Monday, April 11, 2005

Ballew, Duntemann: Degunking Your PC


I spent the weekend degunking my PC, the tech equivalent of spring cleaning. Did you get a mental vision of aprons, vacuums and soapy sponges? Guess what—that's exactly what it involves!

Joli Ballew and Jeff Duntemann have followed up their enormously popular manuals on removing clutter from your hard drives and operating systems with this winner, Degunking Your PC. In this manual, the authors take us through the 12-step process of physically cleaning and rationalizing the PC and its environment.

Like many computer users, I was unsure whether I needed to degunk. But a few quick tests revealed my gunked-up state.
  • Can you vacuum under your desk?
  • Do you need to clear space on your desk to write a check?
  • Are there more cables under your desk than peripherals attached to the computer?
  • Can you easily find the connectors for that rarely-used device?
  • How many unusable devices reside in your office?
These questions helped me realize degunking was long overdue. (Not to mention that their "terribly-gunked-up workplace" example was a dream of organizational delight compared to my own desk.) Fortunately, I had a weekend to devote to this, so I was able to methodically follow the authors' advice to relieve the mess.

For those who don't have that kind of time, the book provides other plans for degunking within time limits. Ten-minute, half-hour, one-hour, three-hour and half-day degunking programs may not provide the radical overhaul this book advises, but they can help you use the time you do have effectively. There's even a "spare-moment" degunking option.

When you do have the time to devote to it, the 12-step plan will help you break the habits that got you gunked in the first place. The process is designed to be helpful for novice-to-intermediate PC users, whether you have a laptop or a tower PC. It takes you through four separate areas of gunk production: physical gunk like dust bunnies, key grease and extraneous devices and cables; connectivity and performance optimization for peripherals and other computers; backing up; and hardware optimization (including what to do with the old stuff).

Physical degunking required configuring my vacuum cleaner and opening the PC case, among other things. Ballew and Duntemann give plenty of advice on how to do this safely, because it's an essential step in extending the life of your PC. They explain where you can use soapy water to clean (keycaps pulled one-by-one from the keyboard), disconnected cables) and why you don't spray window clear on a monitor.
My favorite "ick" moment: seeing what was trapped under the keycaps on my HP keyboard.
Next came connectivity and performance for peripherals. The authors walked me through reducing cable-spaghetti and figuring out which peripherals to put away (and which to give away). Networking peripherals and extra computers to minimize cabling was next, and I got lots of good tips on using my existing cable modem and hub. As a result, I can now look at my surge block and tell exactly which cord to unplug to power down which peripheral.
My favorite "aah" moment: realizing I would never again need to sneaker-net a disk to the computer in my spouse's office.
Backing up is something I believed I was doing well—until I asked myself: Can you locate that critical file on your backup? Following the simple steps to a rational backup system gives me even more confidence that I can recover from disaster.
My favorite "aha!" moment: finding a business card and logo file I thought was lost six years ago!
The final step in degunking is PC optimization. It includes upgrading memory and graphics; tweaking processor settings, memory usage and performance settings; and upgrading peripherals. A useful appendix details what to with the gunk devices you've removed from your system, and how to degunk a brand-new PC, so you start gunk-free.

To quote Paraglyph founder and author Jeff Duntemann, "The more you learn about degunking, the more you’ll realize that it’s more psychology than technology... our approach is a uniquely disciplined one that really gets results."

My rationalized, degunked PC workspace is result enough for me!

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