Going paperless is certainly eco-friendly, but it does result in an increased reliance on your PC or laptop. You password protect your most important documents, of course, but what would happen if your computer were to stop working altogether one day?
You’d be outta luck, that’s what. Whether you get attacked by malware, adware, your files get held hostage by a hacker or even if your poor computer just collapses one day, you’d be left in a boat without an oar. And you know what? In many of these cases, it might be your fault.
We’ll tell you about 5 things you’re downloading that could break your PC, and remember to protect yourself from losing your files by tapping or clicking here to use IDrive to regularly back up your most important documents to the cloud. Avoiding bad downloads can protect you, but a good backup can keep you from losing digital files forever.
1. You think they’re cleaning out the bad stuff, but…
Maybe you get pop-ups and ads about cleaning out your computer’s hard drive. You’re told your hard drive gets overfilled with needless documents and data (we’ll elaborate in another section), and there’s some conveniently free software you can download that will help you clean up your PC.
You do need to occasionally clean your computer, but these “helpful” advertisements aren’t what you should turn to when you’re ready to clean up. In most cases, these free PC cleaning utilities come with adware, viruses or other bits of software that ultimately lag your PC and make it incapable of doing basic tasks.
Even downloading an extra program to tidy up your PC adds an extra program to your computer you don’t need. Windows has a built-in feature called Disk Cleanup that will get rid of unnecessary files for you (tap or click to learn how).
Use Disk Cleanup to keep your PC clean, not the free cleaners you have to download. Just remember to do regular computer backups prior to your cleaning sessions, so you never lose your most important documents. Kim recommends using IDrive for your cloud storage and backups, just tap or click here to learn how it can keep your info safe.
2. Keep an eye on URLs
You get a real sense of accomplishment when you finally find a way to stream or download a movie you want to watch, but couldn’t find on Netflix or Amazon (or if you did find it on Amazon, it was only as a used DVD for $20). But try not to get lost in the moment of victory.
The truth is, if you’re downloading from a questionable source, which often will be any site with an incredibly long or unusually-ending URL, you might be downloading viruses along with your sought-after cinema.
This can apply to streaming devices as well as your PC. If you download free apps or channels for illegal movie streaming or downloading, you can absolutely corrupt your viewing device to the point where it will no longer work.
IDrive can help you recover any files lost if your streaming device is corrupted, but if your PC or Roku stops working, you’ll be out of luck.
Try to stick to the ever-growing list of legitimate streaming sites for your movie and TV downloads to keep you and your devices safe from hard drive-destroying malware. If cost is part of the reason you go to illicit sites, tap or click here for 10 legitimate places to stream movies for free. These will play ads, but at least they won’t freeze your computer.
3. If you didn’t look for it, don’t touch it
Freeware — software that’s available at no cost — can be a wonderful thing. They can be amazing alternatives to expensive programs like Photoshop and Microsoft Office, but if you weren’t actively looking for a particular program, do NOT download freeware you find on the internet.
It might come to you in an email offer, or in an ad box on a site you’re visiting. Some might end up being perfectly legitimate, but a majority of unsolicited freeware will clog your computer with junk files, give you malware or provide entryways into your computer hackers can take advantage of.
Basically, if you weren’t searching for a program, don’t trust it when it presents itself to you. Try reading reviews or recommendations from sites like ours before you download any freeware at all, and keep your eyes peeled for any unusual activity on your computer after you’ve downloaded something new.
Before you download any free programs, always make a computer backup just in case you need to reformat your device. We recommend using a cloud storage like IDrive.
4. Don’t be a digital hoarder
We’re moving away from malware-risk with the rest of this list, and we’re refocusing on clutter. Your computer can be stuffed full of pictures carelessly downloaded from your phone or tablet, but do you really need to save those memes and bad photos you just never got around to deleting?
Clutter on your computer is made of things like installers, super small files you never use, trial versions of software and photos or videos that take up several GB of space. Don’t download a ton of photos and videos you’ll never even look at again! Clear your devices of the things you don’t want to save before downloading them to your hard drive.
When a computer has a full enough memory, it can begin to lag or overheat. Overheating is very dangerous for electronics, as it can cause parts like the motherboard to be damaged. In some devices, overheating can lead to explosions or fires.
Check how much free space your computer’s hard drive has every month, and clean house when it’s starting to get especially high. Keep some things online — don’t download every photo or file you like — to help keep that number down initially, and find places for large files that aren’t right on your hard drive.
Don’t be a digital hoarder. Find other places to put your important files so your PC doesn’t have to carry the load.
The best way to clear out space is to back up your computer, which you can do with an external hard drive or a cloud service like IDrive. We like cloud services, as they can be accessed anywhere and you can set things up so files like your photos can automatically go to the cloud instead of clogging up space on your PC.
5. Skip right to the full version
As we said above, trial versions of software often amount to junk on your PC. Trial versions often install as a separate entity from the full version. This is so it’s easy to remove later if you don’t enjoy the product. But installing the full version does not automatically remove the trial version, so it stays on your computer, taking up space in your computer memory.
Since trial versions just clutter your computer, skip them — particularly if you know you’ll be buying the software in the end anyway. You can just uninstall the trial version once you have the full one, but uninstalling can still leave junk files behind, so make sure you run Disk Cleanup afterwards if you insist on using the trial.
Also remember to not include trial versions in your software backups on IDrive — it’ll save you space in the long run.
Keeping your PC healthy and happy keeps you and your files safe. So watch out for the 5 downloads we described above to keep your computer’s health in good standing, and remember to back up regularly with IDrive, just in case the worst happens.