Tech Tips for Writers is an (almost) weekly post on overcoming Tech Dread. I’ll cover issues that friends, both real-time and virtual, have shared. Feel free to post a comment about a question you have. I’ll cover it in a future Tip.
That’s right. It’s a new year, which means Pre-Spring Cleaning. Set aside the brushes and mops. Grab a comfortable chair. Don your problem-solving hat, and get started. The goal: To make your computer faster, more efficient, and more reliable for all the novels you’ll be writing.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Make sure your firewall is working. Windows comes with a built-in one. Maybe Mac does too. Leave it active. It’s under Control Panel>Administrative Tools. Sometimes, they seem to turn off by themselves (I have no idea why). Check to be sure it is active.
- Defrag your computer. To quote Windows, Fragmentation makes your hard disk do extra work that can slow down your computer. Removable storage devices such as USBs can also become fragmented. Disk Defragmenter rearranges fragmented data so your disks and drives can work more efficiently. Never mind all that geek speak. Here’s what you need to know: Run Disc Defrag by going to Control Panel>Administrative Tools>Advanced Tools.
- Run Spybot or a similar spyware programs. Spybot is free, which is why I like it, and I’ve had good luck with it. Download.com says this about Spybot: The program checks your system against a comprehensive database of adware and other system invaders. The Immunize feature blocks a plethora of uninvited Web-borne flotsam before it reaches your computer.
- Run Ad-aware once a week to keep malware off your computer. It has a stellar reputation and is also free (although there’s an upgrade that you can pay for).
- Keep your antivirus software active. If you’re paranoid like me, run an antivirus scan weekly to be sure nothing is missed.
- Sort through My Documents and get rid of files you don’t need anymore. It’s intimidating, like a file cabinet that hasn’t been opened in months–or years–and is covered with spider webs. If you don’t do it, every time you search, the computer must finger through all those files. It doesn’t understand the difference between ‘unused’ and ‘important’.
- Back up your files to an external drive or cloud storage. If you have an automated system, skip this. If you don’t, consider getting Carbonite or similar. If you use Windows, try their backup program. It’s easy to find: Click the Start Button and search ‘backup’.
- Empty the trash. Don’t even look in it. If you haven’t missed a file by now, it won’t matter if you throw it out.
- Learn to use that program you’ve been promising you would. Evernote is a great example. Use it (you won’t be sorry) or delete the email from your best friend exhorting you to and move on.
- Go through your programs and delete those you no longer use. Here’s what you do:
- go to Control Panel>Programs and Features
- peruse the list and pick the programs you downloaded by mistake, meant to use, or used to use and no longer do
- don’t look back
- Update software that needs it. I don’t mean BUY a newer version. I mean click the free update that’s been nagging at you (Adobe Reader and Windows, for example)
- Clean the junk off your desktop. Put it in folders or create a ‘Working on ‘ folder . Don’t know how to create a desktop folder? Here’s what you do:
- Right click on the desktop and select ‘New>folder’
- Clean up your Start Button. Remove shortkeys you no longer use (right click>delete). Add those that have become daily go-to sites
That’s enough. I’ll have more for you during Fall Cleaning. Now take a break.
More tech tips for writers:
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, a freelance journalist on tech ed topics, and a monthly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is editor of a K-8 technology curriculum and technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.