How To Spring Clean Your Computer In 6 Steps

by Chelsey Grasso
DaniloAndjus/E+/Getty Images

It's time to get going on your spring cleaning, and while scrubbing, organizing, and polishing is a great activity for inside your home, there is a whole other space that could probably use a little attention too — and it's virtual. Follow these basic six steps to spring clean your computer this March, because if we're being honest, you probably spend a fair amount of time hanging out with your laptop on the daily.

Similar to having a clean workspace or office, having a clean digital space can help you focus better when you are trying to get something done quickly on your computer. While I recognize that not everybody uses a computer to make a living, I think it's pretty fair to say that a majority of jobs do include at least some involvement with a computer.

Similarly, computers are important not only for work, but for managing your own personal accounts and lifestyle. Taxes are coming up, most billing receipts are digital these days, and email is a solid form of communication for both business and pleasure. When it comes down to it, there's no denying that computers are an important factor for daily life, and if that's the truth (which it is), then why wouldn't you put as much effort into spring cleaning your laptop as you do your apartment?

1. Clean Up Your Desktop

Your desktop is your canvas. When you login to your computer, there's nothing more distracting than seeing a desktop covered with random files, application shortcuts, and folders. I tend to think of the desktop as a workspace, and while it's fine to put it to use when you're working on a specific project, you should always clean it up before you shutdown for the night. Put important documents into folders, sort through your media, and delete all your shortcuts. Once you finish you can even swap out your wallpaper for a fresh, new start.

2. Organize Your Documents & Media

Once you have your desktop in shape, it's time to take things a level further. Dig into your folders and start to do some deep cleaning. Organize your documents in whatever system is most logical for you (folders labeled "Taxes," "Resumes," "Cover Letters," "Creative Writing," etc.). Similarly with photos and videos, you'll want to create subfolders for both years and events. I often name my media folders beginning with a date to help keep things as chronological and easy to find as possible (ex: "2/11/16_Venice Trip").

3. Set Your "Defaults"

Does music streaming open every time you turn on your computer? When you click on a link in an email does it open in Safari when you wish it would use Chrome? Computer defaults are simple to change and they end up saving so much time in the longer scheme of things. Set your default browser, mail program, photo editing software, and whatever other applications you frequently use.

4. Uninstall Any Unnecessary Applications

As time progresses, you've probably acquired quite a few applications on your computer that you're no longer using. I'm mostly talking about stuff that you've downloaded from the Internet for one time use (free video editing software, file converting programs, and the like). Delete it all. You can always download it again later if you need it. Too many applications can take up space on your computer, slowing it down and giving you unreasonable amounts of apps to sift through when you're trying to find the one you actually need to use.

5. Sort Your Inbox

Once you've got the majority of your computer cleaned up, it's time to tackle your inbox. I recommend making archive folders for every aspect of your life ("Work," "Friends," "Travel," "Bills," etc.) and moving your read mail to the appropriate folder once you've read it. If there's an email you still need to read or respond to, you can leave it in your inbox until you've done so. When I switched over to this system, I never missed an email or forgot to reply to somebody ever again.

6. Back Up Everything

Last, but certainly not least, back up your hard drive. In fact, if you do only one thing on this spring cleaning list, let it be this. There's nothing funny about a computer crashing and you losing your entire digital life in a second — and unfortunately, it happens a lot more often than you'd think. Your computer isn't invincible. Back. It. Up.

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