If you homeschool year-round or take a break over the summer you’re probably still beholden to your school district’s school schedule. Getting your documentation prepared and making sure you have the correct curriculum in place is probably at the forefront of your back-to-(home)school preparations.
What you’re probably not thinking about is your computer. You just use it and have faith that it will start up and work without any hassle. Unfortunately, sometimes you run into a few hassles. If you go through this checklist, the next time you run into any problems you can quickly recover.
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Back to Homeschool Tech Tune-Up
I cannot stress this enough. You need to backup your data. If you’re using an online resource like Google Drive or One Drive you’re probably in good shape as far as those documents and pictures are concerned. What you need to be aware of is the data that’s not backed up to the cloud.
All commercial operating systems come with a built-in backup software. It’s not the easiest to use but if your need to run a backup in a pinch you’ll have that as a resource. In Windows 7 and 8, you can click on the Start Orb and type Backup in the search box the click Backup and Restore. For OS X use Time Machine.
It’s a good idea to keep an external hard drive at the ready to use for this. I recommend the Western Digital Passport. You can get them for as little as $60 on Amazon. If you want to get really fancy, pick up a wireless model and backup all your computers over your home network.
You can also install an automated backup solution that will save your data to the cloud. Backblaze is a great option for cloud backup.
Archive Old Email
Do you really need all that email from 1998? No. Delete it! If you can’t stand to part with it, archive it using a tool like MailStore Home. Not only does this give you a place to store your email, it also will make your mail client run faster because it’s not choking on all that old email.
Update or Uninstall Software and Drivers
If you’ve been putting off updates to your operating system or software do that now. Often, there are security flaws that are addressed and sometimes there are enhancements you didn’t know were waiting for you. There are a number of tools you can use to make sure your applications are up-to-date.
For hardware drivers, you can go to your manufacturer’s support site and download tools that will scan your hardware and make recommendations for driver updates. If you have a custom-built computer you’ll need to hunt those down yourself.
If you’ve been saving bookmarks from your late-night Internet adventures now is the time to remove any old ones that are either invalid or no longer apply. Both Chrome and Firefox have add-ons you can use to check for invalid bookmarks. Removing valid bookmarks that you no longer need is a manual process.
De-crapify Your Computer
You probably have a lot of junk apps on your computer. You may not even realize they are there. I’ve seen some people with CD/DVD burning software on their computers and they don’t even have a drive to make the discs! PC Decrapifier is great for finding those useless apps and removing them.
All of these extra applications use up processor and memory resource. Memory isn’t usually an issue with newer systems but these apps that run in the background can use up processor cycles and leech off your Internet connection. Get rid of this stuff!
Dust Off Your Computer
Vaccuum the fans and vents on your case. If you have a fan-less case you don’t have to worry about this but people with large desktops or older laptops will find that dust collects around the vents and fans of their computers. Use a vacuum cleaner to remove the dust. This will greatly reduce the heat in your system and improve performance because heat is bad for computers.
Sometimes the dust can be so bad that you need to clean out the inside of your computer. If you feel comfortable opening the case and doing that, go for it! If not, find someone you trust and offer to pay them to do it for you. It takes 5 minutes and they’ll be happy to have an extra $20 in their pocket.
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Music for the podcast by Kevin Macleod.