7 Tips to Give Your PC a Security Spring Clean
Spring is the perfect time to deep-clean your entire home, inside and out, focusing on tackling forgotten areas and decluttering. While taking care of household chores, remember to spring-clean your PC for a complete fresh start too.
As time passes, computers accumulate software, data, and browser plug-ins that can slow them down and threaten their security.
Spring-cleaning your PC can free up disk space and enhance its security, potentially avoiding the need for an expensive upgrade.
Don’t know where to start? Try these seven simple tips for a clutter-free, refreshed, and more secure PC.
1. Uninstall Unused Software
As you continue to use your computer and install programs and apps, you may end up accumulating software you no longer use. To fix this issue, identify and uninstall software you don’t use; you can always install them again later if needed.
Installed software consumes hard drive space and can slow down your PC. This is especially true if the software installs components that run on startup or continue using system resources in the background.
Getting rid of forgotten, unused software, such as old trial apps and games, also reduces the risk of being targeted by hackers or data-mining firms.
To uninstall apps in Windows, go to Settings > Apps > Apps & features > App list. Find the app you want to remove, click the three-dot menu next to it, and click Uninstall.
2. Install OS and Software Updates
Installing critical and security updates you’ve been putting off is a great way to start spring-cleaning your PC. Though software updates are important for maintaining PC security, they’re often neglected due to their perceived insignificance and time-consuming nature.
Cybercriminals can exploit security flaws in software and operating systems to infiltrate and harm computer systems. Once an attacker gains access to your PC, they may install malware that can steal your data or even take over your computer(s).
Regular updates on your OS and software can help prevent such attacks by fixing known vulnerabilities. To update your Windows PC, go to Settings > Windows Update, then click Check for Updates and select Download now.
Note that not every update improves security. Updates can also add new features, remove outdated ones, and enhance software performance (stability and speed).
3. Run a Malware Scan
Just as spring-cleaning brings a sense of order and cleanliness to your physical space, scanning your PC for malware can bring peace of mind and a sense of security.
Installing anti-malware software and regularly running it can protect your computer from viruses, spyware, ransomware, and other malware.
PC users can run virus scans with the built-in Microsoft Defender, an anti-malware system. Although Defender is good enough, it lacks several features offered by dedicated anti-malware programs, so it may not detect all types of malware. For this reason, installing a third-party antivirus can enhance security.
Malware isn’t just a security risk; it can consume your PC’s resources and slow it down. Cryptojackers, for example, hide on your computer and use its resources to mine cryptocurrencies like Monero, making it run slower than usual or even crash.
4. Back Up Your System
Before purging excess files from your PC, consider the data and details you can’t afford to lose. Family photos, financial records, and other important information need protection from potential viruses, ransomware attacks, and computer failures. This is where external storage and cloud backups come in.
To keep your files safe and free up space on your PC, consider transferring files to an external hard drive that connects to it via USB. You can then encrypt the removable drive with BitLocker or your preferred encryption software and keep it separate for additional security.
If you need more drive space on your computer, uploading files to cloud services like OneDrive, Google Drive, or Dropbox might be the solution. In addition, online backups are convenient; they can protect your data from theft, damage, and other physical threats.
5. Clean Your Web Browser
It’s not uncommon for people to install browser extensions that go unused. These extensions take up disc space and slow down your PC.
Like old software, old browser extensions can have backdoors an attacker can use to gain access to your PC and infect it with malware. Removing unused browser extensions can enhance your computer security and improve its performance, including browsing speed.
To uninstall an extension on Google Chrome, click Menu > More tools > Extensions. On the extension you want to uninstall, click Remove.
6. Keep an Eye on Your Email
Whether you work remotely or in a traditional office setting, you likely receive many emails in your inbox. Because of this, it can be difficult to spot anything unusual, including malicious emails.
Cybercriminals often use email to spread misinformation and malware. The good news is that there are many ways to keep spam and promotional emails from flooding your inbox.
One way to keep your inbox uncluttered is to unsubscribe from unwanted mailing lists and mark suspicious emails as junk or spam. Doing this might also train the spam filter, and in doing so improve its performance.
7. Manage Your Passwords
Email security mistakes—like choosing easy-to-guess passwords, using the exact login details for multiple accounts, and failing to protect your login credentials—make your PC and accounts more vulnerable to attacks.
An attacker can break into your computer by exploiting weak or stolen passwords. The criminal can then access your social media, bank accounts, emails, and other confidential data.
To protect your PC and accounts from cybercriminals, consider using different passwords for each account. A good rule of thumb is to create passwords that are 12 characters long and contain upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
Alternatively, you can use a password manager to generate such passwords. These also store passwords in encrypted vaults, so you won’t need to remember login details all the time.
Spring-Clean Your PC for Optimal Performance and Security
Regularly following a layered approach to digital security, including spring-cleaning your PC, is crucial for protecting it from potential security threats and keeping it running smoothly year-round.
Deleting unused software, installing software updates, running malware scans, cleaning your web browser, and managing your passwords are all easy-to-implement PC-cleaning tips, so don’t stress: not all security practises are a headache to carry out.