New Year's PC Cleanup

Productivity and sanity improving tip for the new year: Reinstall your PC's OS from scratch!

PC running slower than you remember? 

Can't seem to find anything where you think you left it?

Time for a little new year's hOuSekeeping! :-)

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Every year or two, you should take the time to at the very least do some data cleanup. Better yet, "burn" your PC to the ground and reinstall your OS. For me and most of you reading this, that means Windows. I can hear the Mac-addicts cracking jokes, but they really should do the same.

This is a great way to keep your PC running at max efficiency, cleaning out all kinds of extraneous junk that accumulates over time surfing the web. This will even get rid of all but the most nefarious malware you may have and not even know it.

Step 1: Backup your PC data. 

You're doing regular backups aren't you? If not, you need to take the time to setup a process for doing this. It can be as simple as a weekly or at least monthly reminder on your calendar to attach an external drive and backup it up.

If you haven't done this before, start with this this step. Go. Do it now. I'll wait.

Step 2: Organize your data.

I've noticed over the past couple of years working with various folks that they have data scattered all over their PC. You should really try to keep it in your user directory. On Windows that's going to be C:\Users\<yourWinLoginName>. For instance, mine is in C:\Users\trenshaw. 

This is where "your" folders are. This includes important and standard Windows folders such as Desktop, My Documents, Downloads, My Music, My Pictures, My Videos. It may also include other sharing service folders you use such as DropBox, Google Drive, SkyDrive, etc.

If you have stuff scattered around, say like .mp3 files in your Desktop folder or somewhere even less "standard", time to move them to the My Music folder. This will be helpful for your sanity in using apps that look for file types they want to use from standard locations.

Now that you've done that, repeat Step 1 and backup your PC again. If you were really thorough in making sure everything was moved under your Users directory, you can simply backup the folder C:\Users\<yourWinLoginName>.

Do a test recovery of some files from your backup. Best to know now that your backup worked! Delete some relatively meaningless files and copy them back from your backup. If all goes well, proceed. If not, backup again and test till the backup tests positively.

Step 3: Reinstall the OS.

Find your OS install disk. You have one, yes? If not, get one from somewhere. The only thing you need for legal reasons is your OS Key which should be with the documentation that came with your PC, it may be on a sticker on your PC somewhere or even on the disc you bought.

Now follow the instructions to install / reinstall. I found the following links by simply googling "installing windows X". I recommend the "burning the PC to the ground" by going with the Custom Install and Formatting the Hard Drive option.

Alternatively, if this is just too scary, take it to a local PC service shop or your friendly neighborhood PC-savvy teenager and have them do it... but not till you have a good backup!

This is a good annual habit to get into. Mark your calendar to do this over the holidays when you have a little spare time. This is when I generally perform this hOuSekeeping.