5 Computer Spring-Cleaning Tips You Haven't Heard
Verify your backup to be sure that you're as safe as your think you are.
CREDIT: Michael Gowan
You've got the basics of computer maintenance down. Backup? Check. Software updates? Yep.
But there are other tech tuneups you can perform to help get your computing life into shape. Take a break from spring-cleaning your house and follow these lesser-known — but vital — tips.
1. Verify your backup
Are you sure that your backup works? Don't just take it on faith — test it out. If you use Time Machine for Mac, it's easy: click the Time Machine menu bar icon and hold down the Option key. "Verify Backups" will appear. Click it, and the system will check the backup. If you get a message that a problem has occurred, that means you should create a new backup.
Windows Backup and Restore doesn't have a verify feature, though you can browse to the files in your backup to eye that the correct items are included. You can spot-check that the backup files work by opening individual files as a test.
2. Clean off your desktop
Experts debate whether keeping files on your desktop screen affects your computer's speed. But here there two compelling reasons for regularly moving files off your desktop:
- Your computer will start up more quickly, since the system doesn't have to display all those file icons.
- Your system may not be configured to back up files on the desktop.
Why take the chance? Move the files to your Documents, Applications or other appropriate folders.
3. Create really strong passwords
Spelling "passw0rd" with a zero isn't enough. Go for a12-character password with a hard-to-guess mix of letters, numbers and symbols.Never use "real" words that appear in an English dictionary, since they are all in files that hackers use when trying to crack passwords. You can use a password generator such as strongpasswordgenerator.com or the $1 Wolfram Alpha Pass Generator app for iOS. Then sign up for a service like LastPass to keep track of them all (the app also has its own password generator). If you're really concerned about safety, write down your usernames and passwords on paper instead. It may sound old-fashioned, but the fact is, no hacker can use the Internet to access a piece of paper in your pocket. [See also Password Security Quiz: Are You Safe?]
4. Care for your hard drive, but leave solid state drives alone. If you've got a traditional hard drive, perform regular maintenance. In Windows, use the Disk Defragmenter found under System Tools. Windows 7 automatically runs the disk defragmenter once per week. But you can run it more often — whenever you install new applications. In Mac, use permission repair, found in the Disk Utility application. But if you've opted for a fast and efficient sold-state drive, don't defrag it in Windows. These drives don't last as long as regular hard drives, so you want to minimize intense activities that rewrite data. Mac users can still repair permissions, but only as necessary and not as a regular activity. Apple recommends after upgrading or installing new software.
5. Delete Old iOS backups
If you use iOS devices and sync with iTunes, some old and likely unnecessary backups may be gobbling disk space. To find them, go to Preferences in iTunes and elect Devices. If your mobile devices are running well, you won't need more than the very last backup. To clear out the others, highlight and click "Delete Backup" to free up many gigabytes of space. This isn't usually an issue for Android users since Google backs up the data to the cloud by default.