By now most of us have had more than a passing thought about school starting soon. As these thoughts gain in frequency and intensity, let me suggest that you direct some of your thoughts toward ensuring you have done a few things in preparation for the coming semester.
Clean it up, back it up, and pack it up!
1. Clean it up! What kind of shape is your computer in? I’m assuming for the sake of this article that you are the proud (or sometimes not-so-proud) owner of a laptop. Is it reliable? Do you need to replace it? In many if not most cases, you probably don’t. If it is less than three years old, chances are you have a pretty solid system but it may need some attention. Whether you are a student, staff member, or faculty member, you have expectations related to this system. What are your top priorities? What MUST operate perfectly? Take some time to remove things you don’t need from your system — files, applications, fingerprints, crud covering your fan bay (where the hot air blows out), and screen smudges. Call it a detailing for your laptop.
How to clean? Some suggestions:
- Screen cleaning — available at most drug stores, Target, Best Buy, Walmart, Amazon, etc.
- Digital cleaning — Use a software tool to spruce things up, clearing out old cache files, etc. I like to use CCleaner on my PCs (http://www.piriform.com/CCLEANER). If you have a MAC, see my colleague Scott Woeckel’s post on MAC maintenance here.
- Keyboard cleaning — compressed air is a great tool for getting the dust and other “stuff” out of your keyboard. You can buy compressed air at any office supply store, Best Buy, Target, Walmart, etc.
2. Back it up! Do you have a backup solution for your data? If you don’t we strongly recommend you get one. The sooner the better. There are a lot of solutions out there that don’t cost anything, at least to start. A system that automatically backs up your files to a “cloud-based” service is ideal and when coupled with an external drive backup will give you a great solution to mitigate the a big portion of the downsides to having a portable computer.
What to use? We have experience with all of the products below. This list is not meant to be an endorsement of any product but merely a scratch list of products you may want to look into.
- Google — Pepperdine has standardized on Google’s suite of offerings so Google Drive is a strongly recommended solution. Pepperdine users get 30 gigs of FREE STORAGE!
- Amazon — Amazon’s Cloud Drive is a 5 gig free solution
- Mozy — Mozy Home provides 2 gigs of free space. See more here.
- Apple — Apple’s iCloudservice is great for Mac, iPad, and iPhone users and provides 5 gigs of free storage.
- Dropbox? — Dropbox isn’t really a backup solution, it is a great file sync tool that will ensure that you have access to the same files across multiple systems/locations. You save files in your Dropbox folder and those files automatically sync over a cloud-based server to any and all your other internet-connected devices providing they are running the Dropbox software. Similar features but not the SAME as a backup solution.
- External drives: You should have both an external backup drive and an online backup solution so you have your data and the risk of it’s demise spread out. Devices we like include: Western Digital “My Book”, Western Digital “My Passport”, and Segate “Free Agent”. You can find these and other competing products at Best Buy, Amazon, office supply stores, and other retailers. Pepperdine Students also have special pricing online through CDWG just go through the University IT website and you’ll find yourself at the Custom page for Pepperdine.
3. Pack it up! Physical protection; my colleague Matt Coert recently posted on the topic of physical security and I recommend that you read his post. He goes into some detail on locking your laptop down so it will be there when you come back from a bathroom break or a chat with your study partner in the hallway. In addition to considering physical locking solutions (we are BIG fans of the Kensington line of locks) I urge you to also think about the bag or other conveyance you will be using to transport your laptop. Also think about whether it would be wise to add a cover to your laptop to insulate it from the variables of life. Personally, I like to put my laptop in a neoprene sleeve and THEN put it in my laptop bag or in the laptop compartment of my rolling brief case.
There are a lot of options when it comes to laptop bags and I encourage you to consider the kind of person you are and get a bag that will compliment your style… and when I say “style” I mean not only your sense of fashion but also how you treat things. If you have a bit of a clumsy streak like many of us or if you tend to toss more than gently place; well you may be in need of a more sturdy, more padded, more damage resistant bag or case.
So in the end, to take care of your stuff you need to have a plan, and execute it. The more thought and effort you put into ensuring your computer is in good shape, the better your chances are for a reliable computer and secure data.
Here’s wishing you the BEST semester ever!