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Letting go of computer clutter

Learn how to tame your inner pack rat with these simple steps

Letting go of computer clutter

Over time, we have a tendency to build up a lot of digital clutter—all of those programs, documents, photos, and music files that we’ve installed and saved on our computers over the years.

Unfortunately, excess clutter can slow both you and your computer down. To get back up to speed, you’ll need to make some important decisions about which programs and files are really necessary and which ones you can do without.

Simplicity is best

Practitioners of the Chinese art of feng shui believe that allowing too much clutter to build up in your home or workspace can block or trap creative energies. Even if you don’t subscribe to this particular belief, it’s true that many of us tend to work better in an organized and orderly environment than in a messy or chaotic one.

By the same token, your computer runs at its best when it’s well-organized and cleared of clutter. Just like the stacks of papers that might be scattered across your desk, rarely used programs and duplicate files take up extra room in your digital workspace. To follow are a few helpful hints for clearing out this digital clutter and improving your computer’s performance—and quite possibly, your own.

Keep your email in check

It’s best to start off your clutter-clearing project by attacking your email accounts first, since your inbox is one place where documents can pile up very quickly. While this might seem daunting, you can easily keep the size of your inbox under control by organizing your incoming messages into three categories:

  • Immediate response. If you can reply to the email in less than a few minutes, don’t put it off until later. Once you’ve responded, you can quickly delete or archive the email.
  • To-do. Emails that require a more considered or long-term response should be filed away in a to-do folder. Go through this folder periodically, at least once a week, to make sure that you’ve responded to messages and to clear out any old emails.
  • Archive. Save the emails that you need to hold on to for long-term reference. You’ll want to go through this folder about once a month to see if you still need the messages that have been saved here.

Organize your folders

As computer storage capacity continues to rise, we have more and more space to fill with all of our old documents, music, and photos. But just because you can hang on to these things doesn’t mean that you should. As you go through your folders, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have more than one copy? If you have multiple copies of the same file, consider deleting one of them. Duplicate files can take up a lot of unnecessary space on your computer. And if you’ve kept a copy for backup, it’s not doing you much good if it’s stored in the same system—if your computer crashes, the duplicates will be lost, too.
  • Do I really need to have this? Go through your old documents and files. Do you still need them for reference, or are they projects you put aside and forgot about years ago? If it’s the latter, ask yourself (honestly!) whether or not you’re really ever going to return to finish them. If the answer is “no,” then delete them.
  • Can I put this somewhere else? You don’t want to erase those pictures from your last vacation to Hawai‘i, but do they really need to be stored in your computer? Probably not. For those files that you don’t use frequently but still want to save, move them to a flash or removable drive and keep the drive someplace safe.

Manage your programs

Programs can take up a lot of unnecessary space on your computer, especially if you aren’t using them on a regular basis.

  • Uninstall programs that you never use. If a quick glance at your Start menu reveals a number of programs you don’t even remember installing, it’s a good bet that you can free up a lot of hard drive space by getting rid of them. Uninstall these unused programs: from the Windows Control Panel, look for the “Add or Remove Programs” or “Uninstall a program” feature.
  • Be choosy about which applications or programs you install. Before downloading the latest application or widget, think about whether or not you really need to have it. Is it a program that you can see yourself using very often? If not, then perhaps you should wait.

    TIP: Some programs on the internet carry malware or other harmful viruses, so after downloading a program, be sure to scan it with anti-malware software like System Shield.

  • Avoid installing too many programs. If you have a serious problem with managing your programs (for example, if you download new programs on a daily basis), you might consider limiting the number of programs that you install. Just as people who hoard material objects are advised not to bring anything new into their home until they get rid of something else, a digital pack rat should try to uninstall a program before installing a new one.

Clean out the clutter you can’t see

After you’ve finished clearing out your inbox, folders, and programs, your last step should be to clean out all of the digital clutter you can’t see. System Mechanic provides you will all the tools you need to clear your computer of its remaining clutter in order to optimize your computer’s speed and performance.

  • Eliminate system clutter. Every time you browse the web, update your software, or unexpectedly restart your computer, you amass junk files that take up unnecessary space in your computer. The PC Cleanup PowerTool™ will scan your hard drive to identify and eliminate the “digital dust” that may be invisibly clogging up your computer. Getting rid of this extra baggage will allow your programs to run and load more quickly. Read more about the benefits of getting rid of digital detritus.
  • Defragment your hard drive. Whenever you create, delete, or download new files, your computer will split up (“fragment”) the data and store it in different locations on your hard drive. After you’ve deleted files, your hard drive can be very fragmented—and even though you’ve gotten rid of a lot of material, your computer may still be running slowly. System Mechanic’s Defragment Hard Drive tool will reorganize this scattered data, making it faster and easier for Windows to access and open files.
  • Clean up your registry. Even after you’ve uninstalled programs from your computer, dozens of associated registry keys may still remain. System Mechanic’s Total Registry Revitalizer will remove these obsolete keys, and will also defragment and compact the unused space or “bloat” in the registry in order to improve the speed of your PC. Read more about how thoroughly cleaning your registry will make your PC run faster and more efficiently.
iolo UptoSpeed

UpToSpeed™ is iolo's ongoing article series written by PC experts for everyday computer users. Each article is packed with easy tips and practical advice on the latest issues affecting computers to help you get the most out of your PC.






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Letting go of computer clutter

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