Zone Classifieds The Zoomer Edit Tech Tune-Up: How to Spring Clean Your Electronic Devices

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The Zoomer Edit

Tech Tune-Up: How to Spring Clean Your Electronic Devices

BY Marc Saltzman | June 3rd, 2024

Just as your home can get cluttered with things you amass over the years – a stack of unread magazines here, a box of old records or CDs there, and a table crammed with framed photos of the kids and grandkids – your devices can also fill up with “stuff.”

But with your computer, phone or tablet, the stuff is software, such as programs and apps (which mean the same thing), and files (like documents, photos, and videos). This can clutter up your device, taking up valuable storage as well as looking messy.

Having too much on your devices can affect their performance, too.

But that doesn’t mean you need to buy brand-new ones that have more storage. You can safely remove what you no longer need, organize what’s left to keep things clean, and back up important files – just in case something happens to your gear.

Apply the idea of a home spring cleaning to your devices, refreshing their insides, so that your tech gadgets look and run like new.

As you’ll see here, it’s easier to pull off than you may think.


Clean ‘em Up


Is your computer desktop littered with so many icons that you can’t see the photo behind it? Or maybe you have a game on your smartphone or iPad you haven’t played since the pandemic?

Here’s what to do:

  • Windows users can type the word “remove” into the search window at the bottom left of the screen to find the Add or remove programs area. Now you can go through all installed software and remove the programs you no longer want.
  • On a Mac, open Finder (represented by a smiling blue and white icon in the lower left of your Mac desktop), and click Applications on the left-hand side. Drag the icon of the program you want to uninstall to the Trash icon (lower right of the Mac).
  • On a Chromebook, click the Launcher (the circle icon in the bottom left corner of your screen). Now right-click the app you want to remove. Select Uninstall or Remove from Chrome.

You can also delete files, such as movies and songs, that you no longer need. This is easiest when you can see the contents of your drive as folders and files. In Windows, you can launch Explorer, while for Mac the app is called Finder and for Chromebook it’s referred to as Files. (See below for some backup options.)

  • On a smartphone or tablet, tap and hold on an unwanted app. Then you will see an option to uninstall it from your device – whether you’re on an Apple iPad or iPhone, or an Android device.

On an iPhone or iPad, the app icons may squiggle when you press and hold on one, indicating they’re ready to move around or delete (via the little minus button in the top left of the app); on some Android phones, pressing and holding on an app but launch a little “X” you can click to remove, or with older Android devices, you may be promoted to drag and drop the app icon to the top of the phone/tablet screen, where it says “Remove” or “Delete.”

A few other thoughts:

If you want to better manage your apps, tap and hold an app, then drag it to another app and let go; this will create a folder based on the kind of apps inside. Your device will give it a name, like “Games,” “Photography” or “Social Media,” but you can change the title. And you can continue to drag apps into an already created folder.


Time For a Tune-Up


With all three major computer operating systems – ChromeOS, macOS, and Microsoft Windows – updates should install automatically or at a time of day of your choice.

But also remember to update individual programs as software makers fix problems or add more functionality. You may see a notification about updates when you launch the program, or you can go into the Settings or Options area of your favourite software and look for updates there.

It is important, too, to look for software updates for your hardware, such as wireless routers and printers, because that also can patch up any vulnerabilities. Go to the Support area of a device’s website and search for terms like “firmware update.”


Don’t Forget to Back Up


As Joni Mitchell reminded us in 1970, in the chorus of Big Yellow Taxi, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” So be sure to back up your important files regularly in case of fire, flood, hard-drive malfunction, power surge, theft, or nasty virus.

For local and offline storage, pick up an inexpensive external hard drive (ideal for a lot of files) or a solid-state drive (SSD), USB thumbstick, or memory card. Popular brands include Western Digital/WD, SanDisk, and Seagate. Use your mouse to drag and drop files onto the external drive, using a program like Windows Explorer on a PC, Finder on a Mac, and Files on Chrome OS.

You can also leverage free online “cloud” accounts, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, or Microsoft OneDrive. The cloud simply means that files are securely stored online on a company’s computers, instead of on your own. You might get only five gigabytes for free, which is ample for documents and photos, but video files may require more space, so you can opt to pay for extra storage as a monthly or annual subscription.

Tip: Keep your physical backup solution in another location if possible; otherwise, the backup files could be destroyed if your home catches fire or floods.

Examples of files you should back up are irreplaceable calendar appointments, digital photos, documents, email addresses, home movies, spreadsheets, and website bookmarks.


Cleanliness is Next to Godliness


Wanna be grossed out?

Because germs can live longer on glass than many other surfaces, smartphones are found to have 25 times more bacteria per square inch than a toilet seat!


And so, the following is a simple walkthrough on how to properly clean your phone – and what to avoid doing so you don’t damage it.

1. Turn off the device before you clean it and make sure it’s unplugged from the wall. This way, you’re avoiding a potential short circuit, you can better see the surface you’re cleaning, and you won’t accidentally call or text someone. If the phone is in a case, remove it first and wipe down the case, too, inside and out.

2. Use a lint-free microfiber cloth, such as a lens cloth for your eyeglasses or sunglasses, to gently wipe the screen down with fluid (see step 3.) Do not use a tissue or paper towel because both can leave a residue on the screen, or worse – they might scratch away the screen’s protective coating.

3. Use a small amount of spray with 70 per cent ethanol or isopropyl alcohol or use warm, soapy water to wipe down the phone from top to bottom while holding it on its sides. Then wipe down the sides and back, too, while being careful not to get any fluid into ports such as the charging port or headphone jack.

Even if your phone is waterproof, it’s recommended never to submerge it, just to err on the side of caution.

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