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Tidy Up Your Tech: A Spring-Cleaning Guide

Effective Date: April 27, 2022

Spring is here, and it's a good time to think about cleaning—and not just your home or closet. Your personal computing devices could use some organization and a refresh too. Doing so will lead to a better, more secure experience for you on your smartphone, tablet, or computer. Check out the tips below to learn more about how to clean and organize your devices and the information they store. 

Manage passwords

By now, you know that using strong and sufficiently complex passwords are a key element of staying safe online. Consider using a password manager to not only help you keep track of your accounts, but also to be notified if your credentials are potentially compromised. Most smartphones (iOS, Android) have a built-in password manager, as do several web browsers. Paid password managers such as LastPass or 1Password offer additional feature sets beyond built-in default options. Password management is a basic form of cyber hygiene that can enhance your security and give you peace of mind. Learn more about password best practices. 

Delete or cancel unused accounts

You might be surprised how many online accounts you have that you don’t use—some may even be paid subscriptions. Take time to review your online accounts. (Hint: all those unopened emails lurking in your inbox might point to where to find the accounts.) Close any that you no longer need or use. Reduce the number of places and ways you may be at risk by reducing your unnecessary account clutter. Think of it as clearing out a junk drawer of gadgets you forgot you had. 

Cancel email subscription lists

Remember those unopened emails that clued you in to the accounts you no longer use? Don’t forget to unsubscribe from those companies’ email lists as well. Opting-out of all the email mailing lists that no longer serve or interest you is a great way to reclaim digital storage space and also ease the load of managing email folders in the future. Simply scroll to the bottom of those unwanted subscription emails to find the “unsubscribe” button and manage your engagement to fit your preferences.  

Archive or delete old emails

Review your email account(s) and scrub your inbox folders clean of messages you don’t need. Don’t stop there. Be sure to empty the trash folder and archive any emails in your inbox that you don’t currently need but want to store for future access. While you’re in organizing mode, evaluate your email folders and filters and decide whether they are sorting messages in a way that is helpful or if you need to update your system a bit. 

Clear out messages, apps, and photos you don’t need

Aside from making your camera roll and phone easier to navigate, deleting unneeded content and media offers the bonus of freeing up storage space on your device. Removing old text messages can give you back gigabytes of storage. Other items to consider deleting from your devices include notes, contacts, and expired reminders.  

Update your computer and mobile device software

Microsoft, Apple, and Google release new versions of their operating systems every one to two months. These updates not only provide critical security patches but can also improve your device’s functionality by increasing speed and providing new features.  

Protect your computer from viruses and malware

Running an antivirus program is critical to your device’s success and security. Windows PCs come with Microsoft Defender built-in, and there are several free or low-cost antivirus tools for macOS and Windows. Learn more about Northwestern’s antivirus software offerings. 

Physically clean your devices

Be sure to keep your phone and computer clean—they definitely encounter and collect a lot of germs and dirt. But don’t use whatever household cleaning supplies you might have handy, as they may damage your devices. Use gentle wipes without harsh chemicals, and never spray liquid directly onto your devices. Make sure to clean your headphones or earbuds gently using a soft cloth. You can also purchase cleaning kits specifically recommended for the headphones you have (AirPods, for example). 

Check out more resources, tips, and recommendations on staying cybersafe all year round on the Secure Northwestern web page and be sure to follow @Northwestern_IT on Twitter.