Spring cleaning, geek-style

Spring cleaning

In the mood for a little geek-style spring cleaning? To keep things in tip-top shape, spend a few minutes on your computer every few months.

The easiest place to start is your monitor. Use a microfiber cloth to dust your monitor, or try premoistened screen-cleaning wipes for more stubborn spots like fingerprints. Avoid traditional glass cleaners—some LCD and laptop screens are too delicate for these strong solutions, and drips can be devastating to electronics. And never spray cleaner directly on the computer–spray the cloth you are using instead.

Got crumbs in your keyboard? Canned air can blow them away, or you can try special vacuum attachments. If it’s really beyond help, spend $20 – $50 on an upgrade to a new wireless or multimedia keyboard. If you keep coffee or soda close by, consider a spill-resistant keyboard to help prevent disastrous accidents.

If you have an old mouse with a rubber roller ball, you can open it up for cleaning. Pull out the ball and use a little alcohol on a cotton swab to clean the rollers. Or, even better, skip the cleaning and purchase an optical laser mouse instead. Then there’s no cleaning required and you’ll find it’s a much smoother mouse experience.

Feeling adventurous? Desktops, especially those sitting on the floor, tend to accumulate a lot of dust inside the case. If you have pets, you may be shocked at how much fur you find. Your computer will run much better without it, so open up the case and blow out all the dust with canned air once every year or two. Unplug it first, of course, and be careful not to jostle any parts. A dust-free PC will stay cooler and run much more smoothly.

Does your laptop need a nap? Sleep vs. hibernate

sleeping bearWhen you shut down your laptop, you have two other options: sleep and hibernate. Have you ever wondered what they do and when to use them?

The idea behind both these options is to give you a faster way to wake up your computer, without using up a lot of battery power. If you just want a quick nap, maybe a few hours, put it to sleep. It will continue to use a little battery power but should start quickly when it’s time to rise and shine. Nudge it a little, by moving the mouse or touching a button on the keyboard–that’s all it should take.

If you plan to let it rest for a longer period of time, or if battery power is low, let your laptop hibernate. It takes a little longer to rouse it later, but it won’t use up any power, and it’s still quicker than a full shut-down and reboot. Settings vary by manufacturer but usually hitting the power key will wake it up.

If these options don’t seem to be working for you, you’re not alone. Unfortunately driver issues and differences between equipment lead to problems for a large percentage of laptop users. Visit your laptop manufacturer’s site for the latest software updates. And be sure to save your documents before taking a break. You shouldn’t have to do this, but if you’re prone to sleep disturbances, it’s better safe than sorry.

Two monitors are better than one

Dual monitorsYou may have thought the biggest advantage of switching to a flatscreen LCD monitor was the space it saves on your desktop. Now studies are showing that one of the simplest, most profound ways to increase productivity is to get two!

Keep email open in one screen while managing your work on the other. View a large spreadsheet in its entirety. Compare two documents—or two website pages—side by side. The possibilities are endless, and as simple as it sounds, the change is dramatic.

You can set up your monitors side-by-side, stacked one above the other, diagonally, or just about any other way you can imagine. The mouse works as usual, moving smoothly from one monitor to the other.

If you’ve got a laptop, simply plug in a monitor. For a desktop, you’ll need a video card that has two video outputs and of course a second monitor. The rest is already built into Windows.