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Don't forget your computer during spring cleaning

| Friday, April 5, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Many folks bring themselves and their homes out of the winter doldrums with a frenzy of spring cleaning and organizing. One area you might neglect, however, is your computer.

Fortunately, cleaning and de-cluttering your PC is easy to do and doesn't take much time. It'll prolong the life of your machine and help you get more work done faster.

That means you can spend more time outside, enjoying the longer, warmer days.

Shine that hardware

Your PC has collected dust bunnies since its last cleaning. These trap heat and shorten the life of your system.

Then there's your keyboard, which probably has a fair amount of bread and potato chip crumbs between the keys. Don't even get me started on the germs your keyboard, mouse and touchpad collect!

Time for some do-it-yourself detailing.

First, turn off your computer or laptop and unplug it. If your keyboard and mouse are wired, unplug them. If they're wireless, shut them off and remove the batteries.

A few blasts of compressed air should take care of dust on the keyboard and debris between keys. Next, swab your keyboard and mouse with bleach-free disinfecting wipes to remove grime. You can use cotton swabs dipped in isopropyl alcohol for a deep-clean between the keys.

For your monitor screen, use a soft, slightly damp lint-free cloth. Don't use cleaners that contain ammonia.

If you're confident enough to open up the inside of a PC desktop case, now's a good time to remove dust buildup on the case fans, air vents, motherboard and CPU heatsink and fan. On a laptop, blow compressed air into the intakes along the side.

Zap those viruses

In addition to compromising your privacy, spyware and viruses bog down your PC's performance.

Scan your machine with reputable anti-virus and anti-spyware programs to combat the threat. Run the scans and remove any threats that pop up.

Remember to update your security programs often so you can stay protected from emerging threats. Weekly scans help, too.

Optimize disk space

Windows uses free hard disk space for extra memory. A hard drive that's nearly full will slow down your computer.

First, get rid of temporary Internet and Windows files with the free program CCleaner.

Two more free programs help. Grab Revo Uninstaller to thoroughly remove any programs you don't use anymore. Zap trial software and other unwanted bloatware with PC Decrapifier.

Still bumping up against your hard drive's storage limit? Consider moving your photo, video or music library to an external drive. Use a free disk-visualizing program such as WinDirStat to see what other applications and files are taking up the most space.

If your PC or laptop has a conventional hard drive — not a solid-state drive — it can benefit from defragmenting. In Start>>Control Panel, run Disk Defragmenter (Optimize Drives in Windows 8) to consolidate fragmented files and folders and speed up reading and writing to the disk. Run the Error Checking utility, which scans the drive for bad sectors and file system errors.

Email Kim Komando at techcomments@usatoday.com.

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