Sunday, April 24, 2011

Simplifying Your Computer (via SimpleProductivityBlog.Com)

I recently read an awesome blog post on and I'll have to say, the article reflects the name of the blog. It was the first post I have ever read there, but I immediately subscribed and found many other great posts. Simplifying your computer is all about the most efficient way to use it. There's no "simplify" button to push to do it, but that'd be cool right? It's just about following instructions and advice from articles like this.
...let’s talk about how to simplify computing life. You don’t need a new computer to do this, but it is something you should do if you get a new computer.
She's right, you don't need a new one to completely start over, but IF you are starting fresh, you should definitely take these steps to ensure you aren't throwing your money away on a brand new machine. She says first you must Assess Where You Are.
Remove Unused Programs
My first job was to look at what was installed and list out what I didn’t use anymore. Several old versions of programming languages were languishing on the hard drive. Software to design a knit sweater and produce a pattern was filled with virtual moths. Picasa, sat expectantly waiting for when I was going to finally organize all the photos. These all were removed from the old computer (and not installed on the new one).
Find Alternatives
Next I looked at better alternatives for things I had used for years. 
Since I upgraded operating systems, there were things that were not going to work anymore. My beloved PowerToy for resizing photos was not available in Windows 7; I had to find an alternative. This was true of several programs...
I also decided to replace some clunkiness with streamlined things. AVG had been my anti-virus software of choice, but its drag on startup and lack of flexibility pushed me to move onto Microsoft Security Suite.
The next step she recommends doing is to Clean and Archive Files.
I am not as diligent about cleaning out my reference files on my computer as I am in my filing cabinet. As a result of that, I had client notes for a job I haven’t held in five years, patterns for clothes my daughter outgrew years ago, and supporting files for projects successfully completed a while back. It was time to purge. 
I went through every folder (and this took a while) and looked at the contents. If it was something I didn’t recognize or hadn’t accessed in a year or was outdated, it was deleted outright. Some things, which I may need in the future (think tax stuff) were put in a new folder called “Permanent archive” with an expiration date on when they could be removed.
This effort really got rid of all sorts of stuff I had no need for anymore (2 GB!), and simplified moving files to the new computer quite a bit.
This is great advice for files in OR out of a computer (such as a filing cabinet). For more information on organizing paper files see my posts Organization (Part One) - The "Other" Part and Organization (Part Two) - The Systems. The third part on organizing your computer files, is coming soon! Back to the article, the next step she says to do is to Simplify Backups.
For a couple of years, I had a network of backups that were a bit cumbersome. Every Monday night, files would transfer from my husband’s computer to my external hard drive, and then things would be backed up online by Mozy. I also had a backup job transfer the music library from his external hard drive and equalize it with my external hard drive as a back up as well, and the job to back up the blog files. All told, between SyncBack and Mozy, there were fourteen backup jobs running around. Argh.
I decided to make it simple. We extended the Mozy account to add the second computer, and his files are backed up without my having to move anything. That alone eliminated seven of the SyncBack jobs. I enabled the feature of Mozy to make a shadow backup on my external, knocking out five more SyncBack jobs.
There are two SyncBack jobs: one for the blog, and the one that equalizes music.
Now, this is quite excessive for most people. She happens to be quite tech-savvy so of course she's going to break up her backups into several areas, but sometimes if you have a limited amount of space you have to. Bottom line, if you aren't already you need to backup your files. If you don't know what to backup, think about your files. Do you have pictures? Back them up. School, work or other important documents? Yep, those too. What about music or movies? You probably want those. Anything else that might be important you also should backup. For more information on this, take a look at the article Don’t Loose Your Life’s Precious Moments.

She mentions she has a lot of programs and that it took a long time to install all of those onto her new computer. I have a couple suggestions for that. One, for a new computer, Ninite is your best friend. It's as simple as checking the boxes of the software you want and then clicking install. Ninite installs them all onto your computer and you don't have to go through the hassle. It's virus and spyware free, of course, and best of all it's simple! I caution you though, don't get click happy and don't install software unless you know you are going to use it. Otherwise, you're back to square one – uninstalling software you intended to use and never did.

And speaking of software, one last tip is to cut down on the amount of software and processes currently running and/or starting up. You can read more about freeing up your computer from sluggish startups here.

Like she mentioned about backing up, I think a good addition to that is just schedule as many things you can. Instead of manually scanning for viruses, schedule your antivirus software to that instead. This also applies to defragmenting and of course backing up files. If you intend to manually do it, you're very mislead. We have too much to do to have to worry about making sure our computers are all defragged, backed up and virus free. Most programs like these have features to do so, but if you have one that can't, repeat "step 2" in the Assess Where You Are portion and find some alternatives to the software you use.

What what do you do to simplify your computer?

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