I’ve recently read a few really good computer related articles at miss minimalist and Becoming Minimalist. So I was inspired to write about some easy things that you can do to minimize the data stored on your home computer.
The less you store on your personal computer, the better. All of your vital data should be stored in a secure and easily accessible way on the Internet. I’ll go over each item and explain how I do it.
1. Bookmarks – I like to have the same bookmarks (favorites) on my home and work computer. All of the newest versions of the major browsers (or the beta versions of them) have a syncing service that allows you to do this. It is free and secure. You basically create a login, using your email and a password. Then all of your favorites are saved out on the internet, in the same format that they are stored on your local computer. So if you rename a title or create a folder structure, this is all kept the same. Then at work if you supply the same credentials it will ask you if you want to overwrite your existing favorites or append to your current ones. If your current browser doesn’t have this built in, then I suggest Xmarks.
2. Photos – I have a blog entry that already covers this.
3. Documents – Google docs is awesome. If you don’t have a gmail account, here is another reason that you should get one. Basically any Microsoft Office document (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc..) that you can created can also be done online through a web page. In addition you can share the document with anyone and set different security privileges. Also collaboratively work on it together, chat in the same window and use 1000s of pre-made documents templates.
If you don’t want to work in Google Docs, it is a good idea to backup your files to the Internet also. I use a program called Dropbox. This is an incredible little program that you install on your computer. It creates a special folder labeled Dropbox. Every time you save a file in this folder, is automatically saved to the internet. Everything is safe and secure. Nothing is available to other people unless you give them rights to it. You can create a folder structure that allows you to give rights to different people per folder.
At work you can create a folder and share it with everyone on your project, then all of the people can have access to the latest version of every document.
I also use dropbox for my genealogy hobby. I share a single folder with 4 relatives that are located in different parts of the United States. We can share family pictures or information that helps us build our family tree.
4. Applications – The more software you install on your computer, the slower it will run. Operating systems handle software differently. I use Windows, so I will explain a little about it. When installing software it typically creates files all over your C: drive. In addition to hard drive space, your ram (temporary memory) is used while running this software. A lot of software (Adobe Acrobat, iTunes, etc….) has small little programs that run in the background to “assist” the primary software. They look for updates for the software and generally just ties up resources on your computer.
Another option is to use a Portable Application. These are self contained applications that do not write files to your C: drive and can be ran from a USB memory stick. Most of them are high quality Open Source applications. Portableapps.com has a whole suite of applications that you can install locally or on a USB device. Ninety percent of what you do on your computer can be done through their suite. Including burning dvds, anti virus, IM client, games, audio player and an Office suite.
Portable applications are not for everyone. A lot of times they have a very specific purpose and are not feature rich. But they are very handy and do not clutter up your computer’s hard drive.
That is my list. Please let me know if I didn’t explain items completely. If you have any questions, please leave a comment.