Spring Cleaning

It's that time of year again. This year I'm going through my list of programs and online services that I use regularly. If you call me and say, “Hey, Answer Guy, my computer's slow. What do I do?” This list is where I start. If you're a regular reader of my column then some of these are going to be old news for you. Don't stop looking though as 'go to' programs do change over time.

CCleaner - from Piriform – www.piriform.com/ccleaner. This old standby is still one of the best prorgrams around for finding and removing the inevitable detritus that ends up on your computer. The two most important modes are the Cleaner which finds old files, temporary files, etc. and removes them. And a registry cleaner, which finds invalid entries and removes them. I've seen people get back 10GB of hard drive space with this program.

Microsoft Security Essentials – from Microsoft – windows.microsoft.com/mse. This is the new go to virus scanner. It's free. It's good. It doesn't annoy you. It's truly set it and forget it software. Okay, it does occasionally, about every month or so, remind you it would be a good idea to scan your computer. If you're paying for virus software, you can save your money. Just one small reminder: don't install two anti-virus programs on your computer. They will compete for resources and slow your computer down. Always uninstall old anti-virus software before installing new anti-virus program.

Defraggler – Piriform – www.piriform.com/defraggler. This is another old standby that's only purpose is to reorganize your files on your hard drive to make loading faster. The value of this program increases with the age of your computer. Run this every month or so. Just pick a drive and defrag. Note you only need to do this on drives with spinning platters. Don't use this on USB drives. And don't use this on your brand spanking new solid state drive (SSD).

Update Checker – FileHippo – www.filehippo.com/updatechecker/. This program scans your computer to see if you have any out of date software. It's not perfect and doesn't check everything, but it's pretty good. Note, you don't always want to update your software. Always check to see if licensing, costs or requirements have changed before updating.

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who have not yet experienced the nauseating feeling of realizing their dead hard drive contained every single photo of their children and every single email they've ever sent; and then there are those who regularly backup.

If you have not yet gone out and purchased an external backup drive then at least get an online backup working for you. Companies like DropBox.com, Sugarsync.com and now even Apple with their iCloud have online backup storage available.

These are online storage services. You install the program on your computer, pick some directories on your computer to be synchronized and then wait for a few minutes for the files to be synced. Now you can access those files from any computer you can install the software on. All three let you access files from your iPad, Mac or PC. You do have to be cautious, as you only have between 2 and 5 GB, which seems like a lot, but can be eaten up quickly with photos and videos. Even so you can backup the most important stuff. Documents, email files, important photos, etc.

Speaking of backup, if you're a gmail user I have discovered a new backup program for your email. It's called, wait for it, Gmail Backup. http://www.gmail-backup.com/ It's pretty straight-forward. Just make sure to use your full email address and go. It gets email one at a time, so it will take a while the first time, but after that it only downloads new ones.