Your Computer Is Like Your Car: 7 Ways to Keep It Running Smoothly

By George Otte

Your car gets you from Point A to Point B. Your computer puts a world of information at your fingertips.

At first glance, the two couldn’t be more different. Your car is mobile, while your desktop computer is stationary and your laptop only goes where you carry it.

Yet your computer and your car have more in common than you realize. Both require regular care and maintenance to remain in good working order. If used improperly or left to languish for too long, both can fail before their time.

Every car owner has a basic understanding of their vehicle’s maintenance needs, even if they don’t feel comfortable getting under the hood themselves. Every computer user deserves to have the same basic breadth of knowledge about maintaining their machine, even if they don’t know a circuit board from a CPU.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at seven straightforward computer maintenance tips and tasks that can extend your computer’s lifespan and improve its performance for years to come.

1. Physically Clean Your Machine

Unlike cars, computers don’t need oil changes; however, they do need physical care from time to time. This is doubly true if your computer lives in a room with more than its fair share of dust, you have shedding pets such as cats and long-haired dogs, or you eat regularly around your computer. Proper physical care includes:

  • Using an approved screen cleaning solution and soft cloth to clean your monitor
  • Using a gentle cleaning solution to polish your computer’s hard surfaces
  • Using dampened cotton swabs to remove crumbs from your keyboard
  • Use a dampened cloth or air compressor to clean dust from your cooling fan outlets

2. Implement a Cord Management System

Depending on how much equipment you have in your computer area, you may have more cords than you can comfortably manage. If that’s the case, you need an effective cord management system that organizes all those wires and keeps them from impeding your workflow. There’s no one right answer here—you can use twist ties, string, wall fixtures or even fast-drying putty to keep your cords in a tight, untangled bundle.

3. Buy (And Update) Anti-Virus Software

If you’re not already using an anti-virus or anti-malware program, start researching your options. The digital world is crawling with potential threats to your computer, and many don’t immediately make themselves apparent.

When you first install your new program, run a full system scan to identify any threats already “living” on your computer. Then, run periodic scans (your program may do this automatically) and set your program to auto-update as new patches become available. You may have to pay for a quality anti-malware app, but you’ll thank yourself if and when your program thwarts a serious threat.

4. Delete Duplicate or Junk Files

Just as your car’s gas tank has a finite capacity, your computer’s hard drive can only hold so much information. Make sure you’re maximizing your available space by periodically deleting duplicate files, files you rarely or never use, and large files that you’ve backed up elsewhere. You may need to call on a professional to help, as it’s important not to delete essential files whose absence can threaten your system.

5. Continue Auditing Your System

Even if you don’t regularly delete programs and files, you want to check up on your computer system at regular intervals—just as you check your oil levels in between oil changes or scheduled maintenance visits to the garage. Also, if you’re using an older machine with a mechanical hard drive, you’ll need to periodically defragment your hard drive to boost its performance. (If you have a newer machine with a solid-state drive, you may still need to defragment, but many SSD computers do so automatically.)

6. Back Up Your Data

Your data is too precious to store in a single place. Instead of relying solely on your computer’s hard drive, you should back up your most important documents and bits of personal information to a secure cloud storage system and a physical storage device, such as a thumb drive. If you have concerns about backing up your data in the cloud, speak with a computer maintenance professional—while cloud storage is generally secure, the occasional breach reminds us that you can’t be too careful.

7. Reinstall Your Operating System

If your computer’s performance is really substandard, a defragging session might not be enough to restore the machine to its former glory. A complete uninstallation and reinstallation of your operating system may be warranted. If you’re not technically proficient, don’t attempt this on your own, as there’s a lot to keep straight during the process. A computer repair professional can easily assist.

Technologies Existent or Heretofore Created

In legal contracts, it’s commonplace to see vague language about “technologies existent or heretofore created,” or some variation thereof.

That’s not just legalese. The point is that technology is unlikely to stay the same as it was when the contract was signed. If new, pertinent technologies (or modifications to existing technologies) are developed while the contract remains valid, the contract’s terms must cover those technologies as well. Otherwise, the agreement has a glaring loophole: It applies only to gadgets that exist in the present, not gadgets that may arise in the future.

It’s like having one set of rules for the iPhone 6 and a completely different set for the iPhone 7. That’s not fair, is it?

By the same token, the tips and tricks outlined above pertain mainly to desktop computers, laptops and mobile devices. They don’t cover certain other, newer technologies that already exist in the marketplace, such as smartwatches, or products that remain in development, such as augmented reality glasses. It’ll be exciting to see how those new technologies develop in the years ahead—and to learn all the unique strategies their users can employ to keep them running smoothly and effectively.

Do You Need a Virtual Private Network? And Other Cybersecurity Tips

By George Otte

How to prevent information from falling into the wrong hands online.

When every week brings fresh news of big-time data breaches and targeted cyberattacks, it’s tempting to assume that there’s nothing you can do to keep your most intimate details safe from people who want to do you harm.

Fortunately, the truth is a bit rosier. While there’s no way to guarantee safety and security on the digital web, it’s absolutely possible to reduce your risk.

One of the most effective forms of protection—one that’s surprisingly, not very well known—is a virtual private network, or VPN. While it’s not a cure-all (nothing is), a VPN can significantly improve your security as you browse the internet, especially if you’re downloading files, streaming video, accessing websites banned by your employer or local government, or simply trying to have a private conversation without strangers listening in.

More About VPNs

Lifehacker defines a virtual private network as “a group of computers (or discrete networks) networked together over a public network—namely, the internet.” Larger enterprises and government agencies often use their own VPNs, but retail users can access “public” VPNs—VPNs open to anyone with proper credentials—for a recurring fee or an agreement to accept certain types of advertising.

On a technical level, VPNs are quite complex, but their outcomes are easy to understand. First and foremost, VPNs encrypt your traffic such that it’s virtually impossible for outside observers to see what you’re doing online. Also, most VPNs use multiple servers in a variety of locations, often in different countries, and change your IP address in a way that makes it difficult or impossible to ascertain your true location. You can often choose which server to use—and, therefore, where you appear to be.

In other words, VPNs are great for keeping your geographical location and general online activities secret, or at least less public than usual.

Why You Should Probably Use a VPN

What if you have nothing to hide and don’t regularly access sensitive or personal data online? Is it still important to maintain security and secrecy in the digital realm?

Yes, for a number of reasons. Here’s a look at some of the most common reasons to use a VPN:

  • You Travel Internationally: If you travel abroad often for business, a VPN can keep you in touch with goings-on back home via social media sites that may be blocked by government firewalls where you are. It can also keep you up to date on American (or other countries’) shows and movies, which aren’t available in many countries due to licensing arrangements. Simply use a U.S.-based VPN server and you’ll be able to watch just like you would at home.
  • You Don’t Want Others To See That You’ve Been Reading Up on Them: With some effort, website administrators can identify individual visitors and review their on-site activities. A VPN obscures your identity, making it impossible for business competitors, job candidates and others to see that you’ve been checking up on them.
  • You Use Public Wi-Fi Often: Public Wi-Fi networks aren’t secure, meaning anyone can see data transmitted over them. Whenever you use public Wi-Fi, you should use a VPN.
  • Have a Firewall: Many computers have firewalls that prevent users from accessing certain websites while logged in to their network. A VPN helps you circumvent such restrictions, which are sometimes detrimental to legitimate work duties (for instance, conducting research on a blocked website).

Other Tips To Stay Safe and Secure Online

What else can you do to protect yourself and your family online? Keep these four simple strategies in mind.

  • Switch Up Your Passwords: Passwords matter. To reduce the risk that hackers and other malicious folks will guess your password outright, avoid weak or obvious passwords such as “password123” or your last name. Likewise, use a different password for each important account; that way, even if one of your passwords is discovered, it won’t singlehandedly unlock your entire online ecosystem. Finally, change up your passwords frequently—quarterly or better. If one of your passwords is stolen, it won’t necessarily be correct by the time the thief uses it.
  • Use an Anti-Malware Program: VPNs are secure, but they’re not foolproof. Add another layer of protection with an anti-malware program that identifies and blocks potential threats, such as viruses, worms, trojans, phishing links and more. Such programs can cost $50 or more per year, but they’re well worth the expense.
  • Look for SSL Certificates: Be careful about downloading or entering personal data on websites without up-to-date SSL certificates, which use a powerful protocol to encrypt and secure data transmitted to and from the site. Most browsers clearly distinguish secure sites from non-secure sites with lock icons or the word “secure” in the URL bar. You can also verify that the URL is preceded by “https”—a signifier of SSL protection.
  • Be Careful What You Download: A VPN might hide your true location or identity from prying eyes, but it can’t protect you from the nasty malware that may or may not lurk inside the files you download. There’s a whole universe of dodgy programs, from ransomware that literally holds your computer system hostage to trojans that turn your computer into a spam-producing zombie machine. Even if you have a top-notch VPN and an up-to-date anti-malware program, avoid downloading anything whose provenance you can’t confirm 100 percent.

An Ounce of Prevention…

As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Even if you have to pay $100 per year for a VPN and $50 per year for an anti-malware suite, that’s small change compared to the potential cost (in dollar terms, stress and aggravation, and lost time) of a major data breach.

Rather than log in to your online bank account to find zeroes where your balance should be, wouldn’t you rather take proactive steps to protect yourself and your family online before anything bad happens? Get started today—and look forward to your newfound peace of mind.

George Otte’s Top 4 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your iPad

You bought a new iPad, unwrapped it from that shiny packaging, and are finally ready to take it for a test drive. There’s only one problem: you have no idea what to start. They didn’t offer Tablets 101 when you were in school, at least not in any of the official course catalogs. So what’s a discouraged iPad newbie to do?

First, don’t give up or let your inexperience get you down. As long as you’re willing to do things just a bit differently than in the past, it’s easy to pick up the iPad. And, if you’re willing to learn a few new tricks, iPad mastery is well within your reach — even if “tech savvy” is that last word anyone would use to describe you.

There are more iPad tricks out there than you can shake a stick at. Start with these four favorites of entrepreneur and computer guru George Otte:

  1. Leverage Multitouch Gesture Capabilities

Multitouch what? Yes, like your smartphone, the iPad has a responsive touch screen. That’s great news for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the incredible power of multitouch gesture. You can unlock numerous functions and shortcuts with a few swipes of your finger(s), including:

  • Swipe up from the screen bottom with one finger to reveal frequently used settings and other useful features
  • Swipe upward with four fingers anywhere on the screen to unhide the multitasking bar
  • Pinch four fingers together on the screen to close the app you’re currently working in
  1. Turn Down Your Screen’s Brightness for Longer Battery Life

This one is head-slappingly simple, but often overlooked. Turning down your screen’s brightness can boost your iPad’s battery life by a significant margin — a tremendous benefit on long trips or remote areas.

  1. Swipe to Switch Apps

If you think of your iPad as a rotating app carousel, the swipe-left/swipe-right feature will make more sense. To switch between running apps, simply place four fingers on the screen and move them right (to unlock the app to the “left”) or left (to unlock the app to the “right”). No more closing apps every time you want to switch or dealing with a confusing task bar!

  1. Unlock the Power of Triple Clicking

You’ve heard of double clicking, but what about…triple clicking?

Yep, it’s a thing. On the iPad, at least. Once you turn on triple clicking functionality in your settings menu, you can tap the home button three times and unlock a bevy of cool features. For instance, triple clicking allows you to invert your screen colors (for a striking, super-fun look) or activate your iPad’s VoiceOver function (which provides audible cues as you navigate your operating system). Try it for yourself!

Not the Only Tricks in the iPad Book

As noted, these aren’t the only five iPad tricks in the book. There’s plenty more you can do to get the most out of your sleek new (or refurbished) tablet. If you’re serious about squeezing the most value out of your iPad, don’t hesitate to consult an expert who knows iPads for more guidance. After all, you’ll never know if you don’t ask.

How Vulnerable Is Your Home Network, Really?

Your home is your castle. At least, that’s what you’ve been told all these years. What if an invisible threat lurked in the digital plumbing that connects it to the wider world?

Among cybersecurity experts like George Otte, there’s growing alarm that home wireless networks simply aren’t as safe as many people assume. That’s a problem, because poorly defended networks expose users to all sorts of scary risks.

Here’s a look at why your home network might be more exposed than you realize…and a few tips for fixing that ASAP.

Shaky Credentials?

Your home wireless network’s most vulnerable point is its router. That’s because millions of home routers retain their default credentials — the password that allows administrative access to the machine and protects against unauthorized use. If hackers someone become aware of your router’s default credentials (and they’re not hard for seasoned cybercriminals to uncover), they can use your router to infect your home devices with all manner of nasty malware.

Why Home Network Hacking Matters

Home network hacking isn’t just a problem for the individual users it affects. If your home network is compromised, your devices can spread malware far and wide — to anyone in your email contacts and to other computers on the public wireless networks you use, to name but two avenues. In other words, you could unwittingly become a vector for cybercriminals.

How to Protect Your Router

Fortunately, securing a home wireless network is a straightforward affair. The simplest step you can take is simply to change the default credentials on your router. You can also set up WPA encryption for your router, which doesn’t require expert-level tech savvy. These two steps are likely to prevent the most basic, common attacks.

For a more robust approach to home network protection, use an OpenDNS server that protects you from some of the threats on your default server. You can also disable remote admin access (if enabled), further choking off entry to your network. Finally, you can use open-source firmware (or simply keep your firmware up to date) rather than rely on manufacturer firmware that may be out of date by the time it reaches you.

Threats Abound

It’s often said that the cybersecurity landscape resembles an arms race between two mortal enemies. As each side fights for position, advancing and retreating across a scarred battlefield, the real casualties are all too often rank-and-file technology users who just want to be left to surf the Web in peace.

Given the proliferation of digital threats out there, it’s important not to put too much stock in any one threat over any other. Home wireless networks might be a key vulnerability for average Web users. But there are plenty of other threats — unsecured public networks, phishing scams, trojans and who knows what else. As a concerned user, the best thing you can do is be aware of as many threats as you can, and vigilant to suspicious activity that could presage something worse to come..

These 5 Computer Viruses Were Really, Truly Awful

These days, the world’s scariest viruses often don’t always attack the human body. Some attack the digital infrastructure that we depend on for, well, just about everything. Computer viruses — and trojans, worms and other nasty pieces of malware — are the next frontier in global “health.”

Not all computer viruses are super-widespread or destructive. Some infect a few machines locally, then die out, go dormant or otherwise become inactive.

Some, though, wreak havoc across frighteningly wide geographies. Viruses have been responsible for some of the worst data breaches in history and have sapped untold billions of dollars from the global economy. Even the world’s best digital minds struggle to keep up with the relentless barrage of new digital treats.

There are plenty of contenders for “worst computer virus of all time,” but these five stand head and shoulders above the rest. Have you come face to face with any of these in your digital travels?

  1. Melissa

Named for a Florida stripper, Melissa actually wasn’t intended to cause havoc. Back in the late 1990s, when Internet pornography was still pretty novel, Melissa was conceived as a self-replicating file containing special passwords to nearly 100 adult websites. However, its self-replication capabilities proved overwhelming, and it quickly infected millions of machines across the United States — leading Microsoft to shut down its email servers for a time.

  1. My Doom

Unleashed in 2004, My Doom still holds the “world’s fastest-spreading virus” title. It ultimately infected 1 in 12 computers worldwide, a shocking total in any era, and forced Google to shut down for a full day. Worse, the authorities never caught the perpetrators. They could be working on their follow-up right now.

  1. Klez

2001’s Klez was the most sophisticated virus to date. It selected the optimal transmission method based on network and machine characteristics, and was one of the first viruses to effectively employ spoofing. Subsequent viruses copied many of its tricks.

  1. Nimda

Released in 2001, Nimda was one of the first viruses to affect cell phones (though, due to the low number of Internet-connected phones at the time, the damage was minimal). More notably, it affected backend systems across the web, throwing corporate operations into a cocked hat.

  1. SQL Slammer

SQL Slammer spread across the world in 2003, causing more than $1 billion in economic damages due to disrupted air travel systems, email servers and financial systems. It took Bank of America’s ATM network offline temporarily and caused Continental to cancel a handful of flights, disrupting thousands of travel plans.

No Rest for the Digital Weary

Sure as the sun rises, new digital threats will rear their ugly heads in the years to come. Some might make the malware described above seem quaint and mild by comparison. It’s critical for all Internet users, no matter how little they know about technology or how carefully they surf the Web, to stay vigilant. As the Boy Scouts say, “Always be prepared.”

Embrace the Tablet Revolution with These 4 iPad Tips

The iPad is an incredible piece of hardware that combines the computing power of a desktop with the (almost) mobility of a smartphone. Once you get the hang of it, it’s hard not to love the device’s simplicity and versatility.

Then again, we’re not born with iPads in our hands. The device’s basic interface and lesser quirks take some getting used to, particularly for users more comfortable with desktops, laptops or mainframes (just kidding). If you’re looking to embrace the iPad revolution without tearing your hair out in the process, follow these four simple iPad tips.

  1. Know the Difference Between “Suspend” and Reboot

Rebooting your iPad is the single most effective way to solve minor user experience problems, such as lags or freezes in open programs. Unfortunately, it’s easy to confuse the reboot function with “suspend” mode. To reboot, hold down the sleep/wake button until you’re shown the shutdown menu, then follow the instructions. Once the screen is completely black, wait a few moments and hold down sleep/wake until the Apple logo appears.

  1. Use Autocorrect If You’re in a Rush

Most old-school computing devices lack an autocorrect feature — a significant inconvenience for rushed typists, particularly when they’re used to thumbing out short notes and messages on their smartphones. Happily, the iPad does have autocorrect. Score!

  1. AirPlay Lets You Stream on Demand

If you’re within WiFi range of an Apple TV device, the AirPlay feature (denoted by a rectangle-triangle icon) lets you stream media from your iPad direct to your TV. Small screen, meet big screen!

  1. There’s a Find My iPad, Too

If you’re an iPhone user, you probably know about the “Find My iPhone” app. Maybe you’ve used it after misplacing your device a time or two. (No judgments here.)

Fewer people know that there’s also a “Find My iPad” feature. While it’s slightly more difficult to lose your iPad, you never know when you’ll leave it in a gym back, at the office or in your car and forget about it until the next time you need it. “Find My iPad” ensures that you don’t have to worry about a permanently lost device. And if the feature suggests that you’ve been the victim of theft, it can help the authorities track the thief’s movements.

Never Stop Learning

On the one hand, it’s hard to believe the iPad has been around since 2010. Despite the fact that it’s ubiquitous in the workplace and nearly so in the home, Apple’s sleek tablet still seems futuristic to folks used to laptops and desktops.

On the other hand, it’s hard to believe the iPad has only been around for a few years. During its short public life, the device has revolutionized personal computing — creating a host of new applications and opportunities for creative users.

One thing is clear: Until something better comes along, the iPad is here to stay — in continually updating form, of course. If you love the current version of the iPad, you’re likely to embrace subsequent models. Make sure you’re staying on top of things as new features and functions emerge.

What’s your favorite part of iPad ownership?

Keep Grandma Safe in the Cloud with These 4 Easy Strategies

The elderly face a host of special perils that don’t affect younger adults, including age-related illnesses and injuries, discrimination in the workplace, and social isolation. It seems like the list gets longer each year.

Cyber Threats Disproportionately Affect the Elderly

Cyber-perils represent a growing threat for America’s senior citizens. As technology advances, crooks are only too happy to use it to prey on older folks, many of whom lack the technological sophistication and fluency that comes naturally to “digital natives” — people born after the advent of personal computing and 24/7 connectivity. People over age 65 are more likely to be victimized than members of younger generations.

Fortunately, older adults aren’t helpless in the face of digital threats. Education and preventive action can dramatically reduce the incidence of online fraud, theft and other forms of abuse. If you’re looking to protect yourself or a loved one from the digital dangers facing America’s aging population, these four precautions can help.

  1. Beware of Bogus Email Communications

Seniors are particularly vulnerable to email “phishing” scams. Phishing emails appear to originate from a trusted sender, like a bank or government office, and typically ask the recipient to confirm a password or piece of vital information by responding to the email or clicking a link. Most institutions and agencies explicitly avoid sending such communications — so if you or a loved one receives one, simply delete it.

  1. Avoid Hybrid Telemarketing / Online Financial Scams

When crooks get a hold of seniors’ phone numbers, they can mount multi-front attacks. An email purporting to be from a grandchild or cousin in prison, the hospital, or some other compromised situation might be followed up by a phone call requesting a hefty sum for bail, medical bills, or other expenses. Such requests are often accompanied by warnings not to try to contact the person by regular means (i.e., their cell phone) due to the embarrassing or dangerous nature of the situation. No matter what’s said, though, it’s likely to be a lie.

  1. Purchase Antivirus and Anti-Spyware Software

One of the most effective ways to avoid online fraud, abuse and financial loss is to purchase and keep current antivirus and anti-spyware software. For a reasonable fee, such programs provide 24/7 protection and automatically update to adjust to new threats. While antivirus protection doesn’t guarantee against a sophisticated hack or novel infection, the alternative — a completely defenseless computer — is far worse.

  1. Change Passwords Frequently

Password protection is particularly important for seniors who use online banking and brokerage platforms, as well as those who store sensitive documents in the cloud. Bad actors who successfully relieve senior citizens of their passwords — whether through email phishing scams, covert hacking or direct contact — can wreak havoc on their finances and destroy their credit.

To reduce the risk of victimization, seniors should keep a different password for every portal and change them all each month. Random passwords that can’t be tied to a well-known fact or figure (such as kids’ or pets’ names) are generally more effective, too.

Online Threats Abound

These aren’t the only online threats faced by the elderly, of course. New perils are constantly coming to light, even as the “good guys” find and punish those responsible for perpetrating older scams. If you’re enjoying your golden years or have a loved one who’d like to do the same, remember this: The moment you stop paying attention to your online safety is the moment your safety is truly in jeopardy.

George Otte’s 10 Tips for Faster, Safer Tech This Year

When it comes to cleaning your computer of wasteful, performance-sapping programs and files, any time of year is a good time for a little spring cleaning.

As founder and president of Geeks on Site, a diversified onsite and remote tech support and computer repair service, George Otte, Miami computer expert, handles technological “spring cleaning” in every month of the year. Since getting into the computer repair business back in the early 2000s, Otte has learned that, given enough time, virtually everything that can go wrong with computer hardware and software eventually does.

Fortunately, Otte also knows how to get a computer back in fine form — and reduce the likelihood that similar problems will occur in the future. If you’re looking to give your computer or digital accessories a much-needed boost, follow George Otte’s top tech repair tips.

  1. Check Your Antivirus Subscription

An up-to-date antivirus subscription, which should include protection against other forms of malware as well, is your first line of defense against malicious threats that could sap your computing speeds and cause a host of other undesirable side effects.

George Otte recommends setting up your antivirus subscription to renew automatically on a monthly or annual basis. If you don’t already have a subscription, make sure you select one that offers protection against a wide variety of threats and automatically updates to account for new threats as they arise.

  1. Run Defragmentation

Defragmentation is a technical process that you can initiate from within your computer’s operating system. In layman’s terms, the goal is to consolidate the file structures and pathways on your computer’s hard disk to reduce the overall amount of work your computer needs to perform when executing routine tasks. Since full defragmentation can take hours and shouldn’t be interrupted, Otte recommends running your “defrag” overnight.

  1. Trim Unnecessary Startup Items

One of the best things about getting a new computer is the stunning speed with which it powers up from “off” or “sleep” mode for the first few weeks or months.

Unfortunately, that new computer speed doesn’t always last. According to Otte, aging computers fall victim to “slow startup syndrome” when their users allow programs to default-open during startup, wake, and operating system reboot cycles. To boost speed, only set programs to default-open at startup when absolutely necessary.

  1. Throw Out the Trash

When was the last time you emptied your operating system’s trash bin — or even deleted a file? Do yourself a favor and empty your trash / recycle bin during your next “spring cleaning.” It’s not like you’ll actually miss any of those files!

  1. Invest in Data and System Backup

As computer age, they become more vulnerable to data loss and system failure. If you don’t take steps to backup your important files and system functions, a crash could make it difficult or impossible to recover lost files — with potentially catastrophic personal and professional consequences. According to George Otte, physical (i.e. an external hard drive) and cloud (through a subscription service like Dropbox) backup are critical to protecting the integrity of your data.

  1. Add Working Memory

If quick fixes don’t seem to improve your computer’s run speed or performance, a lack of RAM could be the culprit. Talk to a computer repair expert to determine how much extra RAM your computer needs, then have a professional add it to your hard drive. You’ll be good to go in no time!

  1. Use Ad-Blocking and Spyware-Detection Programs

Ad-blocking and spyware-detection programs complement antivirus software to provide multi-layered protection and reduce the risk that your computer will fall victim to preventable performance drags. They can keep your personal information safe, too. George Otte recommends maintaining current ad-blocking and spyware-detection subscriptions with auto-update capabilities, if possible.

  1. Run Pending Updates

Many of George Otte’s clients have dozens or even hundreds of pending system updates that they’ve put off running. But automatically updating files is actually a great way to reduce system redundancy and free up much-needed disk space. Run updates overnight, when they’re least likely to interfere with your normal computing activities — and make sure to completely restart afterward.

  1. Manually Erase Files and Programs You Haven’t Used in a While

Emptying your trash bin isn’t the only way to relieve your computer of unnecessary or redundant files. During your spring-cleaning session, go through your program folders and clean out any files — or whole programs — that you no longer use. At the same time, group files that you still do use into logical folders for easy access — and easier deletion, when the time comes.

  1. Clear Your Cookies and Browsing History

According to Otte, making sure your Internet browsing cache is clear isn’t really about covering your online tracks. Clearing your cookies, browsing history and other stored browsing data is a great way to ensure that your browser isn’t hampered by unnecessary data.

Although the size of each piece of browsing information is inconsequential, heavy browsing over months or years can produce formidable caches that act as a drag on your browsing speeds. In fact, in the absence of an issue with your local network, a burdensome history is the single likeliest culprit for your subpar browsing speeds. If you don’t believe it, just watch how long it takes for your computer to erase all the files you’ve built up over the years.

Make a Day of It

George Otte is the first to admit that there aren’t always enough hours in the day to accomplish everything we’d like. That’s why he recommends setting aside a day every few months — the exact frequency depends on how much you use your devices and what they’re used for — for your very own high-tech “spring cleaning.” Put on some music, grab a cup of tea, and use this day to return your desktop, laptop and mobile devices to the peak of their potential.

When your friends and family members complain about their computers’ frustrating performance issues or grouse that they have to buy a new computer every 18 months, you’ll thank yourself for setting your devices up for success.



Image Attribution: ITU Pictures – Creative Commons license