Dirty data: spring-cleaning for your contact list

Messy address bookI recently posted about spring-cleaning your computer. Now, how about spring-cleaning your electronic address book? In our fast-paced world, with people changing jobs and moving around, contact lists quickly go out-of-date.

Several tools are available online to help. They use the Internet and email to keep in touch and request address updates. If you’ve ever received an email from Plaxo.com or Accucard (Cardscan.net), you’ve seen exactly how this works. Set up an account, load your contacts, and on a regular schedule, the service emails everyone on the list to get updated contact information.

Two additional benefits: the service itself acts as an online backup of all your contacts, and you can view your contact list from any computer with an Internet connection.

The only major flaw? It relies on valid email addresses. There’s no way to get updated information if the email itself has changed. One last thing: unless you update settings, it will send out notices to EVERYONE on your list–including ex-boyfriends and old bosses!

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.