Seems like the start of a new year is a great time for all manner of promises regarding changes to behavior (e.g., losing weight, hitting the gym regularly, etc.). How about your tech behavior? Here are four suggestions, courtesy of Brian Chen and The New York Times, to make your 2017 tech experience somewhat less frustrating by performing some routine system maintenance procedures.

REVIEW YOUR PASSWORD POLICY

Passwords are a necessary evil in today’s cyber-oriented world. And they are all too frequently used for evil purposes, with the proliferation of publicized hacks in 2016.  Set aside an hour or two early in the year to review all of the websites you access regularly that require login credentials, and create new – and unique – passwords for each of those sites. There are many clever algorithms for creating passwords based on a site name, purpose, etc., and some personal identifying information that when combined with the site info makes for a unique password. Even better, purchase a low-cost password storage-and-generator app (like RoboForm or LastPass) that will create virtually unbreakable passwords for you, and automatically store and retrieve them for you when you visit a password-protected site.

CLEAN UP YOUR DEVICES

After a year of hard use, most electronic devices could use a bit of “TLC” to get them feeling peppy again.  Cleaning off unused data and apps can free up valuable storage space and make it easier for the device to accommodate all of that new data flooding in. On phones, take a look at your photo roll, and consider moving all of those photos from last year to the Cloud, essentially creating a fresh “roll” of film for your phone’s camera for 2017. Download a battery-checking app to monitor the condition of your phone’s battery, and consider replacing it if the app suggests the battery is showing its age. While iPhone batteries are not user-replaceable, they can be swapped out by a competent repair service, which can be less expensive than pitching the phone.

If you are reasonably tech-proficient, crack open the case for that desktop PC that sits quietly on the floor next to your desk. Then take a can of compressed air to the innards and give the fan, the motherboard, and other visible components a good shot of air. And then be prepared to clean up all the dust that you have just dislodged from the device.

On the software side, this is a good time to clean out your temporary files, cache folders, etc.  A huge amount of data traverses your hard drive these days, and the increased reliance on web-based applications in general, with their use of temporary folders, cache folders, and cookies to store all this data, can significantly increase storage consumption in a short amount of time. To free up storage space—and to prevent this type of data from being used to compromise your system and/or online accounts—it’s important to delete this “clutter” from time to time to clean your system. The beginning of a new year is as good a time as any to tackle this.

Among the many applications available that offer system cleaning utilities, CCleaner stands out, and is both powerful and easy to use. The freeware version has enough capabilities to clean out all temporary folders and caches. The “Pro” version can do this cleanup periodically, automated on a scheduled basis, to keep the debris from accumulating.

REVIEW YOUR HARDWARE COMPONENTS

Slow Internet performance may be a sign that your router is in need of attention, or replacement. While many service providers (e.g., Comcast, Verizon) provide customers with a combined modem/router, relatively inexpensive commercial routers will offer much better Internet performance, along with significantly better Wi-Fi connectivity. Consumer-oriented stores like BestBuy and Micro Center offer a wide array of choices for these gizmos at every price point, suitable for either home or small office use.

Take a look at your printers, as well. Review how much you spent on color inkjet cartridges in 2016, and if that number exceeds the cost of the printer – which is not at all unusual – consider purchasing a desktop color laser printer. These have become more affordable, offer better performance in quality and speed, and will in some cases cost less to maintain than an inkjet printer with its expensive cartridges.

And white you are at it, give that monitor screen a good wipe. Or replace it with a larger, brighter, and higher resolution monitor. Your eyesight will thank you.

MANAGE  YOUR E-WASTE

Remember those spare cables, power supplies, and accessories that you purchased for that device you don’t use any more? Yep, they are still sitting quietly in the drawer, awaiting disposal. Time to move ‘em out. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to say good riddance to electronic debris, from old smartphones to cables to power supplies. Amazon, for instance, offers free trade-in services for disposing of used electronics that still have some value, typically in exchange for Amazon store credits. Brian Chen’s New York Times article on disposing of these dust-catchers is a handy guide to follow for this purpose. Best Buy also offers complementary recycling services for unneeded electronics, if exchanging them for credit is not an option elsewhere.

Need advice on the proper care and feeding of your information systems? Looking for help managing your hardware,software and peripherals? Let us know how we can help by contacting us either by phone at 877-357-0555 or by email at info@crosspointecg.com.