Spring cleaning is a good way to keep your home clean and ensure everything is in its place. The digital counterpart of this process can help you do the same things. It will enable you to get rid of redundant data, make sure that the information that you make public is up to date, and also ensure that all your devices and accounts are working as intended. 

A digital spring cleaning is a good way to refresh your accounts and devices. In this article, we’ll walk you through exactly what you need to know to complete your own.

1. Go through your local personal files

Your personal files, like work documents or records, may be some of your most valuable possessions. However, old files that you no longer use take up considerable storage space if you don’t delete them regularly. A full disk can make finding the data that you need difficult and will also reduce the performance of your computer or mobile device.

Start your digital spring cleaning by going through all the files stored on your devices. Group the files you still need using folders, libraries, or albums, and delete the rest. If you have an external storage device like a USB memory stick or an external SSD, this is the best time to create backups of your most important data.

Make sure that you do not delete system files as this can cause damage to your operating system. Once you have sifted through all of your personal files and double-checked that you haven’t deleted anything important, empty the Recycle Bin on your computer to permanently delete the data.

2. Delete cloud-stored files that you don’t need

The next step is to log into your cloud storage accounts and repeat the sifting process. These services offer limited storage that can fill up quickly thanks to auto-sync features. However, once your account reaches capacity, they will stop backing up your files.

To prevent this from happening, log into cloud storage services that you use, such as Google Drive and Apple iCloud, and decide what you need to keep and which files can be deleted. You should also group files by type. Create albums to store your photos and folders for your documents and spreadsheets. This will make it easier for you to access the files that you need in the future.

At this point, you should also configure auto-sync features of these services to only back up the files that you need. This will prevent your account from reaching its storage capacity too quickly.

3. Optimize your devices using their built-in software tools

Once you’ve deleted all the redundant files, it is time to optimize your devices. Windows computers and Android-powered smartphones and tablets offer built-in features that are designed to scan the internal storage devices for system files that are no longer used. These include old update files, backups of previous Windows installations, and logs. 

If your device uses a mechanical drive (HDD), you can use the computer’s built-in defragmentation function to automatically rearrange the data so that the operating system can access it faster. Windows can also Optimize solid state drives (SSD) to achieve the same effect.

You should also optimize your mobile devices. Both iOS and Android smartphones come with Optimize features that will scan the devices and present you with ways to make the devices run faster, extend their battery life, and free up storage space.

4. Change the passwords to your accounts and refresh your personal information

Your first line of defense against identity theft is the passwords that you set for your accounts. Make a list of all your accounts, log into each of them, and reset the password. If you have the option to use two-factor authentication, enable the feature for an additional layer of security.

The golden rule when it comes to digital safety is to choose passwords that are difficult to guess. This includes phrases and words that contain letters, numbers, and special characters. If you find it difficult to come up with secure passwords, services like Norton 360 with LifeLock offer password managers in addition to a suite of other security tools.

You can use these managers to generate complex phrases, as well as store all of your passwords in a secure database that only you can access. This makes it easy to keep track of dozens and even hundreds of account passwords without having to physically write them down or remember them. The database containing the passwords can also be synced to a cloud service so that you will be able to access it using your phone or other computers.

Refreshing your accounts’ personal information is also important. Update your physical address, phone number, backup email addresses, and security questions to protect your accounts from identity theft.

5. Delete software that you don’t use

The last step of your digital spring cleaning is to uninstall old software. This applies to both computers and mobile devices. Go through your computer, laptop, phone, and tablet, and uninstall all the apps that you no longer need. These take up storage space, and some will run in the background even if you are not actively using them. Once you delete the old software, your devices won’t have to allocate resources to them anymore, enabling them to run faster. 

This step is especially important when it comes to mobile devices because apps that run in the background will constantly drain your battery and use your internet connection to synchronize data.

Digital hygiene is essential for maintaining the privacy of your data

The concept of digital hygiene refers to keeping your files in order, deleting old data, and ensuring that all of your accounts are secure. From profile photos to addresses and financial information, all the details that you attach to your online accounts should be kept up to date. 

An important part of the digital spring cleaning process is to also delete the accounts for services that you no longer use. With time, you may lose track of some of these accounts and forget to change their passwords, which may lead to them being hacked. If this happens, all of the personal data that you’ve attached to those accounts may be stolen. 

To protect your information, you can delete the accounts or use a comprehensive security service to constantly monitor the internet for your personal details. If the service detects your Social Security number, name, or address on fraudulent websites, it will notify you. This gives you time to react and take measures so that your details cannot be stolen or used against you. 

Refresh your Windows if possible

Recent Windows versions offer users the ability to reset the entire operating system. This process essentially reinstalls Windows without affecting your personal files. Although refreshing the system files can take up to a couple of hours, your system will get a considerable speed boost once the process has been completed. 

The reset feature is streamlined to enable you to take advantage of it without requiring any technical skills.

If you choose to reset your Windows you can also skip the defragmentation or optimization of the drive that contains the operating system. The process will automatically trigger the feature as part of the reset process.

Perform the digital spring cleaning every couple of months

All devices accumulate redundant files over time. When your laptop, phone, or tablet receives updates for the operating system or other software that you have installed, logs and other files will be left behind. These will make your devices run slower and some may even contain important personal data. 

Perform a digital spring cleaning at least once every six months to ensure that your systems work as intended and your personal information is secure.