5 Ways to Spring Clean your Digital World

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5 Ways to Spring Clean your Digital World

Happy 4th Monday, everyone! I hope things are warming up where you are. This past weekend in the San Francisco Bay Area, the weather looked like this:

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So naturally I spent the whole weekend outdoors getting a darling little sunburn, and didn’t accomplish any of my boring, inside chores.  Around here, weather like that means one exciting thing: Spring. And probably Global Warming. But mostly Spring. It’s finally, really here.  And I love it.

As most of you know, every month I pop in to chat about something techy. Last month I spoke about different types of fitness bands for those of you interested in a post-winter fitness makeover. This month, I thought we’d put the new toys on the back burner, and reflect on how to manage what you already have.

So, without further adieu, here are my top 5 tips for Spring Cleaning your tech gadgets.

  1. Clean out that charger-cable shoebox.  It’s really as easy as that. For anyone who has upgraded a phone, gotten a new camera, or any gadget really – the buyback programs for replaced technology are finally picking up. (I sold back my old iPhone for USD $150 last month!) BUT that leaves all your accessories collecting dust in some dark, desolate corner of the closet. Spring is the perfect time to take a moment or two and sort through what you don’t need.  What to do with all your outdated cords? You could give them out to your friends, or donate them to a thrift store. Whatever you do, DON’T TRASH THEM. Because of the electrical components they contain – these cables are considered e-waste.  If any are frayed at the connections, or have cracks in the plastic coating, make sure you get them to an e-waste facility in your area. Why? Because it’s what Captain Planet would do, that’s why. 

  1. Show your computer some love. Do you realize how much dust can accumulate inside the shell of your computer? A freaking boatload. If you have a desktop tower, pop the side off it and give it a little compressed air spray down. Be careful not to get the oils from your hands on any of the components inside – and make sure you aren’t carrying any static electricity – unless your goal is to erase your hard drive as well. (An easy way to ground yourself before touching ANY of the internal components is simply to touch the metal frame of the computer while it’s plugged in.  Any static electricity you may be harboring will be discharged via the alternating current – AC – of your wall socket.) If you have a laptop computer, or are wary of poking around inside your desktop – schedule an appointment at an electronics store. If it’s a Mac – sometimes the Apple store will clean out the machine for free. Remember, always use a lint free cloth for displays – regular rags or paper towels will leave scratches. And NEVER spray any cleaner directly on the machine. Any liquid that gets underneath your keyboard or in your computer will almost always damage the device.  Have one of those super swanky, white Apple keyboards? Is it absolutely filthy because you can’t help but snack while you work? Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser will get all that grime off your once-white keys and make them shine like they did right out of the box. Just remember to dampen, not drench, the sponge, and squeeze out all the excess liquid. Because, say it with me now, any liquid that gets inside the electronic components will absolutely break and murder your computer and make you cry a river of sadness.

  1. Back up that important data. Remember that novel you started working on last year? The one that is surely the definition of literary gold? Pray tell – how many copies of that file do you have? Just the one sitting on the hard drive you’re about to get your static-ridden, oily fingers all over? STOP EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW. It’s always a good idea to keep multiple copies of documents/media files in different places. For any of you digital creative types, you know the pain of losing a work in progress and having to start over. Invest in an external hard drive to keep in a separate place to back up and archive your work.  Going through this process will also give you a chance to clean out some of the older, not so significant files you’re still holding on to. Just like we all have to let go of that favorite pair of sneakers that we’ve worn a hole through so badly that your big toe sticks out of the front – sometimes we hold on to drafts or revised files for way past their termination date. You don’t need 8 copies of a draft of an article you didn’t end up going with – and even though it’s mere kilobytes of data, that space adds up fast. NOTE: If you do have an external hard drive that you use solely for backup storage, remember to run it at least once every three months. Think of your hard drive like the self-charging battery in your car – the gears inside are self-lubricating, but they can only do that when the wheels are spinning. Simply plugging in and turning on the hard drive will allow all the mechanical components inside to exercise and self-maintain. Neglecting to do this will eventually cause the internal parts to rust, and corrupt the data. Which would be the opposite point of an archive.

  1. Organize your music. This might be directed at my fellow OCDers – but I’m still going to suggest it. When music is written to CDs, or printed as an MP3- there is a tiny data file encoded inside the tracks that identify the artist, song name, year published, etc. That’s how your car’s stereo knows the name of the song, or how iTunes can sort the artist before uploading the disc. For those of you House Granger’s out there – there was a time when a person had to go and type all of that data in herself. It was an awful time. Consider yourself fortunate. However, sometimes the files are encoded differently, and aren’t universally readable. Or sometimes you disagree with the genre or classification of the album. Well, spring is as good a time as any to go through your music library and make those changes. In iTunes, which I believe about 95% of the world is probably using at this point, you can edit songs independently, or entire albums.Right-click (or control-click) on either the album or the specific song, and select “Get Info”Screen shot 2014-03-22 at 6.18.17 PMIf you’re editing a whole album, it will alert you that you are about to edit “multiple items.” If you’re editing the details for one song, it will simply show this.Screen shot 2014-03-22 at 6.18.58 PMAnd just like that, you can now move through your library easier – and even shuffle by genre, or artist, and get more along the lines of what you were expecting, rather than trying to play your “singer-songwriter” genre, and getting Rihanna. Nope, not the mood I was in, iPod. But thanks for playing.
  1. Remove old apps and embrace app folders. I believe that currently on my iPhone 5s, I have no fewer than 532 apps. I NEED ALL OF THEM. No, I really don’t. In actuality, I only use about 8 on a regular basis. There’s a bit of a gap in those two numbers, I think. So while we’re in cleaning mode, let’s tidy up the mobile device as well. Go through your home screens and get rid of apps that had a one-time use a while ago type vibe to them. I downloaded a notes app that I used once and then forgot about. Probably don’t need to hang on to that for another year, right? I also hung on to a city public transit guide for a year after I had moved out of the city. We in the industry call this digital hording. It’s not cute. It should get a show on A&E, too. Not sure if you’re ready to let go yet? Clean up the home screen at least by grouping related apps in folders. Put all your music players together, or all the apps you use for work. Go ahead and move all 12 of your health and fitness-related apps into one place. When you want them, they’re all right there. When inevitably you don’t want to be reminded of calorie counting when you’re googling “cake store 24hr san Francisco” – you don’t have to see the guilt-ridden face of that particular app. Everybody wins. For those of you interested, I was unable to find a 24-hour shop that serves cake in the Bay Area. So, anyone want to Kickstarter that with me?

 

The good news is that the majority of these tasks really won’t take much time, and will help you in the long run. When it comes to spring cleaning, these are super minimal, and actually a great way to stay on top of the well being of your Internet machines. Because if we lose our gateway to the Internet, we might as well just call it quits on life in general, am I right?! I’m right. 

By |2014-10-21T15:37:06+00:00March 24th, 2014|Technology, Tutorials & DIY|4 Comments

About the Author:

Eleanor Thibeaux lives in the Northern California Bay Area with her computers and coffee maker. As an Audio Engineer and Producer by day, her love of and obsession with gadgets and technology is obvious; her sizable collection of superhero themed coffee mugs that can no longer be contained in one cabinet is not. She does what she wants. No regrets.