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New Year's Resolutions for Your PC
by kp

With a new year beginning, it's a chance to start over by cleaning up your computer, and taking out the digital trash that may be slowing down your system. An optimized computer can not only save you time, but keep you organized and focused by utilizing a few productivity tools to track your schedule and to-do lists. Here are a few suggestions to make your computer healthier (and you happier) for the new year:

System Cleanup
It's important to have your computer's operating system running in top shape. Over time, the OS can be overburdened with extraneous programs and bloated cache files. To optimize your computer, you can start with using the Disk Cleanup utility (For Windows XP: Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup. For Windows Vista: Control Panel > Performance Information and Tools > Open Disk Cleanup). This tool provides some general maintenance for your hard drive by deleting temporary internet and installation files.

Another good idea is to remove old browser cookies and temporary Internet files from your hard drive. In Internet Explorer 7, go to Tools > Delete Browsing History. In Firefox, go to Tools > Clear Private Data.

In addition, get rid of any dormant programs that are just taking up vital space. Under the Control Panel, go to Add or Remove Programs > Change or Remove Program to eliminate unused applications, and Add/Remove Windows Components to disable auxiliary functions.

Another way to get some hard drive space back is to clean out your Windows Temp folder. It resides under the Local Disk (usually C) in the WINDOWS folder. Select all of the files, delete, then reboot.

To free up some memory, open the System Configuration Utility (Start > Run > msconfig). Under the Startup tab, uncheck any startup items that aren't necessary to your computer's essential processes, plus do the same under the Services tab.

Get Organized
If you have so many folders in your My Documents folder that it looks like a disaster, it is probably time to clean off some dormant files. One solution is to use an external hard drive to free up space on your local hard drive. A good choice is a network attached storage (NAS) drive to keep safe non-essential data and large files (like video/music libraries). The advantage of a NAS drive is that you can access the drive from any computer on your LAN for data sharing.

Task Master
Now it's time to get your computer to work for you. Keeping track of your appointments and tasks can be overwhelming. But, with a couple of handy software tools, you can be on-target. If your computer has Microsoft Outlook, you are already ahead of the game. Outlook has a number of built-in functions for organization. For example, the Calendar can be customized to monitor each appointment, and send updates to everyone on your list. Plus, it can organize all of your task and notes, then print them out as needed. For an alternative to Outlook, try Calendar Creator Ultimate Organizer. It allows you to personalize your schedules, and you can import data from Outlook too.

Need a reminder to backup your data? No problem. Windows has a built-in scheduler to automate tasks like backing up your folders. Go to Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Scheduled Tasks. Click Add Scheduled Task, then select the Backup application to set a time.

Set A Budget
Wonder where all of your paycheck goes? Try Quicken's Starter Edition to monitor your expenses and get on a budget. With Quicken Home and Business edition, you can also create a savings plan and monitor your investments. Plus, tax time is a cinch with Quicken's integrated export feature for Turbo Tax.

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Network Attached Storage (NAS)
Calendar Creator Ultimate Organizer
Quicken Starter Edition
Quicken Home and Business Edition

Reference
Microsoft - Description of Disk Cleanup Tool in Windows XP
Microsoft - Restore Your Computer's Performance with Windows XP
Microsoft - Flush and reset a client resolver cache using ipconfig command
Quicken Products

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