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Three New Year's resolutions for PC users

Want to keep your computer running smoothly in 2013? Make these tasks part of your regular routine.

A new year is upon us, and that can mean only one thing: resolutions. For most folks, these tend to be of the "get in shape" or "quit smoking" variety. But if you're a PCWorld reader, consider adding some PC-specific resolutions to the mix.

I have three suggestions for improving the quality of your computing life in 2013.

1. Make regular backups: I know you've heard it before. Like flossing your teeth and emptying the cat box, backing up your PC is one of life's annoying necessities. Consider what the consequences would be if all your data--your Word files, photo library, Quicken data, and everything else--were to vanish suddenly. It's a chilling thought, but it happens to unprepared people all too often.

It doesn't have to happen to you, though. Make 2013 the year you sign up for a cloud service--CrashPlan, Mozy, or SugarSync, for example--and configure it to archive your most important files and folders automatically. Once the configuring is done, you'll never have to worry about it again.

Sure, a local, whole-system backup is important, too. But your data is what's most critical, and a cloud-based approach to backing up protects you from home-based disasters like fire, flood, theft, and virus infestations. Don't wait another year to safeguard your data.

2. Look before you click: Fake download buttons. Toolbars and other junkware. Phishing links. Users get into trouble with these things all the time because they click without thinking. So in 2013, my advice is to look before you click.

It's all too easy to whisk through a software installer, clicking Next over and over just to get through it quickly, but that's one way to end up with unwanted toolbars in your Web browser (among other shovelware). And by clicking fake downoad buttons or important-looking links that arrive via email, you may end up with spyware, viruses, or even an identity-theft situation.

Before clicking anything that's unfamiliar to you, pause for a second. Look more closely at the link. Consider the circumstances. That little bit of precaution can save you from hassles--and maybe even disasters.

3. Keep it clean: I wrote about this just the other day in "How to clean your laptop's cooling fans": Dust can kill a PC, clogging the works and causing everything to overheat, with potentially disastrous results. And if you have a pet in the house, the hair it sheds can exacerbate the situation.

Luckily, the fix is simple: Schedule regular cleaning sessions where you use a can of compressed air to blow dust and pet hair off your cooling-fan blades and out of your case. This goes for laptops and desktops alike.

The easiest way to keep this resolution is to set a recurring reminder in your calendar. I recommend performing this kind of cleaning every three months.

Have you come up with other PC-related resolutions for the new year? Tell me about them in the comments!

Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at [email protected], or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PCWorld Forums. Sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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