January Is National Clean Up Your Computer Month

You're busy. Cleaning up your computer's hard drive might seem like the last thing you have time for. But properly backing up and organizing your computer files could actually save you a lot of time - especially if your Mac or PC ever decides to melt down. In observance of National Clean Up Your Computer Month, here are five simple steps to get your computer operating at its best. Schools offering Information Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

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1. Run a complete backup

Before you start deleting files, it's a good idea to back up your system as it currently exists. Many backup programs allow you to create a mirror of your hard drive on an alternative disk. This is a good way to prevent loss of a file should you mistakenly delete something. If you choose not to perform a complete backup, at minimum protect important personal, school and work files.

2. Organize your documents

Especially when in a hurry, it's common to give files names that aren't recognizable. Similarly, people often stash documents in untitled folders or other out of the way places that are hard to track down. These habits can make it difficult to find files when you need them again. Instead, implement a logical naming and archiving system that works for you. De-clutter your virtual workspace by placing desktop files in appropriate folders.

3. Delete what you don't need

As you're going through files, ask yourself whether you really need them. If there's no chance that you're ever going to use something again, delete it. In addition to getting rid of unnecessary documents, examine your hard drive for programs, downloads and other items you don't use. Throw away superfluous items to open up space on your computer. If you find it hard to part with digital files, at least move them to an alternate archival drive where they won't hamper your machine's performance.

4. Institute order online

The Internet is infinite and can seem unwieldy. Staying on top of all of our websites and online accounts that can seem difficult. Using tools on your computer, though, you can organize your online life. First, make sure your bookmarks are in order by making any site additions and deletions that reflect your current browsing habits. Organize bookmarks in an intuitive way so that you can easily find sites you regularly visit. In managing online accounts and passwords, employ a password manager like Keychain (for Macs) or Windows Live ID (for PCs).

5. Organize email

With so many available email clients and Web-based mail services available, it's impossible to provide precise direction for organizing messages. Some basics, though, can make a big difference. First, delete any messages you don't need. Establishing clearly identifiable folders - rather than leaving mail bunched together in your inbox - is also a good idea. And updating your contacts list can help to ensure that you have the addresses you need without the added clutter of old contacts. Check out these tips for an organization method that can help ensure you never lose an important email again.

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