Spring cleaning tends to elicit images of washing windows, airing out linens (who has ‘linens’, anyway?), and shredding old paperwork after filing taxes. Boring but necessary, right? What you might not realize is how important it is to also perform a routine deep clean of the digital files stored on your computer, external hard drives, smartphones, and other devices. As with other types of spring cleaning, it’s a good idea to purge out ‘invisible clutter’ once in a while. Excess, outdated, and potentially security-threatening information overflowing the edges of your devices and online accounts isn’t something you’re visibly confronted with like a pile of old clothing, but this type of clutter can cost you much more in terms of device and account space, ease of retrieving current files, accurate personal information, and cyber security. Here’s how to perform a deep clean of your digital life (besides signing up for Easynews now).
1. Create Space by Decluttering, Deleting, Compressing, and Organizing
You probably don’t have to look far to find a folder, inbox, account, or device that is nearly at capacity. Have you received any nasty reminders from your email program threatening to withhold mail until you make space? Is your Dropbox constantly full? Are you getting dangerously close to the memory limit on your laptop or smartphone because you’re storing too many files? All these are signs you’re overdue for a good deep clean. If the thought of tackling masses of information overwhelms you, start by decluttering one category a week. Get yourself in spring cleaning mode by asking yourself these hard questions:
- Did I use it in the last year?
- Do I have duplicate copies?
- Do I really need to keep this e-receipt from 2012?
You’ll also do yourself a favor by establishing new habits to create less digital clutter in the future, such as:
- Unsubscribing to newsletters, retail sites, and tagging junk mail as spam
- Restricting new downloads until you’ve sorted/used/viewed what you already have
Cleaning out digital files – including entire programs or applications you don’t need – will not only save you storage, but time looking for what you actually use on a regular basis. You’re less likely to accidentally delete something important if you’re regularly sorting and safely filing instead of mass-deleting out of desperation for space.
2. Back Up Important Files in More than One Location
This is pretty straight forward. We could all tell personal horror stories of losing photos, writing, projects, or other important documents because our computer or portable device crashed. This is why it’s vital to back up important files either on an Internet-based service (Dropbox, iCloud, etc.), external hard drives, memory cards, or USB storage devices. That being said, don’t store all your storage devices in one location, either!
3. Make Sure Your Digital Self is Your Real Self
Go ahead and Google yourself. You might be surprised at what you find! Checking your cyber reflection will reveal any outdated, inaccurate or embarrassing information that needs to be corrected. Both your professional and social life will thank you now and in the future. This could include updating your LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blog, and other social media profiles – basically, any memberships that reveal personal information.
4. Secure Your Identity and Finances
Is your virus and malware protection software updated and active? If you have to stop and think about it, then probably not. The time we spend on the Internet, including browsing and downloading creates a window of vulnerability to increasingly intelligent and sneaky hackers. Follow these four steps to ensure your information stays safe:
- Make sure your computer and smartphone’s security settings are high, and don’t let browsers remember your passwords. Sure, it’s convenient…convenient for the hacker who wants in to your bank account!
- Secondly, don’t use the same username and password for all your accounts. It’s like handing over the combination to the jackpot of your personal information. Instead, use a password manager like LastPass to keep your credentials in check.
- Remember to also log–out of your accounts every time you use them, and don’t access them on public WiFi. It’s also a good idea to clear your browser history and cache from time to time.
- When you upgrade devices, don’t just throw the old ones away. Even if you’ve wiped the data, there are still ways for hackers to get your information. Have a professional clear them, or have them shredded. The Better Business Bureau even hosts free semi-annual shredding services, called Secure Your ID days. Check to see when the next event occurs in your state.
Have you successfully completed a Digital Deep Cleaning recently? Share your story with the rest of Easynews in the comment section below!
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