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Computers need spring cleaning

I remember my mother’s spring cleaning days, when we would scrub walls, windows, cupboards and drawers. After the cold winter months, as soon as we could open up the house again, we knew hard work was soon to come.

Computers need spring cleaning, too. After normal use, month after month, a computer benefits from “a good once over.” A reload provides that fresh start. By completing an operating system reload — also known as a recovery or reinstall — the computer is reset to its original state. Think of it as washing down the blackboard.

Before beginning a reload, important files must be backed up. It is essential to realize that any programs you have added will be wiped clean. Any files you have saved will be gone, and all changes to settings will be reset. Back up files, photos, and music to a flashdrive, external hard drive or disk. Save your contacts and calendar to another location as well. Programs such as Microsoft Office, Adobe, and games will need to be reinstalled by disk or download. Settings will need to be reset after the reload.

If you still possess the recovery disks provided at purchase, the software that came with the computer will be put back on during the course of the reload. Some computer manufacturers instruct users to create recovery disks immediately after purchasing the computer. Other manufacturers use a partitioned hard drive to provide recovery capability. If you do not have recovery disks or a partition for recovery, a reload performed by a technician will provide a very clean, very basic set of applications, including Internet Explorer for web browsing and Outlook Express for e-mail.

After reload, the system must be reconnected to peripherals, devices, and Internet access. E-mail may need to be reconfigured. Security and passwords must be reset.

Once a reload is completed, the system will run more efficiently. Any viruses that had been lurking behind the scenes will be gone. Excess cookies and temporary files will be cleared away, maximizing space for operation and storage.

Separate from a reload, the addition of memory — RAM — can also speed up the system. RAM is an inexpensive, easy upgrade that can make a real difference in everyday use. Adding RAM does not affect data, or require an operating system reload. In many computer shops, including ours, RAM can be installed right away with no additional charge.

Adding an additional hard drive can also benefit a sluggish desktop computer. If the hard drive is filled with needed files, the lack of space will hinder its operation. Adding a second hard drive for file storage will improve processing time. If the excess files are not necessary, simply clearing them off will make a big improvement.

So if your computer is sluggish, consider some spring cleaning. Most computers could use a little less dust and a little more electronic “elbow room.”

Patty Harshbarger, owner of Computer Renaissance in Bradenton, can be reached at