Computer desktops can get pretty much like real desktops except that they are much harder to tidy up. With the computer, its not just the desktop, its the hard drive and often the program files themselves that all clamour for a spring clean.
The best way to spring clean a computer is to reformat its drive and reinstall its operating system. This can be a scary prospect but its not as hard, or as dangerous as it sounds.
Even if you can afford it, its rarely a good idea to get someone else to do the tidying for you because they wont know what you need to keep and what you don't. The trouble is, you often don't know what you really need to keep either so the mess just keeps on accumulating and your performance at finding things you need keeps on getting worse.
This is made worse still if you use Microsoft windows because its registry files and file system degrade with the clutter leading to the machine itself getting slower and slower.
Luckily, storage is getting cheaper on an almost daily basis and this creates a nice opportunity for an easy way to spring clean your machine without too much aggravation. I'm talking mainly about Microsoft Windows here but this applies to Linux systems too. In fact, the robustness of Linux can work against you here because they can get into a much bigger mess before performance suffers so much that you have to do something about it.
Here are the steps you can take to do your own spring clean without losing days of work or valuable files.
Now its clean, here is a tip for keeping the desktop fairly tidy: Try to keep your desktop for "current" work and use "shortcuts" to files rather than the files themselves. That way you can delete the shortcuts without worrying about losing or re-organising the files and you'll always be able to find the files in their original folders. Don't create folders until you need them and don't be afraid of re-organising. Use Beagle or Google desktop to find files rather than spending time searching manually.
Spring cleaning is a good time to think seriously about whether you need to continue paying for your virus prone Microsoft Windows/Microsoft Office based system. Take a look at Ubuntu Linux as a great desktop replacement that has all of the office capabilities and is compatible with Microsoft files. You can test it off the disk without risking anything and you can set your machine up to boot both Windows and Linux if you are nervous about getting rid of Windows completely. Ubuntu can read the backup described above but will not run your applications directly - you will need to check for compatible or equivalent applications if you are using anything other than Microsoft Office products and web browsers.
Here are some links to more detailed reinstallation guides that you might find useful. The biggest problems usually come from driver issues, particularly with older computers but modern operating systems are generally very good at including suitable default drivers (Microsoft XP or Ubuntu Linux 8.04 and beyond) so you are not likely to encounter serious problems.
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