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  • Writer's pictureNicky

How do you clean your computer?

Are you all as excited as me? That special day of the year is fast approaching, how are you going to celebrate?  What?  You don’t know what I am talking about.  Well in case you missed the bunting flying and the flag waving from cheery crowds of computer science technicians, the second Monday in February is … Clean Out Your Computer Day

No, to be honest I hadn’t heard of it either, until a few days ago.

It is not on most people’s calendars but it is something I will be celebrating this year.  We are fast approaching the half way point in our academic year and time to take stock and have a bit of a clean. February half term is an ideal time to have a go at the jobs you have been putting off and I have decided to take action.  

Ever wondered how you should clean your computer, well rest assured, here are the four things I will be doing to “celebrate” Clean Out Your Computer Day.

Step 1 - Clean the outside

The layer of crud that has accumulated on the outside of a computer is quite astounding. If, like me, you multitask and eat whilst also trying to get work done then the chances are there will be gunk stuck between the keys of your keyboard and a pattern of unidentifiable smudges decorating the screen.

Swinburne University of Technology in Australia found that keyboards can have very high levels of bacteria on them especially when shared with multiple people and research by University of Arizona researchers found that the average desktop has 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat. Even more worrying, Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital found that several DEADLY types of bacteria could survive for up to 24 hours on a keyboard. Yergh!

The best way to clean the outside of your computer is to switch it off at the wall, use a soft microfibre cloth and slightly dampen it with a 50/50 water to vinegar solution.  If it is still drips when squeezed, you have too much liquid and avoid using cleaning solutions as they can cause damage to the surfaces.

Gently wipe the flat surfaces but avoid going too close to the ports as you don’t want any liquid getting inside your machine.  Cleaning the screen is, of course, essential to get rid of the finger marks, but also don’t forget to clean the mouse. 

Next you need to get out all the layers of crumbs, hairs and other undesirable stuff from between the keys of your keyboard.  Turn the keyboard upside down and gently shake it to get rid of the larger debris.  I find a can of compressed air helps but if you don’t have one a hair dryer set to cool works too.  Use a cotton bud that is dipped in isopropyl alcohol and squeeze it to make sure it is only very slightly damp, you don’t want any liquid seeping into your keyboard. Navigate between the keys with your cotton bud, before using your soft cloth slightly dampened with alcohol to clean the top surface. The alcohol will kill much of the bacteria and dry very quickly.

Step 2 - Clean the inside

Now you can get to the dirt inside your computer.  Dust allows heat to build up which reduces the efficiency of your computer.  Remove the casing and use compressed air to dust the internal components of your computer with short bursts of air. Focus on the fan as that is where most of the grime will accumulate.  To really clean the fan you can use a soft brush to get into the nooks and crannies to budge any dirt that may be hiding there.  Now you have finished the physical cleaning you have only completed steps 2 of 4.

Step 3 - Go through your inbox

Once your computer is switched back on it is time to have a look at the files and data stored inside. Most of us are guilty of leaving messages in our inbox that we know we should get rid of.  Presently my inbox has 3,531 messages, many of them from Amazon giving me updates on orders, adverts from online stores I have bought from, possibly years ago, telling me about special discounts along with many, many automatic notifications telling me things from several months ago that I neither need to know about now or really cared about when they first arrived in my inbox.  I know I should have deleted most of them as soon as I received them but it is just easier to think, I’ll deal with that later.  Well this is later.  Deal with them now, don’t get side tracked again.

Create folders and move those messages you really need to keep and delete those you don’t need any more.  You can search for all the “Amazon” emails and delete them is chunks rather than dealing with one at a time but there is no getting around the fact that this is a laborious task.   

Now is ideally the time to make a vow to “action emails when you receive them” so you don’t end up in the same state in a couple of months’ time.  Either delete them immediately, move them to the correct folder to deal with later or take action straight away and then delete them.  You should also take this time to set up rules to automatically manage your incoming messages.  Create folders for the weekly staff bulletin or the Monday morning meeting agenda and move them to their own folder where, of course, you can read them at a time that suits you, alternatively move them straight to the junk mail folder where many of them rightly belong and hope that nobody ever asks you about them.

Step 4 - Clean up those files

In a Windows computer, launch the Disk Clean-up utility and erase all those temporary files, the CleanMyMac app on an Apple mac does the same thing. This can improve the speed of your computer and free up some storage space.  You may also want to treat yourself to a little defrag to tidy up the hard drive. 

That’s it, you are done.

Finally, you can sit back smugly, gazing proudly at your sparkling computer that is running more efficiently knowing you have done a good job. The smile will last until you look up from your desk and notice the 30 student computers are all waiting for the same treatment, and goodness knows what is stuck between the keys of their keyboards. 

I shudder to think….



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