When you buy a laptop, you do so with the intent to use it over a long stretch of time. Unlike with phones, which tend to be upgraded every couple of years, some folks go years without swapping computers. And why would you, anyway? As the saying goes: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Well, owning a laptop is a lot like owning a car. With proper maintenance, gentle use, and regular care, your equipment will last for years to come. Ignoring important factors like cleaning and manufacturer updates, however, can result in a bogged-down machine that’s frustrating to work with.
If you want to get as many years as possible out of your beloved laptop, you’ll want to follow these 7 essential maintenance tasks every month. Not only will these tips help you extend the life of your computer, but they also apply to every brand of laptop out there. So strap in and get your canned air ready — your laptop is about to get some much needed TLC.
1. Tidy up your hard drive by deleting old files
Whether you use your computer for work or just leisure, you probably have a number of files floating around that you aren’t using anymore.
This can be anything from old photos you’ve already uploaded to Facebook, music tracks you’re no longer interested in, or leftover installer files left to rot in your downloads folder. Cleaning these files up will free up valuable space on your hard drive, and help free up memory so your computer runs faster.
Before going on a mass purge of your system, take care to make sure you avoid any “critical” folders that contain files your computer needs to run. On Windows, these are mostly found in the System32 folder.
Apple, on the other hand, hides critical files so users won’t pull anything funny. Keep in mind: Deleting critical system files will prevent your computer from running altogether, so when the time comes to clean, make sure you’re only deleting files you know you won’t miss.
Here’s a hint: start in the Downloads folder. People download images, videos, and installer files that tend to sit here and collect dust. You won’t believe how much space you’ll gain just by dragging them into the Recycling Bin and hitting “empty.”
2. Declutter your desktop with a little help from Windows or macOS
A messy desktop is ugly. Nobody can argue with that. Getting your desktop nice looking, however, takes a little bit of know-how. Sure, you can simply click and drag the icons around until you have something resembling “order” but this can take time out of your day — and you probably have better things to do than fiddle around with a mouse for an hour.
Thankfully, both Windows and macOS have some automated organization options for their respective desktops.
On Windows, simply right click with your trackpad or mouse on your desktop wallpaper. Next, hover over the option Sort by and choose either name, size, filetype, or date modified. I recommend you select name since it alphabetizes your icons. Once you click this, your icons will be neatly arranged in a row — perfect for picking and choosing what programs stay and what programs go.
On Mac, all you need to do is right-click or ctrl + click and you should see a menu option that says Clean up. Clicking this will automatically re-organize the icons on your desktop.
If you don’t see Clean up when you right-click, your system may already be configured to organize icons another way. To check, click the desktop and select View from the menu bar, followed by Sort by and then your preferred method of organizing.
For more information on customizing your cleanup, Apple’s support guide on the matter can guide you through alternative options like Stacks and changing the size of your icons.