Keeping Your Computer Healthy

If you’re reading this, you probably have a computer of some kind, whether it is a desktop or laptop, or perhaps it’s a tablet or smartphone. Or, if you’re like most folks, some combination of these handy devices.

Whatever type or types you use, keeping them working well has become a part of everyday life. So, here are some things to do to keep your “computer” (phone, tablet, PC, whatever) healthy.

1. Backup

You’ve heard this before, but the number one thing to do to protect your computer (and the #1 thing not done) is to regularly, automatically back up all your data. True, this doesn’t really keep your computer healthy, per se, but it does protect your documents and photos and such in the case of your computer’s loss or failure.

The easiest way to make backups is automatically to an account in the cloud. This way, whenever you add or edit something on your computer, it will automatically be put in safe keeping in your account online. Ready anytime to download and restore in case of system failure.

For tablets and phones, make use of the iCloud (Apple) and Google Drive (Android) features that are free with your devices. For computers, consider an automatic backup service such as “Carbonite.” These do require a paid subscription, but the peace of mind is worth it!

2. Keep It Clean

There’s two parts to this: actual dirt and data clutter.

For the actual dirt, on all devices, dirt and debris can get into little spaces and clog things up – messing up your keyboard or plugging the vents where the computer breathes to keep itself cool. Tablets and phones don’t have these, but the little holes for the microphones and cameras and such can collect debris, too. Use a Q-Tip or lint-free cloth, very lightly moistened – NOT WET – to gently clean the spaces between keys and in the little holes for mics and cameras. (Be very gentle with the camera – the lens on it can be scratched.)

You can also use the lightly moistened cloth to clean screens on your phones, tablets, and even computer screens. Do not use commercial cleaners – they can damage the surface of your screen.

For air vents on PCs and laptops, the easiest way to clean them is with a can of compressed air (you can pick one up at Staples or BestBuy) and a vacuum. There may be a lot of dust that gets blown out, so, what I do is hold the vacuum hose on one side of the vents and then use the air can to blow into another side.

3. Clear Out Your Data Junk and Old Emails

Computers are made to store a huge amount of stuff for you, so don’t hesitate to make your device do its job. But it is a job – everything that you save gets “indexed” by the system, just to make it easier for you to find it later. The more that is saved, the bigger the job. So, every now and then, go through the junk folders like the “Downloads” – a well-known clutter collector – and delete the things that you don’t need any more.

Photo storage is another place that picks up clutter, usually in the form of duplicates. Some photo apps even have a feature to help you find duplicates. Use that feature, and clear the clutter. Your computer will thank you by running just a little faster for you.

And email! That big BOLD number in your email inbox is the number of emails that you have never opened. You never opened them and, so far, no harm has come. So just delete them. Right now. Your system will be much more responsive if you’ll just empty out your email.

4. Avoid “Helpers” and Browser Extensions

There are always offers to help you shop for the best deal, or find coupons, or to keep you abreast of the latest weather info. DON’T USE THEM. These things will highjack your web searches and collect all sorts of info about you. (And then sell that info to who-knows-who.) From a technical point of view, they will slow down your computer. A lot.

5. Anti-Malware

Make sure that you have a good, working, and up-to-date anti-malware program on your computer. You don’t have to buy one; there are several excellent ones that do the needed work for free. Windows 10 comes with “Defender,” but for older computers you can use Avast or AVG Free. For Macs, try “Sophos.” For tablets and phones, there are a few: I use Avast, myself.

6. Things You Don’t Need Anymore

There used to be things that you needed to do to keep your computer running smoothly, particularly for Windows. Things like regularly “defragging” – defragmenting – your hard drive. Happily with Windows 8 and 10, defragging drives is all done automatically these days.

Hoping, as always, that this is all quite clear and useful; nevertheless if I can fill in some details or help with anything on your computers, please don’t hesitate to call.

Mike Pepper, The Computer Guy, has been providing software and hardware support in New York and Connecticut for more than 35 years. He can be reached at (845) 855-5824, or