Whether it's to make files easier to find, to clear up some disk space, or to increase the computer's processing speed (and maybe yours as well!) cleaning out your computer will make life in this world of technology more bearable.
You can view your computer as an electronic version of a file cabinet: it stores information you intend to retrieve in the future.
Like any file cabinet, it should be cleaned out regularly.
Most people find it easy to fall into the trap of saving too much electronic information because, unlike paper, they don't have to look at the piles of electronic information.
So while I advocate cleaning out your paper files annually, I recommend cleaning up your computer every 6 months, at a minimum.
A word of caution before starting: Make sure you have a good backup of your programs and data files (to a separate, external hard disk), in case you delete a program or file by mistake.
Organize your computer files in the same way you would paper files (or if those aren't organized either, follow these suggestions).
Use computer folders and subfolders to serve the same function as the file drawers and file folders you would use in a paper filing system.
For example, here are some folders and subfolders I have on my computer, and their equivalent in a paper filing system: •The "Organize" folder contains all of my work files, and the "Sue" folder contains my personal files.
This is equivalent to having a file cabinet for paper documents with individual file drawers separating work and personal documents.
•"Classes and Seminars" is a subfolder within the "Organize" folder.
In a paper system, this is the equivalent of a hanging file of the same name within the "Organize" drawer.
•"Paper Management" is subfolder within the "Classes and Seminars" subfolder.
This is the paper system equivalent of a manila file folder in the "Classes and Seminars" hanging folder.
•"Handout" is a document within the "Paper Management" subfolder.
This is equivalent to a piece of paper in the "Paper Management" manila folder.
One word of caution: be sure you don't have so many folders and subfolders that your system is too confusing for you to find things easily.
Delete unused, outdated, or duplicate files.
Once you have organized similar information together using the technique described above, it will be easier for you to identify which files are appropriate to delete.
Delete duplicate or superseded documents (unless you have to keep a record of changes to a document).
Uninstall programs you aren't using - programs take up valuable hard drive space, as well as Random Access Memory (RAM), which can make your computer run slowly.
Use meaningful file names.
Be descriptive enough to know what information a file contains without having to open it.
Review your computer protection system.
Two items to consider are: 1.
An anti-virus program - This is the most important program you can have on your computer.
It will protect not only your data, but also your entire computer system.
Since new viruses are continually being created, be sure your virus program is current and downloads updates once a week at a minimum.
A backup strategy - If you've ever lost data, you now know how critical it is to back up your data regularly.
A good backup strategy includes software to do the backups, hardware and media to receive the data, and a regular daily schedule that includes rotating the backups offsite.