It’s April 1st and it’s a yucky day outside. It’s a good day to backup your data and do some spring cleaning on your computer.

It’s a good idea to backup your data on a regular basis anyway – at least monthly.
There are several ways to back up your data, I will just generally list a few here.

BACKUP

Get an external hard drive. Hopefully, you already have some kind of backup drive from Western Digital or Seagate. And I mean more than just a USB stick, You should have a large (500GB or more) external hard drive. Most of these will automatically backup your data today. MAKE SURE THIS IS TURNED ON! I have helped many customers who thought they had a backup but found out that the feature was not turned on or working properly.

Run your own backup. Windows and Mac both offer a built-in backup program. You can set this to run daily, weekly, or monthly.
Use a separate backup program. Windows backup stores your data in a database and you can’t access just any file with the explorer program. I like to be able to browse to the files when I want to. This is a personal preference, and I look through my backups often – most people would just need it when they noticed a problem.
I currently use a program called FBackup. It has many settings and I can look at the files however I want. I have also used CrashPlan. Both are free to back up to your own drive.

update added this paragraph:
Unplug or turn off that external drive when not using it. To protect yourself from the new scourge of malware encrypting your data (making your data unreadable) you should unplug that backup drive when your not using it. This way the infections that encrypt the data can’t see the drive to infect it. These infections can also see network drives now so be careful with network attached storage too.

Online Backup. Today everything is done online, why not backup too. Still do backups to your external hard drive – online is a backup of your backup.

Having multiple backups is part of what is called the “3-2-1 backup strategy”. You should have 3 copies on 2 different storage devices and 1 copy should be in another location. (Think fire, earthquake, or flood)

Having the online backup helps you meet 2 of the 3 points of the 3-2-1 backup.
Carbonite was the first (as far as I know) and still the best online backup company. There is a yearly charge but you get unlimited storage and backups. use code TWIT at checkout to get 2 free months.

CLEAN YOUR COMPUTER

Over time your computer builds up a lot of junk. You know this. you download some program and use it once, your web browser keeps a history of every site you visit (ah-oh?), and other programs keep temp files too.
Before Windows 10, I used to erase and reinstall Windows at least once a year. Windows 10 seems to be much better at staying usable through the years. Partly because then they do do a major update (2x a year) it essentially reinstalls the whole OS anyway. I have not manually reinstalled Windows 10 since I installed a new SSD hard drive for the public release in  2015. P.S. there is a new update coming on April 11th 2017.

uninstall programs with Windows or other programs. Take a look at your list of installed programs. If you don’t know how to get there just click on your Start Button and start typing “uninstall”, a search list shows up, and you should see “Change or Remove a Program”  If you see programs you only used once or others you know you don’t want – uninstall them. BE CAREFUL NOT UNINSTALL IMPORTANT PROGRAMS. Windows is good at not showing you really important programs here, but you could remove something like “Bonjour” (WTF?) that is required for iTunes to work. If you do not know what a program is, use Google to look it up.

Use an uninstall program like Revo Uninstaller to do a better job of uninstalling programs. Windows is notorious for not completely removing programs. Windows 10 is better at this than previous versions, but there is a good market for various uninstallers. Revo Uninstaller is another long time favorite. Use the free version.

Remove temp files. Windows offers a way to delete your Recycle Bin, temp files, downloads and more. Look at your file explorer and Right Click on your C: Drive then click on Properties on the pop-up menu. This shows you how much space is free on your drive. There is a “Disk Cleanup” button on the lower right. You can look at the list and choose what to erase or stick with the defaults.

Use a better disk cleanup tool called CCleaner. A long time favorite of computer techs is CCleaner. It will do a better job of cleaning your system of temp files, as well as other computer files. Simply move down the left side menu of Cleaner, Registry (do the backup when prompted), and tools. CCleaner can remove or stop programs from starting with Windows, remove programs for you, and show you duplicate files. use the free version.
It is very safe, I can’t remember it causing a problem and I have used it on 100’s of computers – but… make sure you have done a backup recently.

Remove possible low-risk spyware and malware. Surfing the web you are exposed to a lot of junk that tries to get installed on your computer.  DO NOT SAY OK TO ANYTHING ASKING TO INSTALL UNLESS YOU WENT LOOKING FOR IT AND KNOW EXACTLY WHAT IT IS!
If you have read some of my other posts, you will know I am not a fan of mainstream antivirus programs like Norton and McAfee. You should have Windows Defender on. There are several other scanners you can run. Malwarebytes is the best known and usually the best. It will remove various toolbars and other unwanted programs. It is the one I recommend paying for instead of an “antivirus”.  The paid version runs all the time and auto updates like the traditional AV’s.                   BUY IT FROM MY AMAZON STORE

PHYSICAL CLEANING

It is a good idea to physically clean your computers every so often too.

Start by cleaning off your whole desk or workspace and reorganize.
Maybe look at your cables and clean that mess up a little too.
Use canned air to clean out keyboards, fan vents, and even open the case of your towers and clean it out some. DO NOT USE A VACUUM CLEANER.
Use special screen or computer cleaner spray, or light amount of water, on a cloth to clean your monitors, keyboards, and tablets. DO NOT USE WINDEX ON YOUR SCREENS.

 

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Posted by Ken Barker

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