Finally the long winter of discontent we’ve been experiencing in most of the USA looks like it is about to move on. That means many start thinking about outdoor activities again. Porches and decks get cleaned off and the patio furniture gets uncovered or brought out of storage. It is also a good time to think about cleaning up your mobile gear. I don’t know about you but for some reason my devices and accessories seem to gather lots more crud throughout the winter. I’m not just talking about grease and grime, I’m talking about files and content I no longer need clogging up Cloud streams and backups as well. So, while I’m working on the “honey-do” spring cleaning list, I also set aside some time to do some spring cleaning on my gadget arsenal.
Below is my checklist for mobile device spring cleaning. If you’ve got any recommendations from your own list feel free to let us know in comments.
I don’t just wait for seasonal changes to clean my screens. Touch screens gather grease and grime each time you use them. The oleophobic coating on touch screens that make it easier to clean away fingerprints unfortunately wears off over time. Screen protectors also seem to collect more crud the longer they are on a device. With sunnier days ahead that means that you’ll be staring at your device through a cloud of fingerprint smudges if you don’t keep things clean.
To keep my screens clean I keep a microfiber cloth handy and also screen cleaner. Typically a good wipe or two with a microfiber cloth will get rid of most of the crud, but occasionally a screen cleaning solution is needed to get rid of some of the grease. Be careful though and make sure you aren’t using household cleaners for this. They can eat into the oleophobic coating, rendering it useless. If your oleophobic coating is in good shape, you should see a few drops of water or cleaning solution bead up on your screen.
For devices where I do use a screen protector I replace them each spring and fall.
On desktops and laptops screen cleaning isn’t as frequent. That said, I’m always surprised to find as much grime as I do on those screens when I clean them.
Cases and Covers
This is a seasonal thing for me. While cases and covers offer protection they can also become hiding places for dirt and grime. I take all of the cases and covers off of my devices and give them a thorough cleaning both on the interior surface that touches the screen and the exterior. Before applying a cleaning solution or water to these, I’ll use compressed air to blow out any dust that may have accumulated. Mophie cases for the iPhone are notorious for gathering dust in nooks and crannies.
Break out the compressed air and cleaning solution. Spring is the perfect time to clean out the crud that might have fallen between the cracks in your keyboard(s). I’ll give each keyboard a thorough wiping down after I’ve blown out the crud with compressed air. I’ve found that a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is a great addition to my cleaning bucket when it comes to getting grease and grime off of keyboards.
Another good thing to keep handy for cleaning out crud on keyboards is a shaving brush. The bristles on an old fashioned shaving brush is a great way to clean particles out of an older style (not island) keyboard.
White power and syncing cables are obviously the design choice of our age. Problem is those lily white cables tend to get dirty and take on a dingy gray look after being in use for some time. Applying a good cleaning solution to a rag and wiping them down will remove quite a bit of the grime, but some cables seem to absorb dirt and become less than white over time.
Cables that connect entertainment devices tend to form nice nests for dust bunnies to gather. As much as a pain as it is, I’ll disconnect everything from my entertainment devices, clean the cables and rerun them. That once a year cleaning is also a good reminder of how I have things connected.
Remotes are the curse of home entertainment centers. We all have them and despise them. If there are kids in the house, or you just do a lot of snacking while you are channel surfing remotes gather an extraordinary amount of dirt. A good cleaning solution and a cloth can take off a surprising amount of debris. Don’t spray a solution directly on a remote spray it on a cloth to do the cleaning.
Power Supplies and Vents
If you’ve got a desktop computer there is a power brick that feeds it juice. Uninterruptible power supplies powering your equipment also can gather dust. You probably never think much about looking at them once they are set up and running. Each spring I am amazed at how much dust those things have collected when I give them a thorough cleaning.
If you’re devices or power supplies have vents or fans, blow out the dust that has obviously accumulated. Again make sure the device is off first.
If you use a stylus it will eventually pick up grease and grime off of your screen. A little cleaning goes along way to keeping digital ink flowing nicely. If a tip is getting worn down, spring cleaning is good time to replace it.
Many of our gadgets use batteries. Some devices don’t have replaceable ones. If a mobile device does have a replaceable battery spring cleaning time is a good excuse to remove it and clean the contacts. It is also a good time to replace it if you feel the battery is losing its effectiveness.
Bluetooth keyboards, mice, remotes, and other accessories some times have replaceable batteries and you probably replace them over the course of the year as they lose their juice. Each spring I buy new batteries for those devices so I have a fresh supply. I do the same thing each holiday season.
Maybe its the holidays, maybe its just that I’m indoors more often in the winter, but my hard drives and cloud storage seems to fill up more during the colder months of the year. There are several areas I pay attention to when it comes to cleaning out old files and content.
I use a variety of Cloud services to store and backup photos. Most of them receive photos automatically from my mobile devices. I’ll set aside some time to visit each of those photo services and clean out photos I no longer want to keep and do some organizing if necessary. I typically try to arrange photos in albums and share albums by project. (I’m not a fan of having photo services organize them for me.) If there are albums I’ve created for a project that I no longer need I’ll delete them. Be careful if you’re deleting an album you’ve shared with someone else though. Depending on the service you use the album you’ve shared may disappear from their view if you delete it. Let them know you’re going to delete the album beforehand to give them a chance to archive the photos first.
iCloud Photo Stream
I automatically send photos to a variety of services including iCloud, Dropbox, Flickr, OneDrive, and Google. Most of my photo work is done on a Mac so iPhoto is the primary tool I use to manage photos. Each spring I’ll clear out my Photo Stream after I make sure I’ve archived any photos I want to keep and start a fresh stream. The best way to do this with Apple’s iCloud is to turn off Photo Stream on all of your devices after you’ve deleted the Photos in that stream. Once you restart Photo Stream you should have a clean start.
I create quite a few documents. Most I keep for archival purposes. But rather than have them hanging around in the Cloud or on local storage I’ll move them to archival storage. I keep several external hard drives for this purpose. They don’t stay connected on a daily basis, but once each spring and fall I’ll move over files I don’t need regular access to freeing up the systems I’m using on a daily basis.
If you download media files (music and video) or create media files, they can quickly eat up storage wherever it is. Spring cleaning time is a great way to empty out large files that you no longer need locally, especially if you have streaming alternatives for your music and video services. There’s a risky proposition involved here if you’re going to assign media files to a Cloud service only. If that service goes down or licensing arrangements change you’ll be out of luck accessing those files. I typically keep a local copy of all media content on the external hard drives I mentioned above. Those drives are not connected on an ongoing basis so the media is archived.
If you use iTunes to download movies you probably already know that in most cases you receive iTunes Extras with some movies. I typically delete those extras right away, but I each spring I’ll find that those I didn’t delete are taking up space on my system. To the Cloud they go.
I download a lot of Apps on multiple systems. Each spring I perform a thorough house cleaning and chuck those I don’t use anymore. I do this periodically throughout the year and if there is an update to an operating system I may start with a fresh build at that time. But I usually still find quite a few Apps during spring cleaning that can be jettisoned.
With iOS, I do still have Apps downloaded to my MacBook Pro. If I’m getting rid of an App on the iPhone or iPad and determine I don’t need it anymore I’ll delete it via iTunes on the MacBook Pro as well.
RSS Feeds, Flipboard and other reading services
I do a lot of my reading at my convenience whether it be via RSS and Feedly, through Flipboard, Pocket, or Instapaper. Each spring I would clean out my RSS feeds but this spring I’m going through and cleaning out Flipboard magazines I no longer read, as well as deleting or archiving material in Pocket and Instapaper. If I haven’t looked at content from a feed in awhile, away it goes.
Spring is the time that I reset all of my local backups. By that I mean each spring I’ll take an external drive that I use for automatic backups out of circulation and replace it. The removed drive gets archived and a new backup routine starts with a new external drive.
Online backup has in some cases replaced the need for local backup, but I follow a rule of having online and local backups of important data and content. Once I’ve cleaned out data and content on my devices an online backup will eventually reflect those changes. But the original data will reside on the local archived backup.
Hints & Tips
- Clean your hands thoroughly before you begin to clean your devices.
- Power down any devices you are about to clean first.
- Don’t spray cleaning solutions on a device directly spray it on the cleaning cloth you are using.
- Wipe everything down with a dry cloth before applying any cleaning solution. You’ll be amazed at the grime you can clean off with a dry cloth first.
- Use microfiber cloths for dry wiping screens. But don’t use liquid on a microfiber cloth.
- Keep a can of compressed air always handy. A spritz of compressed air once a week or so will do wonders to lighten your spring or seasonal cleaning chores.
- If you use external hard drives for archival storage that you don’t keep connected, fire them up at least twice a year and check them to make sure they are still in good operating condition.