and what you served as refreshments? You took a vacation in 2003 and there are the packing lists still in their own file. You downloaded a program or gizmo from the Internet and haven't used it in years.

A whole lot of information gets put on our computers, and a whole lot of it needs to be taken off the computer at some point. It's not just the long term storage that needs to be cleaned out however. Are you on the Internet a lot? Do you play games online? Are there sites you visit regularly? All those places you go to are going to be held in your Temporary Internet Files. Keep too much in those files and you can affect the run-time and functioning of your computer. It's a good idea to get into the daily habit of cleaning out these types of files. Just click on Tools, and then on Internet Options. Next click on Browsing History. Here's where you might want to take a breath before continuing. Among the things you can delete are Temporary Files, Saved Passwords, History, Cookies and Web Form Information. Some of these files are used by sites that you visit regularly to log you in to the site. Before you erase any of these files you might want to ask yourself if you remember your user name/log in name and password for the site. You might not want to erase these types of files. However, the Temporary files should surely be erased.

And then there is the physical cleaning of the computer. Lots of people who like to eat while at their computers--steaming cups of coffee or tea and lots of crumb-producing foods right there by your monitor and keyboard. It's just amazing what type of things can find their way between the keys on your keyboard. And all that steam is going to go somewhere, and that somewhere may be your monitor screen. To get the most out of your monitor and keyboard, set a time in your mind to do some maintenance, and then remember to do it. [Note: check your computer manual for recommended methods of cleaning the computer parts. It is not recommended by most manufacturers to just spray window cleaner on the monitor screen.] And just a word about your mouse--cold and flu season is with us, and frequently the germs are passed on hand to hand, or in this case, hand to mouse to hand. Clean your mouse regularly.

My resident computer expert pointed out to me that when run-time slows down or storage becomes tight or a whole slew of other annoyances occur, most people's first thought is that there is a physical problem with the computer. His recommendation is to do some housekeeping first--cleaning cache can eliminate a whole slew of these annoyances.


leahle said...

Thanks for the reminder but please let this not be a sneaky way to suddenly mention that dreaded P word and cleaning--you've done that before in January.

JS said...

It's a good idea to maintain a computer just like one would maintain a car, lawn mower, snow blower (hope everyone in the northeast did this!), etc., but deleting an old Word document or presentation isn't really part of maintenance or cleaning - it's more like organizing. Those files take up minimal space on the capacious hard drives of today. Even cheap computers often have over 250 GB of space whereas the typical word file may be 250KB - a 1,000,000 fold difference in size! So, keeping around those old documents isn't going to affect anything other than maybe the ability to find the documents you care about - but, if you name the files properly a search will turn those up anyways.

The real maintenance of a computer isn't even in deleting temporary internet files as the default settings will prevent this from growing too large. What really needs to be done is checking what programs are installed and deleting ones that are unknown or unused. Many programs (especially silly games and the like that are downloaded off the Internet) use far more resources and embed themselves far more deeply in your computer than one would think. The silly game you played once? It's sitting in the background of your memory at all times collecting Internet browsing history and sending it to the manufacturer. The default antivirus software that came with the computer that you don't even know you have? It's scheduled updates and scans to run pretty much 24/7 which is why your hard drive is always churning and things seem so slow.

Also, those little reminders from Windows to update shouldn't be ignored. Additionally, Microsoft by default schedules updates for around 2-3 AM when they think the computers are idle - but, many people shut off their computers so they're never updated.

There's a lot more people could do, but, fortunately or unfortunately, it's often easier for many people to just get a new computer or pay someone big bucks to fix their slow computer.

Allen said...

It's a good idea JS to turn off those computers every night when you're done. Our office requires that we do it and it is a good idea at home too. People don't think of computers as electricity eaters but they can be if they run 24/7 and you have more than one at home.

You can reset the default for the Microsoft updates for when you know the computer will be on.

Yeah, lots of software that gets embedded that you either don't know about or have forgotten about that should be deleted.

Re those word documents, depends on how many there are and how many people are using the computer. When my kids were all doing assignments for school on the computer we easily had 600-700 documents a term in storage--now make that 2 terms for the year and you are seeing some serious storage that needs weeding out.