Get Your Kids and Your Computers Back to School

In spite of your best intentions, somehow the kids spent another summer goofing off on Facebook and watching YouTube videos. How can you help them get their minds back on their studies? Start by making sure their computers are ready to face another school year.

Clean up. If your kids are the types to save all their downloads to the desktop, have them pitch whatever they don't need and sort the rest of the files into the appropriate folders. Delete temp files on both your hard drive and from your browser. Any applications you downloaded but never used? Uninstall them.

Back up. Take all of last year's academic files and save them to an external drive or an online backup (or both). Then take them off your hard drive. Now you'll have plenty of space for new stuff.

Beef up. If your computer's several years old and it's been running slowly, it might just not have enough memory to keep up with the demands of modern applications (which can be quite large). You can try installing more RAM and see if that helps. Or...

Lock up. It's possible that your computer might not be in top shape because at some point in those halcyon days of summer—amid all that carefree web-surfing and socializing, all that sharing and tweeting and viewing—it picked up a virus. So make sure your antivirus software is working. Run a scan of your hard drive to identify and remedy possible threats.

With a faster, leaner, safer machine, your computer should be ready for whatever challenges the year ahead brings. As icing on the cake, think about investing in a new carrying case and a laptop lock. The last thing you want is for your spiffed-up computer to get damaged in a fall or wind up in somebody else's hands.

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