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12 must-do PC tasks

Alex Castle | April 8, 2013
Computers may have become a lot more user-friendly over the past decade, but they're still far from perfect--PCs require a certain amount of configuration and maintenance to operate at their full potential. Unfortunately, because we humans are also far from perfect, we frequently don't put in the work we should, and we end up with a slower, sloppier, less secure machine as a result.

Your keyboard is next. Start by clearing out as many crumbs as possible: Simply turn the keyboard upside down and give it a good shake or two. Unless you're interested in seeing a disgusting reminder of why you shouldn't eat Ritz crackers at your desk, you should perform this step over the sink or a trash can. Use the compressed air to dislodge any crumbs that may still be stuck under the keycaps, and then repeat the flip-and-shake procedure. If you have a mechanical keyboard, you can also pop out individual keys to remove particularly stubborn debris.

If your keys have gotten grimy, lightly moisten a paper towel with rubbing alcohol and scrub the tops and sides of the keycaps. While you're at it, use the rubbing alcohol to give your mouse a thorough rubdown. Pay special attention to the areas where your fingers make contact, as they tend to become the oiliest and grimiest. Flip the mouse over and make sure that the sliding surfaces (where it makes contact with the desk or mousepad) aren't dirty, and that dust isn't collecting in the optical sensor.

Finally, wipe the monitor. Although paper towels are useful for most other PC cleaning tasks, I don't recommend them here as they can scratch your screen. Instead, use a microfiber cloth--the kind that comes packed with most glasses, sunglasses, and computer monitors. You can also find them in the cleaning section of just about any store. Give the screen a quick, light wipe, and see if any dirt persists. If it does, dampen the cloth with water, or a fifty-fifty mixture of water and vinegar, and wipe it again.

Back up your data

The 12 tips we describe in this article aren't necessarily ranked by importance. If they were, however, this tip would be first, followed by about seven blank pages, and then everything else.

Your computer is not invulnerable. Hard-drive failures happen, as do floods, fires, earthquakes, thefts, and other calamities. The hardware in your computer is replaceable, but the data inside--whether critical business documents or precious family photos--might not be. If you don't want to face the gut-wrenching realization that you've lost something important, you need to have a backup plan. Here's how you can protect yourself, right now.

First, you need backup software. A number of perfectly fine options--such as Carbonite and Mozy--are available, but for our purposes here I'll recommend CrashPlan, which provides all of the functionality you need for local and offsite backup absolutely free. To get started, just download and install the CrashPlan software. When the program runs, you'll see the straightforward CrashPlan backup procedure: Select drives or folders to back up, choose a location to back them up to, and click the Start Backup button.

 

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