By Dawnita Fogleman

Staff Writer

January is National Clean Up Your Computer Month and while people are focusing on cleaning up their diets, habits and homes, it’s not a bad idea to consider cleaning up those electronics as well. Local office and electronics experts offer some advise to help make this year safer for you and your computer.

“Definitely running your updates, occasionally clear out your browser and definitely restart your machine. When anybody comes and buys a machine from us, that’s what we tell them,“ Zane Miller, Information Technology Consultant with Shafer Computer & Electronics.

Miller explained the importance of allowing your computer to run those annoying updates. The program company may have found a back door that hackers are accessing and need to close it with a software update.

“The fact of the matter is 50 percent of that update is functionality or some features they have and the other 50 percent is security,” said Miller.

Most computers automatically update their software through the internet. According to Microsoft, scammers will call on the phone and pretend to be a representative of a software company. They can even make their caller ID display a legitimate company and number. They can walk you through installing something onto your computer that is supposedly going to fix it for you.

Chris Devine of Devine’s Electronics and Woodward’s Radio Shack first cautions, “Be extra weary of anyone calling or anything popping up instructing you to call them, or that they are Microsoft. It’s a scam 100% of the time.”

Microsoft reminds people they do not make unsolicited phone calls or send unsolicited emails. Any communication with them must be initiated by the customer. Only download software from official websites.

Security software programs like McAffee, Kaspersky, and Webroot provide antivirus, firewall and malware protection, but their support staff will not be as accessible as a local company. Both Shafer’s and Devines offer in-house, on-site and help desk style, remote support to their customers.

“Also, buy a paper notebook and a pencil and write down your passwords and keep them in a safe place, it just makes life easier and its impossible to remotely hack,” says Devine.

Miller reminds people that a computer is a machine with moving, mechanical parts. It needs to be turned off.

“Something I see a lot of people do on average is a lot of people don’t see a computer like they would like a vehicle,” explains Miller. “A lot of people will leave their machine on overnight. Well, that hard drive is running RPM all the time, actually 5,000 to 7,000 RPM. So that actually degrades your hard drive over time. That’s a big deal that I feel people need to know, when you are done, always reboot your machine or shut it off. That basically clears out all the clutter that you’ve accumulated with the programs.”

According to Charlette Stewart, graphic designer at SPC in Woodward, organize files and documents on the computer with clear names.

“Have everything categorized. Like for your tax returns make sure to have a tax papers folder where you save all tax documents. That way you always know where it all is and nothing accidentally gets deleted. Also, make sure to properly name documents. A lot of times people scan in important info and it gets saved under an auto scan number which makes it hard in the future to go back and find later,” explained Stewart.

As you work to stick with your New Year’s resolutions, consider giving the computer a refreshing as well.