Security 101 02-13-2023

National Clean Out Your Computer Day: Taking Charge of Your Digital Security 

Dean Coclin
National Clean Out Your Computer Day: Taking Charge of Your Digital Security

In today's fast-paced digital world, our computers play a vital role in our daily lives. They help us communicate, manage our finances, store important documents and much more. However, there have never been more threats to our digital security. In 2022, the Anti-Phishing Working Group reported the highest level of phishing activity on record: four times the number of attacks since early 2020. These digital attacks have real world implications: in May 2022 the Federal Bureau of Investigation shared that they had tracked a loss of US$43 billion in financial losses between 2016 and 2021 from business email compromise. As the dangers to your computer have progressed over time, it is important for you to adapt as well.

National Clean Out Your Computer Day has been around in the United States since 2000 as a reminder to take a step back and evaluate the state of our digital security. We also have more devices than ever, so remember that these same tips can apply to your laptop, tablet and smartphone.

As a leading provider of digital trust, DigiCert understands the importance of protecting your online assets. That's why we've put together this guide to help you take control of your computer security.

Start with a backup

Before you start cleaning out your computer, it's essential to back up your files. This way, you can ensure that all your important documents and photos are safe and secure. There are several ways to back up your files, including:

  • External hard drives: An external hard drive is a reliable and cost-effective way to back up your files. Simply copy and paste your files onto the external drive and you're good to go. Also, most computer operating systems allow for automatic backups to external hard drives, facilitating the backup process.
  • Cloud services: Services like Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive allow you to store your files in the cloud, making it easy to access your data from anywhere with an internet connection.

Delete unused programs and files

Once you've backed up your data, it's time to start cleaning out your computer. Extra files and programs can cause your system to slow down and clog your device’s memory. Delete any unused programs and files that are taking up valuable space on your hard drive.

This includes:

  • Emails
  • Photos
  • Junk files
  • Duplicate files
  • Trash files
  • Browser history
  • Old apps and programs not in use


To delete files and apps on a Mac:

  • Click the Apple icon in the top left of your screen
  • Click About this Mac > Storage > Manage
  • You will see some recommendations to save storage


To delete files and apps on Windows:

  • Go to Settings > System > Storage
  • Sort by the largest files
    • Delete files you don’t need
  • Go to Settings > Apps & Features
    • Delete apps you don’t need

Update your operating system and software

Updating your operating system and software is an essential step in maintaining your computer's security. Updates often contain critical security patches and bug fixes that help protect your computer from malware and other cyber threats. Make sure to regularly check for updates and install them as soon as they become available. Ideally, you should set your software and programs to update automatically.

Use strong passwords and MFA

Finally, make sure you are using strong passwords for all of your accounts and use multi-factor authentication (MFA) when you can. A strong password should be at least 12 characters long, contain a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters and should not be used for more than one account. You can use a password manager, like LastPass or 1Password, to help you create and store unique, strong passwords for all your online accounts.

Bonus tip: avoid phishing

Regardless of keeping your system updated and setting strong passwords, if you fall victim to phishing your computer and online identity can still be compromised. Read our blog on how to avoid phishing scams to learn how to protect yourself online.


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