Three New Year's resolutions for PC users

Want to keep your computer running smoothly in 2013? Make these tasks part of your regular routine.

A new year is upon us, and that can mean only one thing: resolutions. For most folks, these tend to be of the "get in shape" or "quit smoking" variety. But if you're a PCWorld reader, consider adding some PC-specific resolutions to the mix.

I have three suggestions for improving the quality of your computing life in 2013.

1. Make regular backups: I know you've heard it before. Like flossing your teeth and emptying the cat box, backing up your PC is one of life's annoying necessities. Consider what the consequences would be if all your data--your Word files, photo library, Quicken data, and everything else--were to vanish suddenly. It's a chilling thought, but it happens to unprepared people all too often.

It doesn't have to happen to you, though. Make 2013 the year you sign up for a cloud service--CrashPlan, Mozy, or SugarSync, for example--and configure it to archive your most important files and folders automatically. Once the configuring is done, you'll never have to worry about it again.

Sure, a local, whole-system backup is important, too. But your data is what's most critical, and a cloud-based approach to backing up protects you from home-based disasters like fire, flood, theft, and virus infestations. Don't wait another year to safeguard your data.

2. Look before you click: Fake download buttons. Toolbars and other junkware. Phishing links. Users get into trouble with these things all the time because they click without thinking. So in 2013, my advice is to look before you click.

It's all too easy to whisk through a software installer, clicking Next over and over just to get through it quickly, but that's one way to end up with unwanted toolbars in your Web browser (among other shovelware). And by clicking fake downoad buttons or important-looking links that arrive via email, you may end up with spyware, viruses, or even an identity-theft situation.

Before clicking anything that's unfamiliar to you, pause for a second. Look more closely at the link. Consider the circumstances. That little bit of precaution can save you from hassles--and maybe even disasters.

3. Keep it clean: I wrote about this just the other day in "How to clean your laptop's cooling fans": Dust can kill a PC, clogging the works and causing everything to overheat, with potentially disastrous results. And if you have a pet in the house, the hair it sheds can exacerbate the situation.

Luckily, the fix is simple: Schedule regular cleaning sessions where you use a can of compressed air to blow dust and pet hair off your cooling-fan blades and out of your case. This goes for laptops and desktops alike.

The easiest way to keep this resolution is to set a recurring reminder in your calendar. I recommend performing this kind of cleaning every three months.

Have you come up with other PC-related resolutions for the new year? Tell me about them in the comments!

Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at, or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PCWorld Forums. Sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags desktopssecurityUtilitiesCrashPlanhardware systemsdesktop pcsmozybackupsoftwareSugarSync

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Rick Broida

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place