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Time for Spring Cleaning: 6 Ways to Organize and Archive Your Digital Life

David Balaban

People regularly tidy up their homes, get their laundry washed, arrange their tax papers and get rid of old junk they no longer need.

In the meantime, the fact that most of us spend hours in front of different screens every single day, be it a desktop computer, a smart device or a TV, hasn’t quite become a stimulus to exercise the same approach toward the digital facet of the daily routine.

Not only do these double standards add quite a bit of cognitive dissonance to the coexistence of one’s real-world and virtual identity, but they may as well result in tangible consequences like PC performance deterioration, malware infection aftermath or even data loss.

Whether it’s physical or digital, junk is junk, and it doesn’t belong in your life.

Everything else should be sorted out so that it’s easy to find and use at all times. Here are a few simple tips that will get you started.

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1. Clean Your Desktop Right Away

The desktop is the first thing you see once your machine boots up, so staring at heaps of redundant stuff every time your computing session starts is certainly a drag. If that’s the case, it’s time to do some cleanup to address the chaos.

The best way to do it is by hand. Start by deleting the items you no longer need. Move the rest to corresponding folders in the data hierarchy.

Also, consider right-clicking on the desktop and arrange your icons by type size/date/name to group the important objects left after the preliminary cleaning.

Importantly, configure your new downloads and save them to a dedicated folder rather than the desktop.

2. Uninstall Junk Software

This one is time-consuming, but it’s definitely worth the effort. Unnecessary applications use CPU resources and take up local drive space, which means less memory is left for the utilities you need.

Responsiveness of the system also suffers from software clutter a lot. Remember that simply deleting icons from the desktop or start menu doesn’t mean that programs vanish from the system.

Go to Control Panel, select Uninstall a Program and carefully examine the list of what’s on board. Whatever looks fishy or unimportant on that list should be eliminated, double check then by scanning your PC with reputable security software

It’s also a good idea to prioritize the rest of your programs and determine which ones should be launched by default.

Go to Search, type MSConfig to bring up the System Configuration screen, select Startup tab and deselect the stuff that can be opened on demand rather than be executed automatically during boot time.

By using applications like CCleaner, you can perform the above tasks in one user-friendly interface.

3. Back Up Your Data

Back-ups are becoming increasingly important for a number of reasons. The risk of losing data due to hardware failure is gradually fading away as compared to the challenges stemming from crypto ransomware

These strains of malicious software furtively contaminate computers, encrypt the victims’ personal files and extort money for decryption.

If there’s a backup on external media or offsite, you are good to go even in the worst-case scenario. Just remove the Trojan and download files from your storage of choice.

A popular approach is what’s called the 3-2-1 back-up technique. The idea is as follows: keep three copies of the data that matters.

Store two of these copies onsite but on different repositories, for example, one on an external HDD and one on a USB memory stick.

And lastly, keep one copy in the cloud. Fortunately, there is now a vast choice of cloud providers allocating a fairly large data space for free.

Another option is to use backup software. These solutions automate the entire process, allowing you to schedule it and define which files to back up.

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4. Arrange Your Photos

Since this job takes quite a bit of time, prioritizing your photos is the place to start. Kick off by asking yourself a question: which pics are the most important?

Once the answer is clear, consider naming and sorting them into thematic folders. Keeping all albums with digital photos in one place is a great habit, too.

Also, don’t forget to back them up in a way you prefer. Once done, move on and do the same for your less important pictures.

Stick to this tactic further on so that you don’t have to clean up the mess after thousands of new photos have been added to your collection.

5. Get Your Passwords in Order

Using strong, hard-to-guess passwords is undoubtedly a must, but how about storing all of them the right way?

With tons of online services requiring authentication, it’s quite problematic to keep track of all passwords unless, of course, you are using the same one or a few for different accounts, which is a really bad idea these days.

Ever heard of password managers? These apps are remarkable. The invaluable benefit is you only have to remember one unique authentication string called the "master password".

Once you enter it, the software automatically logs you into any online account you are up to entering.

A password manager also assesses your existing passwords and alerts you if it spots a weak one.

Generating new strong passwords is another great feature built into these tools. So look up password managers on the Internet, select one and give it a shot.

For instance, the award-winning LastPass tool is a great pick.

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6. Clean Up Your Inbox

Whether or not you think your email inbox is a mess, it is. Luckily, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put the incoming messages in order so that you can easily find old stuff and prevent all kinds of junk from distracting you.

Start by creating folders within the email service or client, ranking those by importance, by date or by topic.

Consider assigning a separate folder for social media notifications. Scroll through at least several latest pages with emails and drag messages to their respective directories.

To get annoying newsletters, deals and coupons out of the way, unsubscribe from them as new ones are received.

These are merely the basic things that aren’t a cure-all for bringing serenity and order into your day-to-day computing activities. 

However, simple tips like that can definitely add a bit of discipline and minimalism to the present-day multi-faceted computing experience.

Image Credit: Monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images
David Balaban
business.com Member
David Balaban is a computer security researcher with over 10 years of experience in malware analysis and antivirus software evaluation. David runs the http://privacy-pc.com project which presents expert opinions on the contemporary information security matters, including social engineering, penetration testing, threat intelligence, online privacy and white hat hacking. As part of his work at Privacy-PC, Mr. Balaban has interviewed such security celebrities as Dave Kennedy, Jay Jacobs and Robert David Steele to get firsthand perspectives on hot InfoSec issues. David has a strong malware troubleshooting background, with the recent focus on ransomware countermeasures.