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Spring Cleaning: Declutter and Organize Your Computer

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In spring, we typically clear the clutter from our lives and start fresh. Spring cleaning doesn’t just have to apply to our homes, but also our computers. Doing so can help us experience faster devices and better browsing experiences. We’ve all experienced computers moving slower than they should. This can result from a number of factors, including clutter from unnecessary files, programs and data. The good news is that there are many ways that technology can help us to clear the clutter. Now, many computers even have technology built in that can allow you to view how you’re using your hard drive space and clear unnecessary clutter.

Clear it Out

Your computer has ways to clean out your hard drive for you. In fact, Windows has a built-in clean up function called Storage Sense. Go to your storage settings and turn on Storage Sense and it will automatically clear out your recycle bin and your temporary files. You can also schedule these cleans automatically.

You can often get the best results, however, by viewing your computer habits and clearing out what you don’t need. You can do this by going into your settings and viewing what is taking up the most of your storage. Clear things up by deleting old versions of programs that are no longer in use or programs that you don’t use at all anymore. Once you have deleted programs you no longer use, delete your temporary files (those in your computer’s trash or recycle bin) to make sure they’re no longer taking up hard drive space.

Another way you can make your computer run faster is by keeping inessential programs from automatically starting. While this isn’t necessarily clearing up any file space, you might notice that your computer speeds up when fewer programs are automatically started. Windows Tools can help you determine which programs are not important to automatically start.

You can also clear the clutter by going through your different programs and file explorers and removing duplicate files. Many programs can store duplicate files that take up space. You can find and delete duplicates by following these steps on each of the following programs or operating systems:

iTunes

If you’re on the latest version of iTunes, you can find duplicate files by selecting “File,” then “Library,” then “Show Duplicate Items.” This will show you all of the songs in your library that are the same so you can delete the duplicates. However, this may also count different remixes or collaborations of the same song as duplicates. If you want to be more exact, select “Show Exact Duplicate Items.” This feature will only flag songs that share a name, artist and album as duplicates.

Mac

On Apple computers, you could go through your entire file explorer to find and delete duplicate files. However, if you don’t want to spend the time to do this, you can purchase a program that will do it for you. One such option is Duplicate Detective. This program can also filter and sort duplicates depending on their type, size, name, date and more so that you can get rid of files from 5 years ago and not worry about not having some information you need.

Windows

The same opportunities arise on Windows computer. You could go through your file explorer and manually find and remove duplicate files. Or, you could purchase a program to do it for you. One such program is Duplicate Cleaner.  This program can sort your images to find similar ones (even those that are edited, rotated or resized. It can also go through and find duplicate music files in exact or similar matches.

A good practice to get into is storing your data externally. You should already have a method for storing backups on external hard drives or in the cloud in case something happens to your computer. You could also use this method to free up space by removing some files from the computer completely and storing on external hard drives or the cloud.

After clearing out duplicate files, examine your trash bin. Once you feel comfortable tossing all of the files in the bin, empty it. This is the only way to actually free up the space in your computer. You can also compact the remaining data on your hard drive. Newer computers will do this automatically, but on an older computer you will need to manually defragment files. Navigate to the disk defragmenter option on your start menu to schedule.

Organize what Remains

Once you have freed up file space, keep your computer’s navigation organized so it’s easier to find things in the future. The first step is to avoid saving documents to your desktop. On older computers, saving many folders and documents to your desktop could slow things down. With newer computers, it’s not as much of an issue for your browsing speed as it is for ease of navigation. The time you use searching for old files on your desktop could be better used for other things. Start by establishing a nested folder system in your documents folder. That way, when it comes to accessing files, you’ll know where they are and be able to access them quicker. The same goes for other files such as photos, music and videos. Using standard home folders for each of these unique file types can help you reduce time spent looking for files vs. actually using them.

Now that you have organized your computer, you can be more efficient and spend less time getting to-do list tasks done. If you also find it hard to put down your devices and disconnect, check out our post on limiting screen time. This way, you can get out and enjoy the weather this spring and summer. 

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