BoomerTECH Adventures: Spring clean your tech devices

BoomerTECH Adventures: Spring clean your tech devices

This column is BoomerTECH Adventures’ second annual New Year’s reminder to think about the “health” of your digital devices. Are they full of files and data no longer useful so that phones, tablets and laptops slowly slow down? Are you giving outdated apps a home that’s taking up valuable storage space?

These 12 tips will not only make your devices work better, but they can also save you money. I pay for extra storage to Apple and Google because I’m lazy about clearing out files and apps that are no longer relevant to my life. They take up storage space on my devices, so I often get the message that I can no longer save a file or that an app just won’t work. So take a few minutes and try some of these helpful tips!

1. Check for software updates. This year we have helped many people solve problems with digital devices. Just this week, BTA clients had uncooperative email systems and an iPad stuck in earpiece mode. The “course” or solution was to update their device. On Apple mobile devices, go to Settings and tap General to find software updates. On Androids, go to Settings, tap System, then System Updates. The process for checking for updates on your computer varies by manufacturer; do an internet search for your computer brand combined with the word “updates” to see how to update your device.

Keep in mind that updates often include fixes for security issues, so it’s wise to stay current with all software updates.

2. Do some serious housecleaning in your photo app. Delete duplicates, discard substandard images and decide which images are important to keep. Remember that our Photos app is one of the biggest users of space on our device. Save storage space and delete the less important photos.

If you can’t bring yourself to delete photos, never fear – there are solutions. DropBox, Google Photos and Amazon have free accounts. You can upload your photos to one of these cloud sites. Always read the fine print. Sometimes uploads are not instant and there are specific steps to delete the originals from your device.

3. Take a close look at your home pages and app libraries, especially if your device is a couple of years old. Chances are you have an app or two that you no longer use. I just deleted 10 apps on my iPad – it took me less than three minutes. While doing so, I noticed that I must have 50 recipes stored on my homepages. I will have to review them next time! These unused apps take up storage space on our devices. Why keep them around? Delete them.

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4. Check the settings. Software updates often cause your settings to revert to their original state. For example, I use Siri (virtual assistant) on my iPhone and iPad and had chosen the Irish man as my voice. After the last update, the voice reverted to an American woman. Not a big deal, but it was a reminder to check other settings to see if I needed to change any of them.

5. Have you reviewed your documents, especially on the computer? I was just looking at my Documents folder — I have files dating back to 2014. We have to make tough decisions about what to keep. Some people like to keep track of everything, others don’t. I have recommendations I wrote in 2015 – should I keep them? Does anyone ever check them or does that only happen in mystery books? I’m keeping them for now and postponing that decision for another year. However, the course descriptions I wrote for adult education in 2017 are now completely outdated, it’s simple – simply! Remember that these outdated or irrelevant files take up storage space on our devices which is often limited. Another option is to move them to an external hard drive if you just can’t hit the delete button.

6. Clean up your email. When I taught adult education courses related to technology, the participants would gasp when they saw that I had 70,000 emails. Most people don’t go to the extremes I do. However, emails can pile up and you run out of free storage space with your provider. Here are a few suggestions for cleaning up your inbox:

Unsubscribe from companies and organizations that have obtained your email through purchases or donations. Usually, the unsubscribe button is in small, fine print at the bottom of a message. Scroll down to find it and click or tap on it. They will ask you to stay, but be reckless and click the unsubscribe button.

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Second, use the search window in your email to collect messages from the same source so you can delete them in one fell swoop. In the search window, for example, I type the name of the magazine or newspaper I subscribe to, and all the latest emails from that publication appear. I select them all and click delete.

7. Organize your bookmarks and favorites from your browser (Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc.). I am quick to bookmark recipes and interesting articles and as a result I have a long list of websites. I put them in bookmarks folders – desserts, interesting apps, politics and so on. I will save myself a lot of time searching for the right bookmark once this organizing process is done. Take some time this month to review your bookmarks. Can you organize them into folders? Are they still relevant? If not, press the delete button.

8. Update your calendar app. Never miss important dates like birthdays and appointments again. There are a couple of birth dates I never remember. I finally got smart and put them into my calendar app and set it to remind me every year. I can even put in notices a week in advance to get the card in the mail on time.

9. Check your text messages. Our texts and the images and videos we attach and receive take up storage space on our devices. Review these apps and remove any text threads and media you no longer want.

10. Change your passwords. If you’re a Facebook user, I’m sure you see posts from friends saying, “I’ve been hacked. Don’t accept friend requests.” We all know that there have been spectacular breaches of supposedly secure websites by hackers who release passwords and sell them on the dark web. Identity theft occurs all too often. The best advice from security professionals includes: (1) Don’t use the same password on multiple sites.(2) Use strong passwords that include numbers, symbols, and upper and lower case letters.(3) Don’t use 123456!

11. Check the settings on your social media accounts. When Facebook or other social media change the software, our personal settings often revert to their original state. Take a minute to check the privacy settings on your social media accounts. They decide who can see your posts.

While looking at your social media account, you may want to review your posts (images, text, and links) as if you were a potential employer, landlord, or someone doing a security check. Or think of your posts as a legacy. Are there pictures, comments or memes you’d rather your grandchildren didn’t remember you by? Have you posted anything that could be misinterpreted or changed in a negative way? Think how many times we’ve read an attempt to discredit someone because of a piece they wrote in college 20 years ago. Remember, with the rise of “deep fake” software, innocent photos/videos can be changed to just about anything. Google “deep fake examples” to see a variety of examples.

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12. Finally, think about which files should be in a cloud account such as Google Drive, Drop Box or OneDrive. A recent article in the Washington Post suggests that scanning documents such as deeds, foreclosure documents and wills and storing them in a cloud account is an excellent preventative measure in case property is destroyed in a catastrophic event.

Kashmir Hill in a New York Times column “Your Memories. Their Cloud” also addresses the question of what to do with important files. She cites archivists’ advice, “Archivists regularly cited the ‘3-2-1 rule’: three copies of everything, two copies on different cloud services and one at home. Some also said to keep another copy ‘offsite’, i.e. at home with a relative or in a safety deposit box, depending on your level of paranoia.

Both articles are worth reading when considering your use of digital devices and tools.

Take the time to be a good steward of the health of your digital devices and cut away dead wood from outdated files, apps and photos. Your devices will thank you.

BoomerTECH Adventures (boomertechadventures.com) provides expert guidance and resources to help Boomers and older adults develop competence and confidence using their Apple devices. Boomers themselves, BoomerTECH Adventures relies on their skills as educators to create experiences that meet individual needs through videos, Zoom presentations, tech tips and timely blog posts.

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