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Posted on Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 7:53 p.m.

Ask Betty: Organizing your computer can save you time, space and headaches

By Judy DiForte

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iStock Photo

You know how you feel after a great spa treatment? All those little kinks have been worked out, every muscle is limbered up. You feel relaxed, rejuvenated and refocused. Aaah... you're ready to face the world again.

Just imagine if you could get your computer to feel that way. OK, maybe a hot tub would not be the best idea... but there are things your computer would love just as much as you love a day at the spa. And the happier your computer is, the easier your life will be.

Here again today with Part 2 of a two-part blog with tips on navigating the oft-confusing tech world is Josh, our computer expert at The Betty Brigade.

Part 1 featured ways to use your computer to help you get organized. Today's tips involve helping your computer itself stay organized. Don't be scared! Just read, follow the tips and know that you are truly becoming computer-friendly.

Take it, Josh!

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Josh

Photo by Donald Adiska

Part 2: You can help your computer stay organized

If you feel intimidated by your computer, try to think of it less like a technological marvel and more like a file cabinet next to your desk. You wouldn’t just throw papers into your filing cabinet, right? You’d never be able to find what you wanted — same with your computer. Follow these tips to keep your PC organized, and you’ll cut some stress out of your e-life:

* Keep like with like.
Start by putting all of your documents and letters in the “My Documents” folder of your computer. Under “My Documents,” you’ll see other folders, such as “My Pictures” and “My Music,” where you can place your photos and music files. By putting like with like, you’re halfway to organizing your computer.

* Nesting folders is an effective tool.
Create more folders under “My Documents” to store related material. For example, you might create “Work Projects,” “Reference” and “Correspondence” folders. Then under “Work Projects,” you might create a folder for each project. Under “Correspondence,” create subfolders for personal and business. More general always contains more specific. Remember, when searching for a document, it’s easier to look through 10 files in one folder than to browse through hundreds of files.

Find a lost file with 'search' function. 
Press the Start button in Windows, then click on “Search.” The search function will help you find documents, programs, pictures… just about anything that you can’t locate on your own.

* Defragment is your friend.
Defragment your computer about once a month. This will ensure that the data on the hard drive is organized in a way that makes sense to your computer’s “brain.” To defragment, open a search window from your Start button, and type DEFRAG. Double click “Disk Defragmenter” when it comes up and start it up. In a few hours, your computer will start to act happier.

* Antivirus: Defender of the Hard Drive.
It’s impossible to overemphasize how important a good antivirus program is. Regularly run, your antivirus scanner will ensure that no bugs or viruses are hurting your files. Two of the best antivirus programs on the market are McAfee and Norton. If you want to save some money, AVG (Anti-Virus Guard) offers a free antivirus at http://free.avg.com/us-en/download-avg-anti-virus-free. This great little program has saved millions of people a lot of money.

* Spyware is bad.
Running a good anti-spyware program on your computer weekly will help keep your data, your documents and your identity safe. My top pick, Malware Bytes, offers a free and easy-to-use version. Download it at http://www.malwarebytes.org.

* Backup your files regularly.
Nothing causes chaos in a computer — or in your life — like a hard drive crash, virus or system failure. For free, you can save your data to a CD, DVD or flash drive. For as low as $45 a year, you can subscribe to an online service such as www.carbonite.com. Such a service automatically and securely backs up your files to a server, keeping your data safe.

* Reduce your risk.
Don’t keep copies of files with the original files, because if that disk crashes, is stolen, gets a virus, etc., you’ll lose all your data, including copies. Back up data to a flashdrive or disks, which can be stored elsewhere, so that if catastrophe strikes, you’ll be able to recover much more quickly.

Thank you, Josh www.carbonite.comexcellent tips. Now my not-so-technical tip is this: after following Josh's advice, sit down at your computer. Be very quiet. Lean slowly toward it... and listen very carefully. And you'll hear it:

"Aaaaahhhhhh."

Judy DiForte is a professional organizer for The Betty Brigade, a full-service personal assistance and concierge company based in Ann Arbor. Email her at Judy@BettyBrigade.com.

Comments

Are you serious?

Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 3:16 p.m.

All good ideas and suggestions. I agree with the file organization. However, I'd suggest considering an Apple computer and most of the problems go away. * Did you lose a file? One click and Spotlight will find any file on your disk in about a second. * Defragment is your friend? Not needed or necessary for the user to do anything. * Antivirus: Defender of the Hard Drive Running antivirus on a Mac is like wearing a bicycle helmet while mowing the grass. Just not done or necessary. * Spyware is bad See comment on antivirus above * Backing up your files regularaly I beg to differ on backing up to CD,DVD, or Flash Drive. Most people today have tens of gigabytes which from a practical matter will not fit on those media to say nothing of knowing what is where and retrieving a particular file. Plus an external drive into your Apple computer (less than $75) and click twice on Mac's Time Machine and everything is backed up automatically once an hour. Couldn't be easier. The user does not have to do anything. * Reduce your risk With freely available software you can make a copy of your hard disk that can be used as a complete replacement for your hard disk if there is a hardware problem. Of course Apple computers are more expensive than commodity PC's, but when you include the cost of your time and stress dealing with Windows and its viruses, spyware, etc., and lost data you might discover the Apple is the better purchase in the long run. JMHO