Spring cleaning your computer

Each spring, my family goes through the grueling process of sorting through mountains of clothes. We pack away last season’s clothes, get out the next season’s, figure out what fits and what doesn’t, and then try to find a place to put everything. While frustratingly slow, this much-needed spring cleaning helps our family keep everything on track as our children grow.

This might be a good time to give your computer a spring cleaning as well. Without the occasional spring cleaning, computers can become bogged down through juggling unneeded tasks and files. Below are some tips for keeping your computer running smoothly and restoring the speed it once had.

Eliminating cookie monsters!

If you spend quite a bit of time browsing the Internet on your computer, you have likely built up a huge “jar” of cookies and other information that websites install on your browser. Cookies are used by other websites to see where you have been, what you have purchased, and what you have put in your cart. This data allows sites to provide you with ads or information related to those websites. While some cookies are useful (for example, the language setting for the website), others just end up being unwanted fat that your browser will spend time reading each time you visit a new website. To fix this, most browsers have a built-in option to clear browsing data. This will remove many of the excess files that are being used to track you. If you have not done this in a while on your primary Internet browser, you may have accumulated hundreds of megabytes of data. Doing this will not only free up hard drive space; it will also speed up browsing, as your computer will use fewer resources to read unneeded files.

Removing Windows update files

Many people do not think to clean previously installed Windows updates off their hard drives. These automatic updates are great because they provide security you need. However, the installation file also hangs around and takes up space. Starting the Windows program Disk Cleanup and selecting “Clean up system files” will remove these extra files and recover disk space.

Removing duplicate files

If you import a lot of pictures, music, or videos, chances are you have imported a few of them more than once. Photos especially seem to spontaneously duplicate over time on my computer, as different phones and cameras are plugged in. There are a lot of great programs that remove duplicates, but the one with the best reputation is dupeGuru (only available for Mac). You simply check the folders you want to compare for duplicates, wait for the scan, and then select the files you want to delete. You can also move duplicates to another location rather than deleting them. Best of all, dupeGuru has a failsafe measure that prevents you from mistakenly deleting both copies of duplicate files.

Cleaning your hard drive

While there are tons of tools that can clean up your hard drive, CCleaner is one of the easiest to use and is available for both PC and OSX (the free version works fine). It quickly analyzes your computer and finds the most common places where cookies and cache files are stored. Out of the box, the basic settings will clean your computer of most junk. If wanted, CCleaner can keep a watch on future build-up of files. For Windows users, CCleaner can clean your registry and remove links to old programs and, most importantly, unused firewall exceptions. Intuitive enough for novice computer users, CCleaner is a great program for your spring cleaning needs.

Jared Jones lives and works in Takasaki, Gunma as a church planter for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. He and his wife, Tara, have been in Japan for nearly ten years and have four children.

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