Spring Cleaning: How to Refresh Your Computer – Part Two A Digital Cleaning

Messy Downloads Folder

Is your downloads folder a big mess like this? Maybe it could use some cleanup?

Whether you’re in a part of the country that is cold and snowy, or you’re in a warmer climate (like us in Florida), spring is coming. In fact, the official first day of spring for 2013 is March 20.

So why not spend a little time spring cleaning your computer now, so that when the weather is nice you’re ready to take on the world? Of course, when spring finally comes, you may find it’s so nice out that you just can’t sit still at the computer, but that’s a whole other problem.

This post is part of a larger series of articles designed to help you clean your computer inside and out, so that it looks and feels like new again.

What is Digital Cleaning?

The first part of our series focused on physically cleaning the outside and peripheral components of your computer. If you haven’t read this post, please do so now before continuing.

However, this post is designed to help you clean your computer digitally – that is clean up the contents of your hard drive so that your computer accesses data and runs faster than before. As an added bonus, you may also be able to find things on your computer again after completing the steps below.

Before You Begin — Backup

Before you begin cleaning up the contents of your hard drive, it’s important that you back up your files. This way you can easily retrieve files if they’re accidentally deleted. And if something really goes wrong and you have to format, well, at least everything was backed up.

Note: While damage shouldn’t occur because of the steps below, it’s always best to have your important documents backed up just in case. It’s an important precaution to take anytime you are doing anything major to your operating system.

Removing Old Programs

Typically, computers have lots of programs installed that are no longer being used. Maybe you installed a trial version of software and decided you didn’t like it. Maybe there’s an old game on your hard drive that you no longer play.

Whatever it is, there are probably old programs that you no longer use that are using valuable hard drive space. Reclaim your hard drive by removing any old programs that you no longer use.

To do this, go to Control Panel > Add or Remove Programs. (This could be called Programs and Features, depending on what version of Windows you’re running.)

Important Note: If you want to remove a program, but are concerned you may need it, double check to make sure you have the software on disc. If you do, you can always re-install it at any point, should you need it. DO NOT remove any program that might be important or necessary for your job, or any program that you may have a difficult time getting again once it’s removed.

Look through the list. When you find a program you no longer use, click on it, and then click on the Uninstall button. Follow the prompts until the program is uninstalled. Reboot if necessary.

Continue until you have removed any software that you no longer use.

Clean Up Your Main File Locations

Now that all your old programs are removed, it’s time to clean up the places where you store files, shortcuts, documents, and anywhere else that gets messy.

Clean Your Desktop

Take some time to look at your desktop. Are there any items on there that can be removed all together? If so, delete them.

Look at any shortcuts on your desktop. You can tell which items are shortcuts because they have a box with a little arrow in the bottom left corner. Are there any shortcuts that you never click on? If yes, delete them. Note: deleting the shortcut WILL NOT delete the actual program.

Are there any shortcuts left over from programs you just removed? If yes, delete them.

Now, look at what’s left on your desktop. Does everything need to be there? Are there any files, shortcuts, or other that could be organized into a folder on the desktop? If so, create a new folder and organize your items.

Continue cleaning until you have a nice, clean, easy to view desktop.

Clean Your My Documents Folder

If you use your My Documents Folder for storage instead of a network drive then you’ll want to take some time to clean up this folder.

Review what’s in your My Documents folder. Is there anything that is out of place that could be put into an existing subfolder? Or, do you need to create subfolders for extra categorization?

While you should create and use subfolders for organization, make sure you’re not making a bigger mess by creating a system that is unusable for you.

Additionally, look to see if there is anything that you can delete. Often we save items to look at later, and by the time we get around to looking at them they are out dated, or no longer relevant. Look for material like this in your My Documents Folder. Delete any documents that you no longer need.

Clean Your Downloads Folder

If you download a lot of items off the internet, like pictures, ebooks, software, or whatever, then you’re bound to have a ton of extra junk in your Downloads folder. Over time, all this extra stuff adds up, and makes it slow to load your Downloads folder when you need to access it.

Go into your Downloads folder and have a look around. Is there anything that needs to be moved somewhere else, such as into your My Documents folder? If yes, move and organize any item you need or want to keep elsewhere.

Then, review what’s left. Do you need all these items in your downloads folder? Delete any item you don’t need, or that you know where to get again should you need it.

Once you’ve done all of this, particularly if you have lots of files, you’re probably ready for a break, and by all means you’ve earned one. So stay tuned for part Two B where we finish up the discussion about ways you can clean up your digital files to get your computer running faster than ever before.

Julie Strier is a freelance writer who likes to help you keep your computer clean and running fast. Website:

Windows 8: Beneficial Even Without a Touch Screen

Windows 8 Start Metro Screen

Windows 8 Start Screen With Metro Tiles

After a recent install of Windows 8, I found myself scratching my head wondering, “What did I just get talked into?”

While most upgrades require a little bit of relearning, particularly when it comes to new or updated features, it is obvious from the start that Windows 8 is drastically different and requires a learning curve. That’s because Windows 8 was built for tablets and touch screens, and how you use Windows is more like how you would use your smartphone and less like how you would use a traditional computer.

But when you don’t have any of the touch screen or tablet capabilities, such as with a traditional desktop or laptop, should you take the time to upgrade, knowing the learning curve will be steep?

For this computer

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user, the answer is a resounding yes. While I’ve only been using the new operating system for about a week now, there are several reasons why I already prefer it to the prior versions of Windows.

More Places to Go, More Things to Do

One of the biggest changes about Windows 8 is that it’s no longer desktop centered. Instead of logging in and going straight to your desktop, the first thing you see is now the Start screen – a screen with colorful, flashing live metro tiles begging for attention.

Click on any of the tiles, and the app opens up in full screen mode, a feature that is similar to today’s tablets. To flip between open apps, access the hidden menu by placing your cursor on the left corner of the screen and dragging down. This will show you any apps that are open and will allow you to jump from one to another as you work.

The result is that you feel like there are more places to go and more things to do on your computer than ever before, because you don’t have to access everything through the desktop. Of course, not all programs function like apps, and more traditional software will only open on the desktop for use, just like the traditional Windows you are accustomed to.

Take Advantage of Apps

Taking a hint from smart phones and mobile OS’s like iOS and Android, Microsoft now makes the Windows Store available to all users. Download apps, games, media and more,

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and make the most of your computing needs.

While Apps and the Windows Store may seem like a silly thing to be excited about on a desktop or laptop, it actually gives you more options and flexibility with your software and computing needs.

Makes Your Computer a Hybrid

Overall, Windows 8 does a great job of making computing “feel” more modern. That is, because of all the changes and features that are tablet driven, the new OS goes a long way to making your computer feel more like a mobile, touch screen device, even if it isn’t.

This can be good news to those longing for a tablet, especially if you’ve held off buying one because you are concerned about the cost or the ability to produce work on an actual tablet device. Windows 8 on a laptop or even a desktop alleviates these concerns because it allows you to still produce work like you’re used to, while also being able to take advantage of mobile features like Apps and being constantly connected to the Cloud.

Of course, these are just a few of my initial reactions to the new OS. There are many more reasons, including some good technical reasons, to upgrade to Windows 8. The more I use the operating system, the more I find I enjoy the extra usability the new features bring to the system.

If you are sitting there wondering if you should upgrade to Windows 8, don’t let the lack of a touch screen or other tablet features hold you back. You may just find that you are pleasantly surprised with all of the additions and extra features. (I know I was.)

Julie Strier is a freelance writer who likes to help you figure out if the latest OS is right for you. Website:

There is a Reason Your Wireless Might Be Slow (And What You Can Do About It)

Wireless Router

Image Credit: bigevil600

When you have a fast internet connection, you expect it to be speedy every time you get online. So it’s understandable that you might be frustrated when it’s slow.

But did you know that the reason for the slowness might have nothing to do with your internet connection and everything to do with your wireless router?

That’s because wireless routers send signals over the radio spectrum which is shared not only by wireless devices, but other items like microwaves, cordless

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phones, garage openers, and more. When there are a lot of devices in one area sharing the same airwaves, the more interference occurs, and the slower your internet becomes.

This not only applies to the devices in your immediate area, such as inside your office or home, but also devices in the general vicinity, such as the items in the next suite over at the office, or all of your neighbors around you at home.

In fact, under certain circumstances simply running the microwave can be enough to completely knock out a wireless signal sometimes.

Luckily, however, there are a few things you can do to help correct some of these inherent issues.

Set Your Wireless Router to a Different Channel

In some situations, all you need to do is set your wireless router to run on a different channel. Just like messing with the dial on the radio to fine tune the signal (okay, so maybe that analogy is a little old) you can adjust the signal that your wireless router uses.

But before you just go in and change your channel settings, you’ll want to locate which channels are the busiest, so that you can avoid them.

That’s where apps come in. While there are many different applications you can use to analyze what’s being used by the devices around you, the one TechQuility favors is the WiFi Analyzer app for Android.

Because of the graphical interface, you can easily see how busy your area is, and which channels are the busiest. Try to find a channel with little to no activity, to help reduce the likelihood of interference. (While there are some other great tools built into WiFi Analyzer, this is one of our favorite features.)

The channels available for use depend on which country you live in. Most countries allow you to use channels 1-13; however the USA only allows usage through channel 11, because channels 12 and 13 are reserved for. And only the Japanese have access to channel 14. For in-depth information about channels and usage, please refer to this Wikipedia article about the List of WLAN channels.

If you can find a channel with no devices listed, then use that channel. Otherwise, try to find one with the least number of items to help reduce the possibility of interference.

Once you locate your channel, log into your router and change the frequency. Generally this is located under the wireless portion of the settings, but may vary by router.

And that’s it. You should now see a difference in your wireless speeds.

Buy a Router with a Different Frequency

However, if changing the channel doesn’t help, or if something simple like running the microwave causes your wireless network to go down, you may want to consider buying a 5 Ghz router instead.

Most devices, including most wireless routers, run at 2.4 Ghz. When there’s major interference taking down your network, you need to switch to a router that runs at a different frequency. While these routers tend to be more expensive, they can make a major difference in the health of your network, especially where interference is concerned.

So the next time you find you are having wireless slowness issues, take some time to research what’s really going on with your network. You may find that the problem is very easy to fix, allowing you to immediately reduce your frustration, and return to surfing the web at full speed again.

Julie Strier is a freelance writer who likes to help reduce your technology frustrations. Website: