Minor Tech Makeovers: Cheap Tricks to Make You Think You Own a New Gadget

Spring Cleaning

Spring is great for a lot of reasons.

  • I can finally sit next to an open window without shivering. (I’ve found through VERY scientific research that I can stand about an hour and a half of 50 degree weather in a t-shirt before I get way too cold and have to close my window.)
  • Baseball is on almost all the time, and I haven’t gotten tired of it yet. (But why aren’t there day games every day?)
  • Polar Cub, the best local ice cream place, opens up on the first day of spring, and its banana milkshake is too delicious to describe; words would not do it justice.

Spring also gives us a reason to clean up our lives. Last week, I tried to figure out when the best time to upgrade your tech was. If you’ve got some tax refund money burning a hole in your pocket, buying a new gadget will give you something to play with while relaxing on a hammock outside. But if you don’t want to spend any money, there are some things you can on the cheap (or free!) to make it feel like you have a shiny new toy… even if you don’t.

Update Your Tablet

I finally took the plunge and updated my iPad 2 to iOS 7. If you’ve been holding out on an OS upgrade for one of your devices and really want something new but don’t want to spend much cash, update it!

All iOS updates are free for all iDevices. Apple’s latest OS X, Mavericks, is free for everyone (as long as your computer can support it). Upgrading to Windows 8.1 is more expensive (it starts at $119), but it’s a massive visual overhaul and is way cheaper than buying a new Windows 8 PC.

Updating my iPad to iOS 7 also gave me the endless folders, which let me condense my three pages of folders into a single page. Speaking of which…

Remove Old and Unused Apps

Whenever an app or game that’s free or on sale for like a dollar looks appealing, I’ll download it. That’s how I wound up with, like, 150 games on my iPad. I play less than five of those. With iOS 7, I can stash all those games into one folder (to minimize my shame), but there’s still a lot of bloat, so I deleted a whole bunch of apps from my iPad altogether.

Any app you download from iTunes or Google Play will always be available to re-download for free (in your account’s Download History). If you remove an app and need it again, just re-download it. There are probably dozens of apps on your phone or tablet that you never use. Even if you have plenty of storage space, removing apps is a cathartic experience. Woo-sah.

Clean Out Your Bookmarks

I started looking through my bookmarks the other day and couldn’t figure out why I saved half of the sites I saved. I got rid of a bunch and feel better about my browser. Bookmarks don’t take up any space, and you can tuck them away in folders and forget they’re even there. But if you’re not checking them, why save them? Get rid of the sites you won’t need to go back to. And please, don’t bookmark sites like Google. Just use your address bar to search for whatever you need.

Defragment/Cleanup/Overdisk Your Hard Drive

Windows 7 is way better when it comes to slowdown than Windows XP (which you shouldn’t be using anymore), but it still caches files to make browsing and using your computer a more seamless experience – which can also take up lots of space.

Disk Defragmenter and Disk Cleanup are free programs that come with Windows that are pretty idiot-proof ways to speed things up a bit (just don’t go poking around in things that you don’t understand). Everything’s automated. Pick the hard drive you want to work on and let your computer do the work.

I’ve found two other free programs I use a lot to make sure my computer stays quick. CCleaner is sort of like Disk Cleanup, but gives you more options if you’re feeling more daring. It even lets you target specific browsers to clean out their cache and temporary files. You can also go into cleaning up your registry, but since that can do irreparable damage to your computer, I usually steer clear from that.

OverDisk analyzes your hard drive to figure out where the used space is being allotted. I was trying to figure out why I only had 3 GB (of 120) on my C drive free. Turns out Windows Media Player had saved, like, 10 gigs of album art. (And I don’t even use Windows Media Player!) OverDisk pointed me to the problem, and I took care of it. A lot of the space that’s taken up on your hard drives is stuff you can’t / shouldn’t get rid of, but if you know what you’re doing with your PC, you can use this program to figure out where all the space is being allotted.

Author:

Joey Lewandowski

Joey is the Manager of Content and Community at ShellyPalmer. With a journalism degree from Ramapo College of New Jersey, he's a die-hard Minnesota Vikings fan, enjoys watching movies and loves all most things tech. You can follow him on Twitter @soulpopped. He's also the co-host of the award-winning* podcast "Sports 4 Starters." (*Note*: No awards actually won.)