5 genius tech hacks to do before it’s February
Symbolic photo on the subject of hackers and data security. (Photo by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)
It’s a new year, and we’re busy setting goals and making resolutions. One of mine is to spend at least an hour outside every day.
Of course, I still have work to do, and much of that happens via email. I started 2022 by cleaning up my inbox. Tap or click for the steps I take every year to clear out old emails and start fresh.
I also spent time in my phone’s photo gallery clearing out blurry pictures, screenshots, and duplicates. It’s time-consuming, but there are downloads to help. Tap or click for free apps that find duplicate photos for you.
Let's jump into a few ways to boost your security, increase your productivity, and tidy up your digital life.
1. Inventory your valuables
I’m in the middle of a move. While clearing out 17 years of junk, I realized it had been a long time since I did a thorough inventory of our valuables.
Having a home inventory list is a lifesaver in the case of a disaster or break-in. The last thing you want to do at a time like that is scramble to find receipts or rack your brain to put together an insurance claim.
You had to walk around the house with a notebook to catalog your possessions back in the day. Now, the right app can make the job so much easier. A solid option is Encircle.
Be sure to catalog your electronics, furniture, jewelry, appliances, family heirlooms, clothing, decor, luggage, tools, instructions, art, and any collector's items. Of course, this list is not exhaustive, and you can always consult your home or renter's insurance company for recommendations.
File photo. (cherrybeans/iStock)
MONEY-SAVING TIP: Want your gadgets to last? Don’t skip these simple checkups.
2. Refresh your home network
Is your home network locked down? Are you sure? I find this is a common cybersecurity blind spot.
First, check your password. You should never stick with the default username and password. Even if you changed yours long ago, it might be time for an update to something more secure.
Can't keep a handle on all those long, unique passwords? A digital password manager is the safest route, but password journals can get the job done. Just keep yours somewhere safe where snoops can't get to it. Tap or click for options starting under $5.
Next, ensure your router's firmware is up to date. Updates often contain important security patches, but most of us don't look for equipment patches like the router.
- Head to your router admin page: You’ll need your router’s IP address as well as your admin password, which you can find in your router’s user guide. Here’s how to find your password if you don’t know it.
- In the admin page, find a section called Advanced or Management. This is where you'll find firmware updates. Download any available updates. Now your system is up to date.
If there’s an option in your router settings that enables automatic updates, turn it on. Also, make sure wireless encryption is running at the standard for WPA2 or WPA3.
While you’re at it, make sure your firewall is really working. Tap or click here and scroll to No. 2 on the list.
SICK OF YOUR OLD COMPUTER? My team of tech geniuses put together a handy quiz to help you find your next laptop. Tap or click here for our personalized recommendation for you in 60 seconds.
3. Take back your inbox
Are you the type of person that keeps your inbox at zero, or do you open it up to find hundreds or thousands of unread messages? Instead of manually combing through the junk, take a few minutes to automate the cleanup.
Search filters allow you to find emails by category, content, size of attached files and more. Log into your email from your web browser and navigate to the search bar.
Let’s say you have a ton of emails from a company you no longer want to hear from. Search for the email address in the search bar. Now you can easily bulk delete all those messages.
In Gmail, hit the Select all conversations option at the top of the page. It’s a little box that generates a checkmark once you hit it. Then hit the Trash icon to wipe them all away. Tap or click here to get the job done in Yahoo Mail and Microsoft Outlook.
File photo of hands of business person working on computer. (iStock)
4. Give your browser a fresh start
Our browser is where we spend most of our time online. Give yours a thorough cleanup by clearing the cache. Note: This will remove your logins, so you will have to sign back into the websites.
To clear your cache in Chrome, click the three-dot menu. Hover over More Tools, then select Clear Browsing Data. A new page will open. Select a timeframe, from one hour to all time. Select Clear data to complete the process.
If you use Firefox, click the three-line menu in the top right corner, then click on History. Select Clear Recent History and choose your timeframe. Hit OK to complete.
For Microsoft Edge, select the three-dot menu in the upper top right corner, then choose Settings > Privacy, search and services. Under Clear browsing data, click Choose what to clear. Select a timeframe and click Clear now.
In Safari, open a browser window, then click Safari in the top toolbar. Choose Clear History, select a timeframe, then click Clear History to finish the job.
5. Give your tech a good wipe down
Your devices are magnets for dust, dirt, oil, and all kinds of germs. Here’s my guide for cleaning your screens, keyboard, mouse, and printer the right way. All it takes is a little know-how, the right tools, and a bit of time.
There are also your devices’ ports to consider. Cotton swabs can leave fuzz and lint, and metal knives and safety pins leave scratches. Stay away from toothpicks, too, since they can snap off. Use plastic cleaners, like dental floss picks or foam.
You can also pick up an inexpensive kit on Amazon that has everything you need to clean just about any electronics. Tap or click for an option under $10.
PSA: Don’t forget to clean your earbuds. They get especially crusty, and you need to be careful how you clean around the speakers. Tap or click for the right way to clean up your AirPods, Galaxy Buds or other wireless earbuds.
If you’re going for a total overhaul, start by conducting a home inventory. (iStock) (iStock)
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