by Robert Siciliano

5 Ways to Update Your PC for the New Year

Jan 11, 2011

Out with the old and in with the new. In my household, closets, cabinets, and drawers are purged and reorganized during the last two weeks of December. Anything that hasn’t been used in the past year, is tossed, donated, or recycled. I rarely put anything into storage, since that generally means I’ll never use it again. This process makes room for new Christmas gifts, and clearing out stuff clutter also helps disperse mental clutter.

During the first two weeks of January I do the same thing with gadgets and technology. To get your PC organized and efficient, follow this process:

1. Go through your files, deleting and organizing as necessary.

2. Back up your data. McAfee offers unlimited online backup for $5 a month. For local backup, the 2TB Western Digital MyBook for $99 can’t be beat. I use both, plus redundant local drives, and I keep them in sync with GoodSync. Including online backup, I have three to four versions of every file.

3. Organize your software. Gather all the disks and serial numbers and back them up in two or three locations. I have all my software on CDs or DVDs, and I’ve also ripped (ripping is the process of copying audio/video/software to a hard disk) into organized folders on external drives. This includes all your drivers, recent versions of browsers, antivirus and anti-spyware software, and any free applications you use.

4. Download and run Belarc Advisor, a free utility that takes a snapshot of your entire system and tells you everything that’s installed, including serial numbers, and helps you identify bloat (bloat is when computer programs have many unnecessary features that are not used by end users). Print it out or turn into a PDF with free PDFCreator.

5. Reinstall your operating system. (This is easier than it sounds.) Reinstalling your operating system every year or two eliminates bloat and malware and speeds up your PC. Once you’ve followed the first four steps, the reinstall process is easy and efficient. It sometimes takes a second try to get it right, but once it’s done it’s done. Just search online for your operating system’s reinstall requirements. It is always best to have a second Internet-connected PC at your disposal, so if you do run into problems you can search for help online. Once the reinstall is complete, go to “Windows Update” in your control panel or programs menu to update your operating system’s critical security patches.

If you elect not to reinstall your operating system, at least complete the first four steps, and then proceed to “Windows Update.”

Robert Siciliano, personal security expert contributor to Just Ask Gemalto, discusses hackers hacking hotels on CNBC. Disclosures