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Spring Cleaning
by rob

It's that time of year again. Time to open the windows and do some cleaning. In your home cleaning frenzy, don't forget about computer maintenance. A few minutes of care to the inside and outside of your most important high-tech equipment will do wonders.

Disk Cleanup
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Take Back Your Hard Drive
There are files on your hard drive that just sit around, using your disk space while giving you nothing in return. These freeloading files can be safely deleted, and include temporary Internet files, program files and items in your Recycle Bin. Use the Windows XP Disk Cleanup tool to rid your hard drive of these unused files. Access the tool by left-clicking on your C drive and selecting Properties. Clicking on "Disk Cleanup" will show you the files that can be deleted and how much space you will get back.

Eliminate With Extreme Prejudice
Admit it. There are programs you've installed that you will never use again. Sometimes it's a game that has worn out its welcome or a piece of shareware. Now would be a good time to clean out old software. Go into Add or Remove Programs (Start > Control Panel) to uninstall any programs you don't use any longer. This will free up some space as well as get rid of processes that eat up your valuable memory and processor cycles. You can do the same thing to Windows components (such as MSN Explorer, Outlook Express and Windows Messenger) that you don't use by clicking on Add/Remove Windows Components in the Add or Remove Programs window.

Make Whole What Was Once Broken
In your hard disk's Properties (right-click C:/ Drive > Select Properties) in the Tools tab. Click on "Defragment Now..." to defragment (defrag) your hard-working hard drive. Doing this will search for files that have been written to different parts of your hard drive and reassemble them as whole files. This will optimize your drive and make disk access quicker.

Clean Up Mac OS X
You Mac geeks aren't off the hook. The underlying UNIX structure of Mac OS X relies on a set of system maintenance scripts to run in order to keep your system tidy. These scripts execute overnight and if you put your Mac to sleep or completely shut it down, they won't be run. Without running those scripts, your Mac could fill up with logs and temporary files. Here's how to run the scripts:

  1. Open Terminal (/Applications/Utilities).
  2. Type: sudo sh /etc/daily
  3. Press Return.
  4. Enter your Admin password when prompted, then press Return.

Follow the same process, replacing "/etc/daily" with "/etc/weekly" and "/etc/monthly" for tasks that run at those intervals. As for defragmentation, you shouldn't need to take any action since OS X utilizes "delayed allocation" and other fancy technologies to minimize fragmentation.

Now that you've taken care of the hard drive and its contents, let's take a look at the computer itself. Whether your computer spends its life in a prominent space on your desk, or the dark corners around your feet, it is always a dust magnet. Here's what you can do keep your computer clean.

Falcon Dust-Off Jumbo

Metro Data Vac with Micro Cleaning Tools
Metro Data Vac with Micro Cleaning Tools
Blown Away
Turn your keyboard upside down and shake to dislodge dirt, dust, bits of paper and any stray food crumbs. Use compressed air to move any debris that has fallen into your keyboard. Vacuuming does an even better job at removing bad stuff from tight spaces. Vacuums range in size and power from small battery-powered units to professional versions with lots of power and attachments.

Next, shut down your computer and take it outside (or some other well ventilated place) for some fresh air. This will do you both some good as well as keep dust from settling back inside your computer. Open up your case and vacuum up or blow away the dust that builds up inside. Make sure to focus on case fans, the power supply, heatsinks and any part that relies on airflow to keep cool.

Wipe Down
Your computer will take a shine to a good wipe down with a pre-treated wipe. These cut through the grime that builds up on your equipment. And don't forget your monitor, mouse and keyboard.

I hope this article has inspired you to take better care of that box you call a computer. Remember, if you take good care of it, it will take good care of you. Until next month, snack responsibly away from your keyboard.

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