tech tips for writers

Writer’s Tech 101: Take Care of Your Computer

This week, I’ll post updated suggestions to get your computers and technology ready for the blitz of writing and marketing you’ll swear to accomplish in New Year resolutions. Here’s what you get (link won’t be active until the post goes live):

  1. 11 Ways to Update Your Online Presence
  2. Writer’s Tech 101: Take Care of Your Computer

For regular readers of WordDreams, these are yearly reminders. For new readers, these are like body armor in the tech battle. They allow you to jubilantly overcome rather than dramatically succumb. Your choice.

17 Ways to Speed up Your Computer

I post this every year and have included several great suggestions from readers. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Sort through Documents and get rid of those you don’t need anymore. It’s intimidating, like a file cabinet that hasn’t been opened in years and is covered with spider webs. Do it, though. If you don’t, every time you search, the computer must finger through those unused and worthless files. It doesn’t understand the difference between ‘unused’ and ‘important’. Plus, it distracts you from finding the documents you really want. If you don’t want to toss them, make an ‘Old’ file and put them all in there.
  2. 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.
  3. Learn to use that program you’ve been promising you would or delete it. Even better, go through your programs and delete the ones you no longer use–or never used (like the ones that come pre-installed on a new computer). Here’s what you do:
    • go to Control Panel>Programs and Features (this is different on Windows 10–just search “Control Panel”)
    • peruse the list and delete programs you downloaded by mistake, meant to use, or no longer use
    • uninstall
    • don’t look back
  4. Clean the junk off your (virtual) desktop. Put it in folders or create a folder for ‘Working on’. Don’t know how to create a desktop folder? Just right-click on the desktop and select ‘New>folder’ (this may vary depending upon your platform).
  5. Clean up your Start Menu. Remove shortcuts you no longer use (usually with a right click>delete). Add those that have become daily go-to sites
  6. Clean out your subscriptions. This slows YOU down as you sit to work. They usually arrive via email. Dragging through dozens of emails a day you know you aren’t interested in slows you down. Me, I have over 200 every day. I regularly purge blog and newsletter subscriptions that didn’t work out as planned.
  7. Make notifications weekly instead of daily. If you get Google alerts, set them for weekly (unless you really must know when someone posts on the term ‘Labrador puppies’). If you have social media, let them notify you of activity once a week instead of daily. If you get reports on Twitter usage or Google Adwords, schedule those weekly.
  8. Add more RAM. That’s the stuff that lets you keep more stuff open on the desktop (including tabs in your browser). If you don’t have enough, it’s like having a postage-stamp-size desk for planning your writing. Upgrade yours to the max your system will take.
  9. Clean out your temp files.
  10. Empty your recycle bin. When your computer starts up, it must bring all that trash to life in case you want to revisit it. The less that’s in there, the less you have to rejuvenate.
  11. Delete unneeded fonts. Like the recycle bin, when you start up, your computer must bring all those fonts out so you can use them. They’re small files, but not minuscule and take measurable time to activate. Who needs a thousand fonts? Settle for a hundred.
  12. This one’s a bit geeky: Install an SSD start-up drive. An SSD drive is one of those super-fast, expensive hard-drives. Get one just large enough to boot up your computer. You won’t store files on it or data–just use it to start your computer in about a third of the time it normally would. I did this to my desktop and no longer have time for a cuppa or a shower while the computer starts up. A warning: A lot of saving defaults to the start-up drive so reset where your auto-saves go (like temp files, images, and similar).
  13. Clean your computer. With a mini vacuum. Get all that grunge and dust out so it doesn’t get into the computer parts that will not only slow you down but stop you in your virtual tracks.
  14. A great tip from a reader: “A good starting point is to force the computer to do less tasks during the start-up. Just like it would slow you down if before you started writing, you had to get your coffee, check your email, chat with efriends, water the plants–oh, and finally start writing. The less your computer has to do–find fonts, open programs, that sort–the faster it gets to work.”

Image and Backup Your Computer

Image your computer

When you image your computer, you take a picture of what your hard drive looks like, including all the programs and extras, and save in a secure backup area. If malware blows up your computer or ransomware locks you out, all you have to do is re-install from the image.

I used to do this with Carbonite but they no longer offer that service so now I use Acronis. It creates an image of my computer on the schedule I set up. It’ll even image drives that are plugged in (like my USB drive).

BTW, if you use a Chromebook, there’s no need for this. You do what’s called ‘Power Wash’ which returns the device to original settings. Since you don’t download to Chromebooks, that works nicely and speeds the device up significantly.

backup via emailBackup Data Files

Every writer I know has lost critical work because they didn’t back up on a regular basis. There’s no reason for that. Backing up is easy, fairly quick, and usually free.

Here are some options for backing up your computer:

  • backup from the same spot you imaged (see above) on your Windows accessories.
  • use a service that automatically and continuously backs up data files to the cloud so even if you forget to do this, they don’t. 
  • email copies of your most important writing to yourself. For my WIP, I do it every day. If you use Gmail, you can email up to 20 MB (or more through your Google Drive).

For more details on backing up your computer, check out LifeHacker, PC World, and Windows online help.

A reminder from Janet over at Focused on Story:

“…check your external hard drive to make sure it actually has the computer backed up files on it. Unfortunately we backed up to it, but all of the files weren’t getting backed up. We’d had the back-up a long time, so when the tech checked it, he heard something rattling inside. It was broken! sigh.”

Yep–I had that happen once, too!

A suggestion from Andrew over at Andrew’s View of the Week:

“On a Mac, use an external USB drive and time machine to backup and consider using iCloud for remote backups.”



7 end-of-year maintenance for Macs

Optimize Windows 10 performance

10 Quick Ways to Speed up a Slow Windows PC

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, the Man vs. Nature saga, and the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Laws of Nature, Summer 2021. 

82 thoughts on “Writer’s Tech 101: Take Care of Your Computer

  1. Pingback: Tech Tip #173: Two Editing Tips | WordDreams...

  2. Great tips, Jacqui! I love “not looking back.” Sometimes I do look at the items in the Recycle Bin to make sure I wanted them gone forever. I tried to unsubscribe as often as I could, but they come at a light speed. I need to look at the blogs I followed. I only actively follow less than 200, but for some, I don’t need daily or instant notification. So I have to go through those blogs to make changes.

    There are some apps I downloaded for free or purchased but haven’t used them or no time to learn to use them. I guess I don’t need them. Cleaning out the document folders? It’s a big ‘yes.’

    My email boxes – luckily all the personal emails go to the ‘in’ box and everything goes to the junk. Lately, I searched the emails by groups and deleted the entire list one at a time. Still have a lot to go. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great tech tips again, Jacqui. I love cleaning up, organizing, and purging. Oh, how I love getting rid of things I don’t use. Even virtually. Because of that, my desktop is usually pretty neat and everything is archived in folders. But, I have never been through my entire computer and collection of documents. It takes time!

    As far as the image taking and back-ups, I’m glad I have a knowledge geek of a husband. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. All good advice, Jacqui. I did tidy up my desktop, but after a book release its a mess again. Have to sit down and do it again. I always email my work to myself just in case. I use two email addresses to cover more bases too. Good time to do all of this to start the new year off right.

    Liked by 1 person

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