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. Email:[email protected]. Website:

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