Find information faster: Organise your computer

If you’ve been using your computer for more than 6 months, it’s probably safe to say that you don’t need all the files and e-mail messages stored there. When left untreated too long, an unorganised computer will perform slower and make it more difficult for you to find the information you need. If that’s the case, it’s a great time to make sure your computer is cleaned up and ready to roll for your next upcoming project or assignment. This article can help you get started.

Clear out your old, unnecessary files

So how long should you keep old files on your hard drive? It’s kind of like cleaning out a closet – if you haven’t used a particular file (or sweater) in a year, you’re pretty safe storing it somewhere else.

How can you tell how old a file is? Rest your mouse cursor over the file to see when it was last modified. For more information right-click the file, and choose Properties. You can see when the file was created, last modified it, and most recently accessed. If a file is old, not important, and hasn’t been accessed in more than 6 months, it might be time to clear it out.

You’re the best judge to determine which files to keep, but here is a list of items you might want to consider saving:

  • Tax and legal information

  • Project-related files

  • Favourite digital images from the year

  • Plans you could leverage for future projects

  • Important e-mail messages

  • Customer information

    Image of the Properties dialog box for a file

    By looking at the properties of a file you can see when the file was created, last modified it, and most recently accessed.


Tip   To view your files in a folder by the date they were last modified, open a folder and on the View menu click Details. On the top of the column, click Date Modified.

Image of file folder with files organized by date

Quickly find old files by organizing them by the date they were modified.

Back up important files

The next step is to copy selected files to another storage medium, such as a writeable CD or DVD or an external hard drive. For your most important files, such as project files, key presentations, or large e-mails, you’ll rest a lot easier if you have a backup copy stored safely away from your computer. Backing up your files to CD or DVD will allow you to safely store these disks should you happen to lose your computer or if it should fail.

To back up your files it’s ideal to have a CD or DVD burner or a hard drive you can connect to your computer through a USB or FireWire port. Technology Management also offers an online backup service called DataGuardian.


Tip   If you’re backing up your information to a CD or DVD, be sure to create labels for your CDs that in some way describe their contents. For example, you might title the CD "2005 Archive" or be more specific with something like "2005 Presentations."

Clean out your e-mail

Do you have a system for weeding out and organising your old e-mail messages? Here are a few quick ideas for taming your Inbox and getting ready to handle those messages in the months to come:

  • Create folders to store messages according to sender, topic, or date.

  • Create e-mail rules to file and manage your messages automatically. For example, you can create a rule to send all messages from your manager to a special folder.

  • Go through your Sent folder in Outlook in and delete items you no longer need (especially those with large file attachments).

  • If you’re sure you no longer need e-mail you’ve deleted, empty the folder that contains it.

Organise and clear out your Internet files

If you’re like the average person, you’ve been doing a lot of Web searching and your Internet Explorer Favorites folder may be bursting at the seams. It could probably use some weeding out and organizing. To organize your Favorites in Internet Explorer, on the Favorites menu, click Organize Favorites.

While your tending to your Favorites folder there’s some additional clean up that’s easy to do. Start Internet Explorer and on the Tools menu click Internet Options. In the General tab of the Internet Options dialog box, you have two cleanup choices. These steps can help reduce some unnecessary files on your computer.

  1. In the Temporary Internet files section, click Delete Files to remove all temporary files. (You can also elect to remove all offline content downloaded from sites you’ve visited.)

  2. In the History section, click Clear History to remove the list of sites you’ve previously visited. Also make sure that you have the Days to keep pages in history: set to where you would like it.

    Internet options dialog box

    Clear out Internet Explorer using some of the options on the Internet Options dialog box.

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