It's the start of a new decade, and while you're busy making resolutions for yourself, you shouldn't forget about your PC. We suggest making a resolution to keep your PC clean, safe and backed up for 2010. Here's how to make it easy.
Image remixed from viagallery.com.
Keep Your PC Backed Up Automatically
There's one thing that most users neglect or procrastinate on rather than actually doing, and it's also the most important system maintenance task you really need to do: Keep your PC backed up. The thing is, this doesn't need to be a time-consuming task; in fact, your best bet is to spend a small amount of time configuring automatic backups of your hard drive and just leave it alone.
A handful of great backup tools are available to choose from, but it doesn't really matter which one you use, as long as you make sure you're backing up your data the right way. The most important factor is that all your data exists in more than one place - you can't backup to second drive, get rid of the original files and consider yourself backed up. Redundancy is key.
While you're backing up your system, you should strongly consider making a full image of your hard drive so you can restore more easily in case of a failure. You've got a number of tools to choose from, but if you want step-by-step instructions, we've got a full guide to hot imaging your hard drive with DriveImageXML.
Set Up Your PC To Clean Itself
Now that your data is safe, secure and backups are totally automated, you should use some more automation to set your PC to keep itself clean, keep your hard drives healthy, and prevent problems from happening in the first place.
If you're already using Windows 7 or Vista, your PC automatically keeps your drives defragmented, but Windows XP users can check out our guide to setting up a self-repairing hard drive and set up a scheduled task to run the cleaning automatically in the background.
Keeping your drives defragmented isn't nearly as useful if your PC is completely cluttered with temporary files and other junk that needs to be cleaned out on a regular basis. If you just want to keep your user folders organised, you can use Lifehacker's own Belvedere to automate your self-cleaning PC. For less specific and more wide-ranging cleanouts of system files, your best bet is to set up CCleaner to run automatically on a schedule, keeping your PC nice and tidy without any action on your part. If you want to be able to trigger it manually, you can always set up a shortcut to run CCleaner silently.
Be Smarter About What You Install
With your data backed up and your PC cleaning itself automatically, the next step is to keep Windows running as fast as possible by avoiding junk software that you really shouldn't be installing — cluttered up dries from too many junk apps is the single biggest reason why people reinstall Windows on a regular basis when they shouldn't need to.
It's not only questionable software sources that you need to watch out for, however — you need to be careful when installing any piece of software to always use a Custom install, and carefully read every option. Too many people just hit the Next button through the install process, and end up installing toolbars, startup system tray apps and other crapware components, even with popular software like Digsby (an app that, earlier this year, was taking advantage of people that don't know any better).
Make Sure Your PC Is Safe And Secure
Even if you carefully choose what you install, back up your PC regularly and keep your system clean, you still need to make sure that you don't get hit with the latest security hole. Make sure that you keep Windows PC patched and updated, install important Firefox updates as soon as they come out, install Flashblock (not everyone would suggest this, but Flash is often the source of browser security holes), and get rid of Adobe Reader in favour of a better alternative. Once you've done that, you'll be a lot safer — but be sure to read our full guide to protecting your PC from a drive-by browser attack.
You need to have an antivirus app installed, and if you won't take our recommendation of Microsoft Security Essentials, you've got a bunch of free utilities you can choose from. Just remember, you really should stop paying for Windows security.
You can't talk about security without mentioning passwords, and you should make sure to choose and remember a great password, use a password manager for those really complicated passwords, and up your savvy to avoid getting scammed online with a phishing attack.
So what about you? Do you have any New Year's resolutions for your PC? Let's hear about 'em in the comments.