High-Tech Housekeeping for Digital Devices

Health & Well Being

Computers and Phones Can Get Really Messy, Really Fast

Many of us have been entertaining ourselves with online games, books, music, movies, and apps more than ever before. But we may not realize just how many programs we’ve downloaded over the past year – and many long-forgotten apps could even be ringing up a monthly charge on our credit card.

Cleaning up your computer and phone – both outside and in – may extend the life of the device, help save some money, and even help you stay healthy. Here’s what to do:

Clean the Outside First (hardware)

Lately we’ve been using our phones and computers for everything from getting the news and weather to banking, shopping, online exercise classes, video chats with friends and ordering food. They’re bound to be dirty! Computer keyboards are especially vulnerable to getting sticky and icky, full of crumbs and dust. And since many of us take our phones everywhere, that can leave screens covered with germs.

woman cleaning her laptop with microfiber towel.To safely clean a computer keyboard, power off first. Use canned compressed air with a long straw (available online or in stores) to remove crumbs and other debris. Wipe the keyboard with a damp (not wet) disinfectant wipe to remove bacteria. Never spray or drench the keyboard. Use alcohol-based wipes and avoid products that contain bleach. Make sure the keyboard is completely dry before powering up.

If your keyboard or laptop is extremely dirty, or if there is debris under the keys that can’t be removed easily, it’s often best to have a professional do the cleaning for you.

To safely clean your phone, power off first. Use a microfiber cloth (rather than a paper towel or tissue) to wipe off visible dirt. Dampen (do not soak) a clean microfiber cloth with a small amount of isopropyl alcohol and wipe down all sides of the phone and screen. Avoid getting any liquid on the charging port or headphone jack. Remember, never spray any type of cleaner directly on your phone.

Now, Let’s Move to the Inside (Software)

Internet safety and security experts recommend the following steps to ensure the “health” of your computer:

1. Back up your data regularly
To avoid losing valuable information due to a malfunction or other mishap, data backup is essential. Copy files to an external hard drive or thumb drive. You can also subscribe to a service that lets you back up files online to a secure location or to “the cloud.” If you store lots of data, back up your files once a week.

2. Update your software programs when given the opportunity
Never ignore notices about software updates. Updates typically include improvements to software and fixes for known issues and bugs. Staying current with software updates ensures you have the best, fastest version of the software on your phone or computer.

3. Delete files you no longer need or use
You may have several versions of the same document when you really just need one. Review all of your files to see what can safely be deleted (or backed to an external hard drive if you’re not ready to get rid of the file quite yet).

4. Delete apps you no longer want or use
Be careful here, especially for apps or programs with an associated fee. Be sure to cancel your subscription before deleting the app.

To delete an app from a PC, follow these simple steps:

– Click on Start
– Click the Gear icon to open settings
– In the Settings window, click on Apps
– Type the name of the app you want to delete in the search box
– Click on the app name
– Choose the Uninstall option to delete the app

The process to delete an app from a smartphone varies depending on the type of phone you have. Look online for the instructions for your phone’s make and model.

5. Use computer clean-up tools
There are clean-up tools available for nearly every type of computer. Each tool does different things, but all can help your system run cleaner, smarter and faster. Check online to find the right solution for your particular system or call a computer sales/service retailer in your area for information.

6. Keep it clean
Stay out of cyber trouble by changing passwords regularly and installing antivirus software. Once installed, these programs typically run in the background. You won’t notice them unless they alert you to a potential problem. Antivirus software can fend off malware intent on corrupting, deleting or even stealing your personal information and data. There are free programs available and paid versions that typically offer an annual subscription.

Just like our homes, desktops and other devices can get dirty, messy and disorganized. With a little high-tech housekeeping, you can spruce up your devices, clear away the virtual clutter, and free up space for some fresh fun in the coming months.