Find more of Andy Lanning's Courses at the GoSkills link below:

Clean Up, Speed Up My Computer

For External computer care, a can of air to blow out the keyboard and an alcohol pad to clean the keyboard and mouse are standard in my desk drawer. And NEVER use Windex or alcohol on your monitor. You will streak the optical coating and you'll regret it forever. Only use water and a soft cloth.

The Internal computer care is a little more intense and takes more time and knowledge.
1. Uninstall any 3rd-party "toolbars" and "extensions" like the Yahoo and Google search bars. These keep their own internet histories.
- Click Start > Control Panel > Add/Remove Programs
- Find the program and highlight it (i.e. AOL Toolbar)
- Click "Change/Remove" or "Remove" (whichever option appears)

2. Run the Disk Cleanup utility to get rid of unnecessary files that clutter your hard drive. It's ok, I've never had a file deleted that I actually needed.
- Click Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup
- It will run a calculation and show you the results
- Click OK to let it delete the files.

3. Keep your My Documents file system managed just like (hopefully) your paper file system.
- Open "My Computer"
- Create files and name them by subject
(Right Click > choose "New Folder")
- Click and drag the files into the new folders
- There are programs that offer "free file management", but just keeping yourself organized is the best way.

4. Download and run a Spyware Removal program. My favorite is AdAware from LavaSoft. This link is to the light-weight Free version download.

5. Download and run a Virus protection program. I use the
Free version of AVG. It does a great job and doesn't weigh down my computer system, unlike Norton and McAfee.

6. Possibly the most important "deep cleaning" tool is a Registry Cleaner. Registries are like great big libraries and when books get out of place, error messages flash on your screen. If you ever see a .dll error, it is a registry error. Registry cleaners organize it all back into order. Finding a free one is difficult but one I have found is CCleaner.
Note: A free cleaner will never be as thorough as a purchased cleaner. They usually run around $30.

Here are a couple 'for purchase' cleaners that get good reviews:
UniBlue Registry Booster

7. There are also programs that will offer to "delete internet history free", but why download yet another program to do something easily yourself? Because of the many different browsers available, I won't list them all here, but a few of the most used browsers are:

Firefox (free download at
The best way to keep your hard drive clean is to install Firefox
and leave Internet Explorer behind.
1. Open the FireFox web browser.
2. On the main menu, select Tools > Options > Privacy
Click "Clear All"

Internet Explorer will allow you to manually remove some of your browsing history information, but there will still be traces of browsing history which professionals could quickly locate.
1. Click Tools > Internet Options > General
2. Click "Delete Files," then "OK", Click "Delete Cookies," then "OK",
Click "Clear History" then "Yes."

Internet Explorer may also remember your form entries for you, which can result in past searches appearing in a drop-down box when typing in search keywords. (I personally find it convenient to leave these boxes checked, but it is your choice.)
To erase this information:
1. Click Tools > Internet Options > Content > AutoComplete > Clear Forms
2. You can clear the checkboxes by "Forms", "Web addresses",
and "User names and password" to prevent the program from trying
to recall your form selections for you in the future.

America Online browser is based on Microsoft Internet Explorer. In addition to the information above, here are specific steps to clear your AOL browsing history:
1. Click "settings" from the set of buttons at the top of the AOL window.
2. Click "preferences."
3. Click "toolbar and sounds."
4. Click "clear history trail now."

Other Browsers offer similar functions; investigate their menus thoroughly.

How to Backup Computer Files

It seems like the your computer is the all important tool, until you lose your files and you realize the computer is just the box that held the important stuff. You MUST backup computer files on a regular basis. And there are many methods to accomplish this. I'll list them here, you choose 1, 2, or more, and then make it a priority to put your choice into action!

1a) Manually back up your files to an external USB flash drive. These are inexpensive, they come in lots of gig sizes, and by far the best one is the SanDisk because it has an "onboard back up program" as a service to you.

Once You Know, You Newegg

At NewEgg, in the search box, type SanDisk USB flash drive. Find one with the approximate GigaBytes you will need, and buy it.

1b) When you put the SanDisk into your computer, notice a program that will try to open called "CruzerSync". Click it, enter a username and password, and now choose which files you want it to back up regularly.

2) Purchase an external harddrive which usually comes with TONS of gigs of space. (Also at NewEgg or a local store.) This is the method I use. I paid about $150 for it 3 years ago, and it works like a charm. I plug it into my computer. The "My Computer" section sees it, and I simply click and drag "My Documents, My Pictures, My Music" to the "external hard drive". It's fast, easy, simple. And I still have lots of room.

3) Purchase an online data backup tool that will automatically securely backup your computer files every day. These usually cost approximately $50 per year. You won't even know the backup is happening and you can tell if a file is selected for backup by a handy little checkmark icon that appears beside the filename.

One of the most popular on the market is Carbonite and I highly recommend it if an online secure data backup is your method of choice.

Windows System Restore, How To

Here is a Computer Secret that I use just once in awhile - but it's a Biggy:

System Restore - the best thing Microsoft ever did for their customers. This will save you tremendous hours of heartache by re-setting whatever FREAK thing happened to your computer. I am a power user; I know what I am doing, and still I have to do a System Restore about every two months. Unexplainable things happen, this is how to fix them:

Window's 7 & up:

1. Just type Restore into the Start menu search box, and you'll immediately see System Restore at the top of the start menu

The dates in Bold are the most recent restore points which automatically set each time you shutdown. (Another good reason to do a system shutdown nightly.)

1. Choose a date very near to the time you discovered the problem.
2. Click Next
3. Read the screen, click Next, and trust it. It should all be fine.

If the problem still persists, choose another date slightly further back.
(You can go back two months but I don't recommend that. Inch your way back a bold-date at a time until the problem is fixed.)

Warning: Sometimes System Restore doesn't fix the problem. At that point, you will have to fix it by trial and error. Of all the times I've used it, it has worked 98% of the time.

Windows XP Users:

1. click Start
2. All Programs
3. Accessories
4. System Tools
5. System Restore
6. Click Next

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