Spring cleaning for your computer and gadgets

Spring Cleaning Gadgets and Tech

You’ve already detailed your car, had a garage sale and donated unwanted items to Goodwill. You’ve changed the air filters in your home and dusted behind the refrigerator. So what is a person with nothing to clean have left to do? I mean, besides work all day, make dinner for the family, plan your summer vacation, read books to the kids before bed, catch up the last season of Mad Men before its premiere, and find a more affordable health care plan? How about devote a little much-needed attention to cleaning up your digital stuff? Sarcasm aside, doing a few simple, uncomplicated things to your tech toys will prolong their life, make them run smoother, and save you time when you are looking for files or that photo of junior in the bathtub.

Clean it up

Sure, it seems obvious, but when was the last time you actually cleaned your computer, iPad screen, camera viewfinder, cell phone, or TV screen? I for one, can barely see the iPad screen due to the amount of filthy and often Cheeto-ed kid hands that molest it while playing Angry Birds.

CyberClean KeyboardFor any electronic screen, and especially touchscreens, never use window cleaner or other household cleaners. Touchscreens have a coating on them that will get damaged. Instead use a very soft, nonabrasive cloth that is slightly damp or a cleaner specifically designed for touchscreens, like Monster’s iClean. For any electronics, do not spray liquid directly on your screen but rather onto the cloth you’re using, and avoid any openings on the device, like USB ports on your laptop. Use canned air to dust your computer, spraying it on the keyboard and into the inputs to blow out dust. If you are a Howard Hughes type, there are even cell-phone sanitizers, like VIOlight’s VIO700, which uses UV light to get ugly germs off your phone. For general cleaning, we also like CyberClean, a gloopy substance that is safe to use on many electronic devices.

Clean it out

Now it’s time to get down to the digital nitty-gritty. If you take your computer in because it’s running slow, one of the first things the smug technicians will do is give you a hard time because of all the digital crap on your desktop. Word Files, Pics, downloaded movies … all this stuff can fester there, slowing you down and making things hard to find. Take a few minutes to organize it and create aliases on your desktop for stuff you access often. Then go in to slash and burn files you don’t need. Get rid of all your kids old reports, downloaded videos that are not sentimental, and so on. (If you are nostalgic and have a hard time letting go, just take this as your yearly opportunity to back it all up. Details below.) Running programs like CCleaner (our favorite), WinUtilities, or Chica PC-Fix scrub your PC, getting rid of useless digital stuff and making your computer more efficient and faster. Mac users have many options to do the same, like iDefrag, MacJanitor, CleanMyMac, and more.

Backup computer filesBack it up

How many years’ worth of files do you have on your computer and how often do you reference them? Get all that digital clutter off your hard drive and back it up on a few flash drives, an external hard drive, or both. You can also embrace cloud technology to store your files and photos online. We also highly recommend a backup service, which can range from $50 to $100 a year, that will automatically back up your computer for you. CrashPlan, Jungle Disk, KineticD, MiMedia, MozyHome, Norton, SOS—these are all great backup services and most have free trials. Regularly backing up your files should be standard operating procedure.

Manage your photos

Tombs can be written on how to best manage your photos, especially in this day and age, when film doesn’t limit the amount of pics you can take. One birthday party can produce hundreds of images on its own. Regularly dump your photos off your camera and straight into a photo management program. iPhoto is standard for Mac users and Picasa is popular among Windows users. When you upload them, be specific when naming the event, remembering that events like Fourth of July and birthdays come every year, so years and even days can be helpful when naming your photo events. Like we said above, remove older photos off your computer to external or online storage to free up valuable hard-drive space.

Update software

How many times has that window come up on your desktop asking you to download all the latest versions of your software? And how many times have you, being in the middle of something uber important, chosen to ignore it? Oftentimes, these software updates are actually useful or important and can even iron out glitches and enhance performance. Go ahead, take the 10 minutes to download and install the software, then restart your computer. This is also a good time to update your operating system if you are using an older version.

Go green

Take the time now to put your electronics into energy saving mode. For computers, this will automatically power them down when not in use. Many TVs will do the same, and even automatically dim the screen to use less juice in low light environments. You’ll save money and energy going forward.

Computing

Our favorite Windows apps will help you get the most out of your new PC

Not sure what apps you should be downloading for your newfangled Windows device? Here are the best Windows apps, whether you need something to speed up your machine or access your Netflix queue. Check out our categories and favorite picks.
Deals

The last vacuum you need: Shark DuoClean Powered Lift-Away on sale for $160

From now through the end of December, you can grab the powerful Shark DuoClean Powered Lift-Away upright vacuum for just $160. This knocks a whopping 46 percent off of the original $300 price, saving you $140.
Computing

Lost without 'Print Screen'? Here's how to take a screenshot on a Chromebook

Chrome OS has a number of built-in screenshot options, and can also be used with Chrome screenshot extensions for added flexibility. You have a lot of options, but learning how to take a screenshot on a Chromebook is easy.
Computing

Give your eyes a break with these handy blue light filters

Filtering blue light from your monitor is a great way to make long days of work easier on your eyes, especially when it gets later in the day. You can use ones built into MacOS and Windows, or one of the third-party options.
Computing

Calibrate your display to get it looking just the way you like it

Want to see images the way they're intended to be seen? Here is our quick guide on how to calibrate your monitor using your operating system or another tool, to make what's on the screen look as good as it can.
Computing

PDF to JPG conversion is quick as a few clicks with these simple methods

Converting file formats can be an absolute pain, but it doesn't have to be. We've put together a comprehensive guide on how to convert a PDF to JPG, no matter which operating system you're running.
Mobile

How to use Drop In and Announcements on Amazon’s Fire HD tablets

Amazon is giving some Fire HD tablets a big update. The tech giant released a software update that adds Drop In and Announcement modes to the Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10. Here's how to enable the new features on your Fire HD tablet.
Home Theater

Our quick-and-easy guide to programming an RCA universal remote

If you're tired of using a million different remotes in your home theater, office, or living room, you'll likely be interested in a single RCA universal remote. Here's how to program it for your system.
Computing

Make a GIF of your favorite YouTube video with these great tools

Making a GIF from a YouTube video is easier today than ever, but choosing the right tool for the job isn't always so simple. In this guide, we'll teach you how to make a GIF from a YouTube video with our two favorite online tools.
Gaming

Play your games whenever you want with a MicroSD card for your Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch uses cartridge-based games, but its internal storage may fill up quicker than you would think. Here's what you should consider when picking out a microSD card to expand your Switch's storage capacity.
Computing

How to change your Gmail password in just a few quick steps

Regularly updating your passwords is a good way to stay secure online, but each site and service has their own way of doing it. Here's a quick guide on how to change your Gmail password in a few short steps.
Home Theater

Here’s why you’re not getting Netflix in HD or 4K, and how to fix it

Are you having trouble watching your favorite movies or TV shows on Netflix in HD or 4K? We explain why loading takes so long, why the picture quality fluctuates, and what you can do about it.
Computing

Changing file associations in Windows 10 is quick and easy with these steps

Learning how to change file associations can make editing certain file types much quicker than manually selecting your preferred application every time you open them. Just follow these short steps and you'll be on your way in no time.
Computing

How to easily record your laptop screen with apps you already have

Learning how to record your computer screen shouldn't be a challenge. Lucky for you, our comprehensive guide lays out how to do so using a host of methods, including both free and premium utilities, in both MacOS and Windows 10.