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Cleaning up your Virtual Desktop

If you're like most people, your computer's desktop contains files, folders and apps that you don't use that often. It might be a good time to consider doing virtual clean up and stop cluttering your desktop background image with all those unused icons.

A man and woman working together over a laptop.

Why Should I Clean Up My Computer?

Remember when your computer was new? You had all the space in the world: Gigabytes of memory just floating free, a blissfully clean home screen... and finding that photo or file was so easy. Now? Not so much. Over time, it's easy to allow apps, documents and folders to accumulate on the desktop, rather than take the time to label and organize your files. By investing a little time in getting your desktop organized you will see u benefits such as:

  • Faster processing: When you have lots of files on your desktop, your computer has to load them each time you log in; this uses memory and slows down your computer's processing time.
  • Save time: You'll spend less time searching for lost files if your documents are organized.
  • More space: Getting rid of unused files, folders, apps and icons will free up space on your computer.
  • A fresh start: Once you set up an organized system, it'll be easier to stay organized in the future.

Getting Started

Start by going through your shortcuts and files, and determine if they're worth keeping. Consider what you don't use regularly, and look at the last time you've used each app. If you haven't opened an item in a year or don't know what an app does, chances are it's time to uninstall it.

If you want to keep an item, find a home for it in your non-desktop folders. If you haven't set up a hierarchy of folders in a Windows-based system, William & Mary University offers a simple online guide. You may also consider setting up a cloud-based storage account if you have numerous items that take up space, such as photos or videos, that you want to keep, but don't access frequently.

When you're done decluttering, the only thing left on your desktop should be files you use frequently, tools that you regularly reference and items that require immediate action.

Safeguard Your Accounts

This is also a great opportunity to do a safety check. Here's where to start:

  • Update all your passwords; use 20 characters that include a mix of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols.
  • Check that your router is protected with a unique network name and password.
  • Update your social media privacy settings to limit the amount of information you disclose.
  • Run a virus scan.
  • Uninstall any apps or browser extensions that you don't remember downloading, as they may be malware.
  • Run updates on all software.
  • Enable two-factor authentication on your email accounts.


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