A cluttered computer can stop you from enjoying your digital life to the fullest. For example, maybe you just read our easy guide on restoring old family photos. If you’re ready to digitize iconic moments from your family’s history, a junk-filled Mac or PC can throw a wrench in those plans.
In fact, a surplus of junk can also get in the way of your professional life. If you work from home, you probably need to save, create and upload files now and then. The messier your computer is, the longer your work takes — which makes your days even harder.
If your Mac or PC isn’t working as well as it used to, grab your digital feather duster to clean up the dust in your system. Not sure where to start? No worries. Here are a few easy ways to kickstart the process.
1. Get sensitive files off your desktop or out of folders
When we delete a file on our Mac or PC, we assume that it’s gone forever. In reality, it’s just been sent to the Trash or the Recycle Bin. That doesn’t permanently delete these files.
In fact, someone could see these files even months later. Just think about the treasure trove of private documents and sensitive data you’re leaving around. Someone could snoop through all of this stuff — right under your nose.
Plus, if you haven’t emptied your bin in a while, it could even slow down your computer. Think of it as a digital equivalent to your physical trash can: the contents are only cleared out once you take the extra step of emptying them. Tap or click here to delete your private data for good.
There are a few good options at your fingertips:
- For Windows, try something like Eraser or Blank and Secure
- On a Mac, use a shredding app like High Secure Shredder for Mac. It costs $49.99 to download, though
- For a free option, you can use CCleaner on either Mac or PC
If you want to back up your important files before deleting them, we recommend a secure cloud service like IDrive for anything you want to keep safe. It’s much more secure than storing locally.
Good news: IDrive is a sponsor for the Komando Show, so we snatched a special deal just for listeners and readers like you. Save a whopping 90% when you sign up at IDrive.com and use the promo code “Kim” at checkout.
2. Remove programs you don’t need or use anymore
First of all, it just makes sense to delete programs that you no longer use. Many apps can take up a ton of space, so cleaning them up makes more room for what you’re more interested in.
Secondly, outdated apps could actually put you at risk. If you’re not using a particular app, you may not know that an update came out to patch security flaws. By keeping this outdated program on your computer, you’re leaving a door wide open for hackers to slip in and steal your private data.
Here’s how you can pinpoint the space-consuming apps and easily uninstall them.
- On the top left of the computer screen, tap the Apple icon.
- Click About this mac.
- Select the storage option in the middle of the pop-up box.
- In the right-hand portion, select manage.
- Now, you’ll see everything taking up space — and how much space it’s consuming. You can also review Apple’s recommendation for making space.
- Click on the program you no longer want and tap on delete on the bottom right-hand corner.
- In the search box on the lower left side of your screen, type Control Panel and hit enter.
- Next, open the Control Panel app.
- Under Programs, select Uninstall a program.
- Now you can browse the list of programs for ones you no longer use. Select the one you want to remove and hit Uninstall.
- Repeat these steps for every program you don’t need.
Another good trick is to make sure your system is up-to-date.
3. Make sure you’re using the latest OS
Although we can get attached to older versions of operating systems, not updating them is bad for your computer’s health. Cybersecurity experts work hard to roll out new patches to deter well-known bugs. By failing to update, you’re leaving crucial safety features unprotected.
That’s why you should always download the newest OS updates. Here’s how to do it:
- Click the Start button.
- Tap on Settings (the gear icon).
- Select Update & Security.
- Click Windows Update.
- If an update is available, you can select Download & install.
- Head to System Preferences.
- Select Software Update to see if there are any available updates.
- Then, click the Update Now button.
You can also try to pinpoint the source of your computer’s junk piles.
4. Take a peek at what’s running in the background
Checking out your task manager and activity monitor is a good way to see if anything funky is going on in your computer’s background. If you see anything you don’t recognize, Google the name. It may be perfectly fine, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
To do this, head to Data Usage Meter or Data Monitor. Compare the amount of data you’re using now to the amount you took up in the past.
If you notice small changes, that’s normal. Sudden spikes are what you want to look out for. If you see that your activity has shot up even though you haven’t been using it more often, that’s a good giveaway that you’re infected.
This is true for your smartphone, as well. Tap or click here to check data usage on your iPhone or Android.
How to check your activity on a PC
If you want to check out the recent activity, hit the Windows button. In the search bar, type event and then click on Event Viewer. This will open a window that looks like this:
From there, you can see your recent computer activity. If you see activity on a day you weren’t using your computer, that’s a sign someone may have broken into your system.
Do this to see everything that’s running on a Mac
- Head to your Applications folder
- Tap on Utilities folder
- Then, select the Activity Monitor
If you want to take things a step further, try this.
5. Encrypt your hard drive
If you want to add an extra layer of security to your computer, try encrypting your hard drive. This converts your private data into an unreadable code that can only be deciphered by you. Basically, you use a specific key or password to unscramble the data. That means you’re the only one who can access it — no creepy third parties allowed!
Luckily, Windows comes with a built-in encryption tool called BitLocker. VeraCrypt is another option; it’s a free, open-source encryption tool for Windows, Mac and Linux.
Macs also have a native encryption tool called FileVault. It works similarly to BitLocker in that it stops unauthorized parties from breaking into your data. You’ll need to turn it on, though:
- Click on the Apple menu.
- Select System Preferences.
- Select the Security icon.
- Enter your username and password.
- Open the FileVault tab.
- Choose Turn on FileVault.
If your computer is ever lost or stolen, encryption lets you know the thief won’t be able to steal your private data.
6. Install antivirus software
If you’ve taken all these steps to clear up your computer and it’s still slow, chances are junk isn’t the culprit. Viruses love to latch onto your computer while you’re surfing the web. Many of them will snuggle into your systems and lie dormant until it’s time to finally strike.
That doesn’t mean you have to wait in suspense, however. In fact, you can be proactive by installing antivirus software. Tap or click here for three reasons why you shouldn’t go another day without antivirus software on your computer.
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Overall, it gives you the comprehensive protection you need while browsing the internet. We live in an increasingly dangerous digital world, and it’s only getting worse as time goes on. For example, ransomware attacks are on the rise. If you don’t want a stranger to break into your computer and hold all your precious data hostage, you need five-star protection.
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Bonus: Know the signs of malware
If you don’t have AV software, you may already have a malware-infested computer. There are a few warning signs, like a hot device. If you put a hand on the screen or keyboard and it’s hotter than it ever was when you first bought it, take that as a warning sign.
Malware loves to gobble up precious storage space, overworking your processors and sending your fan into overdrive. That results in a hotter device, so watch out for that. Tap or click here for more ways to tell if your computer or phone has been hacked.