Tools & Tips

Using Git (via GitBash) for Version Control

Whether you’re working on content or code, version control is the best way to stay sane. Being able to edit your work knowing that any mistakes or problems can be rolled back is reassuring – and also an essential part of a professional content writer or coder’s workflow.

It can all sound super-nerdy, but using Git is surprisingly simple. I’ve been using GitBash, which really helped to demystify the process. There are only a handful of commands required. After a small amount of setup (setting your Environment Variables, for example) you’ll be ready to go.

Here’s a quick reference to all the git commands you need.

To create a new git repository:

  1. Navigate to the directory containing your files (for WP dev can navigate straight to the directory for your theme: don’t waste time and space adding the whole wp-content folder as most of the time you won’t touch it.)
  2. Type git init.
  3. Type git add -A to add all the files in that directory – or use the specific file or folder name, if you just want to add a subset of the directory contents.
  4. Type git commit – and you’re done.

If you make a mistake and need to remove any files (as I’ve just accidentally done):

  • Type git rm -r [file-name.txt], where file-name.txt is the file or folder to remove.

After making updates:

  • Type git commit -m “[commit message]” to commit your changes.

That’s it!

For a full list of commands, there’s this handy list on github.

Are you using git to track your project’s changes? If not, why not!?

Productivity Tools, Tools & Tips

Three Free Software Tools for Small Businesses

If you’re running a small business, when it comes to admin it’s easy to stick with what you know. I see many clients trying to manage invoicing and time tracking with Excel or an equivalent spreadsheet, or posting to each social media channel separately. And managing projects can always be tricky, especially when you have multiple clients. But software has moved on. Now there are many Cloud-based applications that can really transform your efficiency. In this post I’ll introduce what I think are the best three free software tools. I hope by using one or all of them you’ll find will help you be more organised and efficient with your business admin.

1. Harvest – for time tracking and invoicing

If you’re charging for time or services, this is a great app that, with some canny configuration, you can use for free but still track time for multiple clients.

The interface is clean and intuitive. You track your time, you invoice for that time, you track the progress of your invoices (sent, unpaid, paid) etc. and you can also generate some great reports based on date ranges.

The Harvest Time Tracking Software Invoice Page

If you want to go further, you can also start using it to track expenses.

A nice feature of this app is that it’s very easy to customise the standard field labels in your invoices, making it perfect for those of us running businesses outside of the US or UK. Just go into Invoices then Settings and select Translations, make your changes, and then click Save Translations when you’re done.

Translate your Invoice Field Names with Harvest

Since the French fiscal year starts on January 1st, it’s not too late to set up something new like this. You can easily migrate your invoices, in order to keep the report up-to-date.

As I mentioned earlier, it is perfectly possible to use the free version of this app to manage multiple client projects and will be showing you how via my Facebook page with a Live in coming weeks. Contact me if you need any help!

2. Trello – for tracking projects and making lists

Trello is one of those super-simple apps that has so many great features, you’ll wonder how you managed your projects without it.

It works around a system of “boards” – think, if you had a physical white board in your office on which to collect and prioritise related tasks. For example, you could create a board for each of your clients, or a board for admin tasks.

A Blank Trello Board
A Simple To Do List Board in Trello

Within each board you then create cards within the board. A card is a category into which you add tasks. You give each task a title then you can add as much or as little detail as you like. There are fields for a description, comments, a due date, and more.

When you create a new board you get a new pallet for creating colour-coded labels unique to that board. Here’s how my Admin board looks with a few label categories defined.

Once you have a simple board like this, this is where it gets interesting.

  • Add a Power-Up (one per board, with the free version of Trello) to add functionality, like linking to your Harvest account, meaning you can track time for specific tasks and assign them to clients. This is a really slick way of integrating your project tasks with time tracking and invoicing.
  • Copy and link tasks across boards. So, for example, you could have a client-specific board with a task, “Update Website”, that you duplicate and link under your Tasks board.
  • Enable collaboration, by sharing boards with others or creating teams.

You can also use Trello to keep track of lists. For inspiration there are hundreds of sample boards in the Trello Gallery. Here you’ll find layouts to help you to manage a job search, build a software application, manage your social media content, even plan a wedding or move house — you name it!

It’s a powerful tool with too many features to cover in this summary post. If you have questions about using it or the best setup for your business or project, get in touch and I can help.

To help you get started I’ve made my Admin Tasks Template board public. You can access it here. and you’ll find instructions for copying it to your own account on Trello’s help page.

3. Buffer – for social media scheduling

We’re all on social media theses days and, whether you love it or hate it, it’s an essential part of the marketing strategy for any business. But it can be a real time suck. Make your life easier by scheduling your social media posts. Then you can set aside time to create your social media in advance, then let the posts roll out over the week or month (or however long you plan ahead). I like this over and above other schedulers like HootSuite because it’s simple and is all about scheduling, so it stops me from getting distracted, reading and replying to other people’s posts, responses, and messages.

A Free Version for Publishing to Three Channels

With the free version of Buffer you can link to up to three channels, including Facebook Pages and Groups, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. If you have multiple businesses to promote the workaround is to setup a Buffer account for each business. Or you can upgrade to a paid account.

Handy Browser Plugins

There are also a handy browser plugins, enabling you to quickly create posts with a single click right from the web page you’re reading.

Working your social media this way will really save you a tonne of time!

4. Google Keep – for storing info from the web

Last but not least, Google Keep is worth a mention. You can use it to collect information about anything and everything you find online, from potential suppliers, customers, competitors, tools, holidays – whatever! It’s easy to use, then, now and again, go into you account to transfer the mot useful stuff to a Trello list.

Google Keep comes with browser extensions and mobile phone apps, so it’s easy to add links to it from any device.

A set of colourful badges with the "W" from the WordPress logo - and banner text saying: Working with WordPress: Site Migration Tips"
Tools & Tips, Tutorials

Access WordPress Installation without a Domain

Let’s say you’re moving a WordPress site from one host to another. Before changing the DNS settings on the domain you want to migrated the site’s contents and test it rather than make all the changes to a live site. The way to do this is to make a few simple edits to a text file. Here’s how.

Instructions for editing your Host file, to direct your browser to WordPress on the server.

Find your server’s IP address.

Login to your CPanel account. The IP address you need is shown under the heading Shared IP Address in the General Information. Make a note of this.

Navigate to the hosts file and open it with a text editor.

The file, called hosts, is stored in C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc. You may need to click through a popup asking for Administrator access. Just click Continuewhen prompted.NOTE: If you are trying to open the file from within an application, such as Notepad++, and are not in Adminstrator mode, you won’t see the file. To rectify this, navigate to the file via Explorer then double-click to open it in your text editor.

Update the file.

You will see some intro text describing the purpose of the file and then, at the bottom, some text that includes an IP address and a label, like this: 127.0.0.1 localhostThis is an instruction that says, “when I type localhost into my browser, redirect the request to 127.0.0.1.”We will use this to redirect requests to the domain to your copy of WordPress on the server. Add a new row of text under any other redirects, in the format shown below: X.X.X.X yourdomain.comwhere, X.X.X.X is the IP address you just retrieved from your CPanel account. yourdomain.com the domain you will be transferring to (where WordPress is installed.)

Save the file.

When you’ve finished editing, save the modified hosts file.

And that’s it. Now, when you type the domain into your browser you will access the server-installed WordPress installation. Now you can get this all set up, transferring all the data from your old site to the new server, making sure everything works, before changing the DNS settings on your domain to point to the new host.

But what about when you want to see online version of the site? Well, simply open the hosts file and comment out the edits by adding the # symbol in front of the code, so:

X.X.X.X yourdomain.com
becomes
# X.X.X.X yourdomain.com

Now you can test your site on the new server before changing the DNS settings on the domain. No downtime!

Troubleshooting, Tools & Tips

A Workaround for the Google Drive Download Error

Store your docs in the Cloud, they say. And we do. And some of us like it so we have multiple accounts. So when we’re using Google Drive to store docs online and then cannot download them, it’s a real pain! The particular error I’m referring to is this one:

Error screen that says: "Access to doc-14-4c.docs.googleusercontent.com was denied. You don't have authorization to view this page. HTTP ERROR 403."
An unhelpful 403 Error when attempting to download files from Google Drive

It’s caused by a conflict between the account containing the files and your default account. For example, your main account is called mainaccount@gmail.com and your files are stored in one of the Drive folders for workaccount@gmail.com. Google doesn’t like you downloading to another account, which is what it thinks is happening.

It’s a problem that’s been around for a while (I found bug reports going back to 2018) but not one Google seem to have fixed. So what to do? Unfortunately, banging your head against the wall will just give you a headache, so lucky for you I’ve already tried that and found a workaround.

Download your Google Drive Files

The workaround to this annoying 403 error is:

Total Time: 5 minutes

Share the folder or file with your default Google account.

Right-click on the file or folder, select Share, then enter the email address for your main account.

Login to Google Drive on your default account.

Click on the list of accounts on the upper-right side of screen. This shows your list. Click on the default account to change to.

From the default account, find the shared file or folder.

Select Shared with Me from the list on the left of the screen.

Download the files.

Right click on the file or folder and select Download.

A small blackboard with the text, "Set up a group email list in Roundcube" written on it.
Tools & Tips, Tutorials

Create a group email list in Roundcube

An email list enables you to send the same message to a group of people. For example, you might want to send messages to a list of family members, club members, or a social group.

If you’ve changed host and were using the webmail package on your host’s server rather than a local application like Outlook or Thunderbird, you will need to recreate your lists in the webmail application provided by your new host.

With our hosting packages you can choose one of three webmail applications (Horde, Roundcube, and SquirrelMail). The instructions in this article describe how to create a group email list in Roundcube, which is the email software I recommend to clients.

To create a group email list in Roundcube, do the following:

Login to your webmail account.

You can access webmail by typing your domain name followed by /webmail, for example, www.yourdomain.com/webmail.

Open your address book.

Click the Contacts button, which is located at the top right of the screen underneath your account name.

Create a new group.

Click the + symbol at the bottom of the Group column.Give your new group a name, then click Save.

Add your existing contacts to the group.

To add a contact that is already in your address book, click on Personal Addresses and drag the name of the person over to the group list name. If you need to add a contact not listed in your address book, see Step 5 below.

Add your new contacts to the group.

Click on the group name to make sure it is selected (in the example below, the group name is My Group List). Click the + symbol at the bottom of the My Group List box, fill out the form with the new contact’s details, then click Save. Repeat until all the new contacts are added.

With all your contacts added, you’re ready to send an email to the group.

Note: When you click the group name, all the email addresses will be visible in the To box of the email you are sending. It is a good idea to use the BCC box for group emails like this, as this protects the email addresses of everyone in the group.

If you are trying to create a group email list in Roundcube and need help or have issues with any other aspect of your home or business IT, read about the range of services we offer to find out how we can help, and get in touch.

Three piles of coins, getting large, with small plants sprouting from the piles, symbolising growth, and the title French Admin Guide: How to submit your quarterly declaration online
Tools & Tips, Tutorials

How to Submit your Declaration Online as an ME in France

Anyone registered as a micro-entrepeneur (or “ME”) in France is required to a submit a declaration (Déclaration Trimestrielle de Recettes), which is used to determine the amount of cotisations (social charges) you will pay. You can choose do this monthly or, as I prefer, quarterly. These declarations and the amounts you are required to pay (called cotisations) are separate from taxation and are your “social charges” (called “national insurance” or “social security” in other parts of the world) are based on the amount of money you’ve been paid during the period you are declaring for. The good news is this can all be done online and, as long as you’ve been keeping on top of your income, it’s pretty quick and easy to do.

In this article I’ll walk you through the steps to do this online via the main Auto Entrepreneur website. The steps assume that you’ve already registered and have an online account with them.

This article is now out of date. The website has been updated so the steps are a little different – but the principal is the same.

When should I make my declaration?

The quarters align with the January to December tax year, so:

  • January, February, and March are the 1éme trimestre (first quarter.)
  • April, May, and June are the 2éme trimestre (second quarter.)
  • July, August, September are the 3éme trimestre (third quarter.)
  • October, November, December are the 4éme trimestre (fourth quarter.)

What amount should I report?

The end of the quarter is always a good time (if you haven’t already done it) to tie up your receipts with your bank account and make sure your cashbook is all up-to-date.

Once everything’s in order you should have a single amount as the total were paid in the quarter. This means the total amount of payments received in this period. It doesn’t matter when you invoiced a client; it’s when you were paid by them. Remember to include cash payments, and any payments to PayPal. And as an ME you can’t deduct costs, so that’s the amount you were paid by your client, not how much you received after fees or other costs have been deducted (e.g., Etsy or PayPal fees.)

If you’re operating in more than one of the three ME categories (professional liberale, artisan, and/or commercant) you will need a total for the quarter payments to each of your business types. You account for them separately because they are treated differently with respect to tax and allowances for purchases, so this is a worthwhile exercise as well as a legal requirement.

You need to log in in the month after the end of the quarter you need to report on. So in April you submit the info for the first quarter, then in July for the second quarter, and so on.

You do need to wait until the end of the quarter to submit this information. If you try and submit it before then you will struggle because the option won’t be available. When you log in when the system is ready, it will automatically open at the declaration page. That’s how you know it’s time.

Ready? Let’s try.

Make your Quarterly Declaration Online

Step 1. Login to your account on the Auto Entrepreneur website. You can do this using your email address (courriel) or your 13-digit social security number (N° de Sécurité sociale), which you can find on your carte vitale.

The login screen on the URSAFF Auto-Entrepreneur website

Step 2. If any cotisations are due (usually on the 1st of January, April, July, and October, for the preceding quarter), the first page you will go to is the Déclaration Trimestrielle de Recettes. This shows your name, your SIRET number, and your category. Here’s the info on my account.

The screen for submitting your Quarterly Declaration

Step 3. Under Declaration, enter the amounts you have earned in the appropriate box.

There are three rows, which correspond to the different categories of business: professional liberale, artisan, and commercant. You fill out the boxes according to the amount you’ve made in the previous quarter under the category for each regime. This is because, although many people are only registered under one category, it is possible to be registered for more than one type of business.

When you put a number into one of more of these boxes, the lower section labelled Montant á payer, updates to show the amounts you are expected to pay. After you submit your declaration, the the amount shown under the heading Télépaiement will be taken automatically from your linked business bank account, usually in the first week of following month.

If you need to make changes to your account details, click on the blue text that says Ajouter un compte bancaire and then follow the instructions.

The automated form that updates to shows the amount to be paid and from which account.

Step 4. Submit the Form

When you’re happy with the information this page, click Valider la télédéclaration to submit the form. This will take you to a confirmation page which gives you a record of the quarterly declaration you just made. Print this page and/or save a PDF to your computer to keep for your accounts.

It will also indicate when the payment will be taken from your account. Take note of this and make sure you have the funds in your account on that date.

That’s it, you’re done!

If you are trying to navigate online systems and business-related IT and need help or have issues with any other aspect of your home or business IT, read about the range of services we offer to find out how we can help, and get in touch.

A chalk board with the text: Use SkyFonts with Inkscape
Tools & Tips

Link SkyFonts to Inkscape

Two pieces of free software I like to use are SkyFonts, a font manager that you use to manage any non-system fonts downloaded from Google Fonts or Font.com, and Inkscape, a free vector graphics tool that is a good freeware substitute for Adobe Illustrator. I find Inkscape to more akin to the old Corel Draw vector software, which I always found more intuitive than Illustrator. But of course this is freeware, which means sometimes workarounds are necessary to accomplish a few tasks that you might take for granted when using paid for software. One such task is linking the SkyFonts manager to Inkscape.

By default, fonts that you add into SkyFonts won’t show up in the fonts list in Inkscape. This is because Inkscape looks in your %USERPROFILE%/.fonts directory for your typefaces. For Inkscape to find typefaces stored in your SkyFonts directory, you just need to creat a symlink.

To do this:

  1. Launch the command prompt.
  2. Type cd.. and hit return, and repeat until you get to the root directory (usually C:).
  3. Type (or copy) this command at the prompt: 
    mklink /D "%USERPROFILE%\.fonts" "%USERPROFILE%\AppData\Roaming\Monotype\skyfonts-google"
  4. Hit Return and the symlink has been created.
  5. Check your list of fonts in Inkscape, and you should now see all your SkyFonts listed.

That’s it!

Are you looking for software advice or troubleshooting advice? Contact me for help and advice.

Some black and white lever arch folders on a shelf
Tools & Tips, Basics, Computer Maintenance

4 Ways to Backup Your Files and Prevent Data Loss

Whether you’re using your computer for business or just for personal stuff, the chances are there are files, photographs and other pieces of info (passwords, etc.) that you don’t want to lose. If you want to be sure you have it all, should the worst happen, are you prepared?

When did you last back up your files and folders?

We all know that computers go wrong, sometimes permanently, but in recent years they’ve become so stable and reliable many of us take it for granted that this won’t happen to us. If you can’t remember the last time you manually backed up your system – or checked that your backup tools are working as they should – this post is for you!

This reminder is timely because lately there are lots of people who fallen fowl of the latest Windows 10 update. Yes, you read that right. Microsoft, in their infinite wisdom, pushed an operating system update to all their users which corrupted the hardware on some computers. One day everything was fine, the next, not so. Thank you Microsoft. It’s unlikely any big corporations were caught out by this as usually large IT departments will test a bunch of updates before rolling them out across the company so it’s mostly likely small business owners and personal computer users that are taking the hit.

Luckily, some of the people impacted had solutions in place. Others thought all was well but discovered, too late, that their backup software had failed for reasons unknown so their files hadn’t backing up files automatically. And then there are those who hadn’t thought about backups, finding out the hard way how important they are.

And don’t be fooled into thinking that this won’t happy to Mac users either. A Mac is still just a computer at the end of the day, albeit a very shiny (and usually expensive!) one. In most cases, at least where the Windows 10 update was the probably cause, data can be recovered (at a price) but what if it were some other issue and the data was gone? Accidents happen, as do power surges, and broken Window’s updates! Furthermore computer components reach their natural end. What do you stand to lose if your computer just doesn’t work the next time you try and start it up?

Luckily there are bunch of ways you can ensure your data is backed up and secured away from your local working environment. See which of these methods work best for you then stick to it.

1. Do it all your self

If you’re going DIY with this you need to set a regular backup schedule. Don’t forget! It’s a boring but necessary job that’s it’s up there with clearing your gutters or getting your car serviced. 

Decide what you need to back up and where you will back up to (a separate hard disk, network attached storage, a disc, or a simple USB key). Once you have a plan devise a system. Write it down. Do the same thing everytime. Put the date in your diary. Don’t forget!

To make things easier you can use some helpful freeware like SyncBack, which enables you to create backup or synchronisation profiles. These can save a lot of time by allowing you to back up a collection of files or folders to a pre-defined space. I don’t use this so much now but when I was studying I kept all my files on a USB key, which I then used a SyncBack profile to sync my working files to a folder on whatever computer I was working on at the time. It’s simple to set up and then you don’t need to worry about whether you missed anything important. Just remember to create a new profile or modify your existing profiles when you’ve created new storage locations.

2. Store files locally, but backup to the Cloud

We’re all in the habit of saving files to our hard disks. Many of the programs we use regularly are more flexible and feature-rich than cloud-based equivalents, and some cloud-based apps are expensive (Adobe, for example.)

Dropbox started the trend here but now there are plenty of alternatives for cloud-based storage that will sync to local folders on your laptop, tablet or phone. The advantage of these over any manual approach is that you connect multiple devices to a single account, meaning there’s a single online repository for all your files and folders.

Aside from Dropbox, there’s Google Sync, which is great for users on any platform. f you were using Google Drive before Windows 10 came out and it stopped working, it’s worth revisiting Google Sync & Backup, which now seems reliable – mine backs-up every time I power-up the laptop. It slows things down for a while, so if that’s a problem it’s useful to be able to pause it, but usually I just leave it running because once it’done it’s done. 

For Mac users there’s always iCloud and for all users there are many other paid options, depending on how much security you want/need and how much storage space.

If you’re backing up photos paid for space can quickly get expensive. An alternative then is to keep your paid for storage (or free quota, if that’s enough) for data and use something free like Flickr, which has an auto-uploader feature: just open the app on your phone and, if configured correctly, your photos will start to upload. Just run it when you go to bed and you photos and videos will be fully backed up by morning. Easy peasy.

3. Use the Cloud, always

Then there’s the option of doing everything in the cloud. If you’re happy to keep all your files online and do away with local copies of software, you can decide to create and store all your files and documents in the cloud. This won’t work for photographs of course – they are always created in another platform and always need to be moved or duplicate din order to ensure you have digital copies – but for text content or spreadsheets, this might be the solution for you.

Google Docs and Sheets is one such option. When you create any files using Google Docs copies are always stored to Drive. This means they’re always accessible – and you can still create or download local copies if you really want or need to.

Likewise, there are many online software platforms to help with managing your business. There’s Trello for project management, Wave for managing your accounts, Harvest for time recording and invoice (you can also use Wave for invoicing but I prefer Harvest). It’s also a good idea to keep your email “in the cloud” – so use Gmail or, if you have a custom domain, the webmail utility that is enabled for that domain by your host. If security is a concern there’s always Protonmail, which guarantees end-to-end encryption on all your messages.

Most of these tools are totally free, so for no cost you can keep your files away from your local drive. No backups needed!

4. Don’t forget your website!

And, if you’re running a business with an online presence, don’t forget your website! If someone manages your site for you, check with them when backups happen and where they are stored. This may be something they initiate for you or something that is automated but either way you need to know where you can find a copy of your website if something goes wrong. A website lives on a server, which is just another name for a computer, so as with all computers, sometimes these things go wrong. Your site or the server could be hacked or corrupted. And then what? You’d still own your domain but your site, your content, your online presence would be gone in a flash!

Luckily there are some very simple solutions for automating site backups. How you do it will depend on how your site is hosted (private server or web builder platform, being the main two) and what plugins or apps are available. Speak to whoever manages your site for you – and if you don’t have anyone, give me a call!

Do you need help with this or any other aspect of your personal or small business computing? Get in touch to find out how I can help.

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Social Media, Tools & Tips

Facebook Pages vs. Profiles for Business

I’ve seen quite a few tech groups talking about Facebook pages lately. These discussions have come about because members of the various communities I participate in online have been impacted negatively by following this advice from a number of online “influencers” who are encouraging anyone setting up a business to do this via a Profile. This could mean running your business through your personal profile or creating a business-specific profile. An example of using a personal profile would be if Joe Bloggs sells his homemade cosmetics under his own name or creates a separate business profile called Joe Bloggs Cosmetics. Whether you do one or the other of these things, neither is recommended. In fact, you absolutely should not be doing either of these things.

The reason this is an absolute no-no is because the Facebook terms and conditions actually prohibit using Profiles for business purposes. Use them to share information about your family, friends, hobbies, whatever – but it has to be personal information.

To comply with the Facebook Ts & Cs, if you’re running a business it should be via a Page or a Group. Failing to do this is resulting in some small businesses built entirely around Facebook having their profiles shut down by Facebook. Usually if this happens they notify you – but once it’s done there’s almost nothing you can do about it. If this happens, just like that all your business contacts, all the information you’ve shared, the reputation you’ve worked hard to create – along with any personal information, such as images and updates – vaporise. For any small business this scenario would be a disaster.

So how can you avoid this happening to you?

First and foremost, do not use a Facebook Profile as the primary online platform for your business. For Facebook you must create a Page. It’s really very simple to do and also has the advantage that you can manage it via the Facebook Page app, making it easy to separate work and home, reduce distractions (you’ll only see alerts relating to your page not that your Great Aunt likes your cat photo) and also keeping your personal information hidden. 

In my view the safest way to use social media is to own the data yourself and use social media as a way of sharing it, not as the main show. So create a website that you own the content for, that you control, that you can back up, that you can build a following around, and use social media platforms, like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, as a way of sharing that information and building a buzz around it. Even with a Page rather than a Profile, Facebook still own all that information and can take it away just like that.

It’s so much part of life these days that we take it for granted. If you’re going to put all that time and effort into marketing yourself online you also owe it to yourself to ensure that effort is futured-proofed as much as possible.  

Image credit: iStock.com/marchmeena29


If you need help with this or any other aspect of your home or business IT, contact me to arrange a free consultation.

Tools & Tips

Spring Clean Your System: Part One

Clean Up Your Hard Drive

Regularly cleaning your computer’s hard drive, removing unwanted and outdated files, is an important computer maintenance task that can be easily overlooked but that is quick to do and has lots of benefits in terms of security and the smooth-running of your equipment.

When we use our computers – writing documents, editing photos, checking our e-mails, browsing the Internet, or whatever – the programmes that we use create and store temporary files that build up unless we manually delete them. Sometimes these introduce security vulnerabilities but more often than not they just fill up the computer and slow it down. They’re a fact of life; the computing equivalent of that fluff ball that always appears in the corner of the room.

There are various free tools we can use to remove them, all of them safe and secure. In this post, the first in the Spring Clean Your System series, I guide you step-by-step through the process of cleaning out the junk files. In this post we’ll be using CCleaner, which is a free application you find online.

Install and Run CCleaner

The very first task, if you haven’t already got the program on your computer, is to download and install CCleaner

Once this is done, open the CCleaner application.

When you first open it you will see that there is a list of programs under the Windows tab, a menu on the left hand side, and a Check for Updates link on the bottom right.

If this isn’t the first time you’ve used CCleaner, click Check for Updates and update the program before using it, to ensure you have the latest version.

Run CCleaner on Windows and your Applications

When you first open the application, the options that are selected are the recommended defaults for cleaning, so you see things like Internet Cache, Internet History, etc. apps selected. There are also a number of options that aren’t selected and are slightly greyed out underneath those that are checked. I usually check these but whether you do this or not is up to you. I would recommend you leave the as they are and just go ahead with the defaults. This will give you system a good clean but will also keep some of the useful data that is stored, such as Saved Passwords and Autocomplete Forms History, intact. Of course, if you’re happy to delete that information, go ahead and tick those extra boxes.

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The same goes for the Applications tab; just leave the defaults as they are unless you want do a very deep clean, which would mean also deleting some potentially useful data, like stored passwords.

To run the application, make sure your Internet browser (Firefox, Chrome, etc.) is closed. If a browser window is open you will get an error when you try to run CCleaner as it won’t be able to clean the files associated with it.

Click the Analyze button. This does a dummy clean, which you can check before doing it for real. With this in progress, the Analyze button changes to a Cancel button and the status bar appears, showing you how much of the clean is complete (in the screenshot below you can see it’s at 35%).

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When this is done you’ll get an overview. In the screenshot below you can see the list of programs that have been analyzed and how much data can be deleted in the clean. It’s been a while since I ran this, so you can see I have ~14GB of data to clean!

Also note, that I didn’t take my own advice when running the app, so Google Chrome, which as open at the time, has not been cleaned. I will have to run it again a second time, with the browser closed, to clean that up.

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Now click the Run Cleaner button to remove the files from your hard disk.

When the process has finished (you will see a progress bar, as you did when you first analysed the clean) the Cleaning Completed screen, as shown below, is displayed.

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That’s it! We’re halfway there. Now to clean up the registry.

Run CCleaner on the Registry

Click on the Registry tab from the left menu.

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Again, we’ll just use the defaults. This will check the computer registry for errors.

First click the Scan for Issues button. If your system is anything like mine quite a lot of files will come up! These are usually files that are added when a new application is installed or an software update is performed.

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At the end of the scan you’ll see a list of issues.

Next click the Fix Selected Issues button to run the program again.

At the prompt, click Yes. CCleaner will run the Registry scan again, this time fixing the issues that have been identified.

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Navigate to or create the folder where you wish to save your registry file backup, then click Save.

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At the next popup window, click Fix Issues (to go through every issue one at a time) or click Fix All Selected Issues (recommended.)

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CCleaner will start to go through the list of issues and will show this screen when it has finished.

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At this point you could close CCleaner and move onto the next step, but it’s always useful to run the Registry Cleaning steps again and then again until no files are found. On my system, on this occasion, I ran it a total of four times. The first time it found 991 issues. The second time it found a further 29 issues. The third time, 12 issues. Then we were done – no more registry issues, yay!

Update and Run your Anti-Virus Software

Now, one last job because it’s easily overlooked and now would be a good time to do it: update and run your antivirus software. There are too many packages available for me to be able to document instructions so if you need help specific to your system, want some help go through the steps outlined in this article, or would like me to do all of this for you, in person or remotely, call or email to arrange a personalised session. 

A full PC clean, at your home, on up to three computers, will cost 100 euros. Call today to arrange a time!

Download Links

CCleaner  https://www.ccleaner.com/ccleaner/download


Why are we doing this? Read Spring Clean Your System Series: Introduction to find out.

Image credit: iStock.com/valio84sl