Tech Tips: Advice for organizing your computer in the new year

Many people like to tidy their digital workspaces for the new year. Here’s how to streamline your storage for email messages, documents, photos and videos.

Do you dread returning to a busy inbox after the holidays? Organizing your email can relieve the stress of information overload. By using filters to divide incoming messages into separate folders, you can keep important information visible.

Filtering your email can be as simple as creating basic rules to send messages from certain senders to a separate folder. That way, you can consolidate the influx of sales fliers, newsletters and updates, and go through that folder at your leisure. You also might find it useful to archive old mail once a year. It’s a lot easier to find what you need when you’re not searching through messages from five years ago.

When it comes to files, many people leave everything in their Documents folder and rely on search to find what they need. I find it’s helpful to come up with a standard way of naming files, like the date followed by a precise description. It doesn’t matter what strategy you use, as long as it works for you and you stay consistent with it.

It also helps to streamline your Documents folder by sorting your files into subfolders. You could organize these by year, by subject, or however you like. That makes it easier if you need to archive old files to free up space on your hard drive. You can store these archives on an external hard drive or cloud-based storage.

However, I always recommend that you keep multiple backups of all files, even those that are archived. You could use two hard drives, one as archive and the other as backup. Or, you could upload to the cloud and keep another copy on your external hard drive. You’ll find more backup strategies on my Tech Tips blog.

When it comes to organizing photos and videos, most of us use whatever app came with our phone. That’s often Apple Photos or Google Photos, but there are other services that do the same thing. Once configured, these services usually upload your photos automatically, which is great for backups if you happen to lose your phone. But as I mentioned, I suggest you maintain extra copies of everything, especially something as important as your photo memories. For photos stored in the cloud, it’s easy enough to make an extra backup to your hard drive.

I caution against using social media sites like Facebook to store videos and photos. Social media is built to share data, not keep it private, and was never intended for personal storage. And yes, hackers will absolutely steal and sell your photos for any number of purposes. Make it harder for them by storing your photos somewhere safer.

Most photo apps give you the ability to tag images with keywords. Some apps also have facial recognition features that identify the people in your photos. If you have a large collection, you can use the same photo management programs that professional photographers use, such as Adobe Lightroom.

• Triona Guidry is a computer specialist and freelance writer offering tech support, web design and business writing services. Visit her Simple Tech Tips blog at to receive weekly tech news by email.