From the Actrix Online Informer February 2011
Putting your computer on a diet
by Rob Zorn
The new year has been chugging along for a few weeks now, and chances are, like me, you're struggling to keep your New Year's resolutions. After a bit too much Christmas cake and bubbles many of us have promised ourselves we'll save more money, lose weight, drink less or give up smoking in the year ahead, which is always easier said then done. However, when it comes to helping your computer lose weight, it could be simpler than you think.
By removing some of the electronic gubbins that builds up as a result of being online, you could speed up your machine's performance and put off that inevitable crash. This month we're going to look at how you can clean out your computer by archiving old email messages, removing temporary internet files, and using online storage.
Archiving your emailsIf you use Microsoft Outlook for managing your email, archiving your old emails is a great way to clear up space and boost performance. While each email may only take up a very small amount of space, they quickly add up, so archiving them to personal folders on your computer is a good way to get some room back.
Archiving your emails is a very simple process, and you can even set Outlook automatically to archive your emails after they've been sitting there for a certain amount of time. When you archive your emails, you remove them from Outlook and store them on your computer in what is called a .pst file, or a Personal Storage Table. This not only clears up space, but is also a great way to back up your important emails.Whenever needed, the .pst files can be turned back into emails again.
There are numerous online tutorials on how to archive your emails, but one of the better ones is Microsoft Office’s own Outlook tutorial.
Don’t forget to set Outlook to automatically archive your old messages to save you the hassle of having to do it every time your inbox gets too full!
Removing temporary internet files
Every time you browse the internet, your computer picks up and stores a number of files that you probably don't think much about. Every page you visit is actually downloaded to your machine, and when you move on to another page, not everything is deleted. Your browser also stores a lot of images and things from web pages you visit, mainly so that when you return those pages it can serve up the images etc, without having to download them again.
Another type of file your browser continually gathers is a cookie, which is a piece of text information that lets certain websites know you’ve visited them before. Cookies can hold information about your online preferences, authenticating your online identity, or storing the contents of an online shopping cart. All these files are stored in a temporary storage area on your computer called your browser cache.
There are a few ways you can delete your cookies and other files your web browser has stored on your computer, and modern browsers make it pretty easy.
In Firefox, for example, click Tools, and then click "Clear private history". This will let you tick boxes to clear your cache, remove all cookies, delete your history etc. You can even set what time period you want, from the last hour to "Everything". You can do something similar in Internet Explorer by clicking Tools/Delete browsing history, and in Opera by clicking Tools/Delete private data.
There are other ways to remove cookies and other temporary internet files, if your browser doesn't yet have these features. About Cookies is a site that shows you how to delete all cookies etc, no matter which browser or operating system you use. It also gives you a detailed run-down of what cookies really are, what they do, and the recent laws and legal debates about them. It even gives you a recipe for baking chocolate walnut cookies (the biscuit kind, not the computer kind).
Another way to remove cookies and other temporary internet files is by downloading a program to do it for you. Often these programs come with features to do all sorts of cool and interesting things to make your computer a little faster. One such program is Ccleaner (originally short from crap-cleaner), which is available for free from http://www.piriform.com/. Ccleaner not only removes cookies, but can also delete your browser history and empty your recycle bin and system caches.
There are a whole bunch of other features that are definitely worth checking out. Unfortunately, Ccleaner only operates on Windows operating systems, but a similar program for those using Mac computers is called Onyx, and can be downloaded for free at: www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/system_disk_utilities/onyx.html.
We believe these programs are safe to use but, of course, you download and install anything off the Internet at your own risk.
Online storageExperts agree, the fuller your hard drive gets, the slower and flakier your computer will become. A great way to reclaim some precious space on your hard drive is to invest in online storage. While you could fork-out some serious money for a portable hard-drive instead, there are a number of reasons why online storage is worth thinking about for those big files you seldom use but don't want to delete.
When stored on your computer or on a portable hard drive, your files and folders are susceptible to corruption and damage. Also, if you get burgled, break your computer or spill coffee into your portable hard drive, your important files could be irreversibly lost. By uploading your files to an online storage provider, you can be sure you’ll always have access to them no matter whose computer you're at, and there's no chance of accidentally corrupting your files. It's not that expensive. Many providers will give you five Gigabytes of space (which should be ample for most) for as little as NZ$7-8 a month.
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