Thursday, May 15, 2008

Spring Cleaning

The setting is 1998.  A man walks into a computer shop to buy a desktop for his High School bound child.  He walks into the computer department and is greeted with "Hello, is there anything I help you find today?"  The two get to talking and end up focusing on an HP desktop running the newest version of windows, Windows 98SE.  Looking down at the tag of specs he sees that the machine has a 40GB hard drive and the sales associate assures him ... "Oh, you will never need anything bigger than that."  So our unnamed consumer takes the computer home, sets it up and all is well in the world.  Two years later his child discovers Napster (back in the good old days).  The father starts to notice the computer is slowing down and when he checks the hard drive it has about 500mb of free storage!

Ok, I made this story up; however, it is a conglomeration of all the customers I talk to on a daily basis at Best Buy.  A few days ago I made the statement that computers are all very standard ... until we as consumers get our hands on them.  We download trial software, new backgrounds, mouse pointer manipulation software (whenever I see one of these I want to scream), custom icons, and the list goes on and on and on!  We load so much junk into our machines it is a wonder they don't implode and burst into flames!  While this is somewhat minimal for the average consumer who simply uses there computer for pleasure - it is quite catastrophic for the professional business owner who's livelihood rests on that box sitting on the floor.  When was the last time you skimmed through your My Documents folder for excess bloat, how long has it been since you pulled up "add remove programs" to see what is installed on your machine (or looked through the applications folder for Mac users).

Every 6 - 8 months I try to force my self to do the following:
  • delete random documents and downloads that I don't use or never used to begin with (the sheer number of these on my computer frightens me)
  • check for current drivers - we deal with mediocre performance on our machines because we are un-willing (or perhaps un-aware) to check a manufacturers website to make sure we are using the most up to date version of their software or drivers.
  • ARCHIVE, ARCHIVE, ARCHIVE!!!!!  If you don't have some kind of automated redundant backup system stop what you are doing right now I MEAN IT STOP!  And go to Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Circuit City, or wherever and buy a spindle of DVD-R disks.  Come home and backup your data.  I have had too many friends and customers lose data because a hard drive crashed or they got a HUGE virus ... it is not a matter of if it will will happen it is a matter of WHEN!  Backing up your files should be automated (I will go over how I do it in a future post next week); however, if you don't have the cash for an extra hard drive and backup software - pick up some blank DVDs and do it the old school way.  You can thank me later.
  • Evaluate your Anti-Virus & Anti-Spyware software (unless you are on a Mac).  Just because your software of choice was the best last year doesn't mean that something new hasn't broken out onto the scene.  Last year I would have recommended Trend Micro and Spysweeper (still great programs) - but now if I were to give you the best (my opinion) I would give you Kaspersky Anti-Virus.
  • How long has it been since you had a fresh OS install?  If it has been more than 2 years you are due.  Take a 3 day weekend and just do it - make sure you backup first :-)
These are the things I look for - I am sure some of you have additional ways to do the same thing - feel free to share them in the comments.  Well, I am off to the rest of my day.  See you guys tomorrow.

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