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How to Spring Clean Your Online Accounts Now That You're Stuck at Home

2 days ago 2

Being isolated at home means you have more time to set up your Animal Crossing island and binge on Disney Plus, but it’s also a good opportunity to accomplish some of the digital chores you’ve been putting off. Your online safety, device security, and peace of mind could depend on it.

In these unprecedented times, it’s understandable to want to entertain yourself at home. But by checking off a few of these mundane jobs, you can save yourself some stress down the line. Put on some of your favorite tunes or pick out a riveting podcast for some motivation, and let’s get to work.

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Delete your unused accounts

Over the years, you’ve probably accumulated quite a few online accounts you no longer use. Now is the time to fully delete these accounts, rather than just uninstalling the apps from your phone. Deleting accounts erases any personal information the apps have stored and protects you if the account in question is involved in a data breach. Check the relevant account support pages for instructions—the process itself should be fairly straightforward for most accounts.

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Back up your stuff

Google Drive will back up your computer(s) for you
Google Drive will back up your computer(s) for youScreenshot: Gizmodo

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Yes, we know nothing is ever going to happen to your photos, videos, and files—until the day that it does. With apps like iCloud, Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, Box, and more, there’s no excuse for not getting your stuff safely backed up online, should the worst happen. Ideally, you should be keeping a separate copy on another hard drive or computer somewhere, too.

Organize your photos

We’re all great at constantly snapping photos on the go, but less adept at actually doing something with them. Now might be the time to spring clean your photos library. Delete the terrible, out-of-focus shots and turn the best ones into photo books. Google Photos and Apple Photos include a growing number of tools to help you, whether you need to brighten up a drab picture or identify all the images that have your pets in them in one keyword search.

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Declutter your devices

macOS has some tools to help you clean out your system
macOS has some tools to help you clean out your systemScreenshot: Gizmodo

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The more storage space you have on your phone and laptop, the smoother they’ll run. Now might be a good time to uninstall all of the apps you’re not using and to get rid of the dozens of files that are gathering virtual dust on your computer desktop. Both Windows and macOS have some tools that can help to clear out unnecessary files—more on that here—and the space savings can be substantial.

Catch up on your emails

Few people have time to reach Inbox Zero, but maybe now is your opportunity to do clean out and catch up on the most crucial ones. In Gmail, for example, find starred emails you’ve forgotten about with an “is:starred” search, important emails with an “is:important” search, and unread emails with an “is:unread” search. Alternatively, mark everything as read and start again. We’ve got some more email tips here, here, and here.

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Reset website permissions

Do you know what the websites that you visit are doing in the background?
Do you know what the websites that you visit are doing in the background?Screenshot: Gizmodo

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You’ve probably granted a few websites every little permission they ask for—cookies, microphone access, your location, and more—just in the rush of daily life. Take a few moments to take back control (and some privacy) from the sites you visit every day by resetting these permissions. In Google Chrome, for example, you can do it by clicking Site settings on the Settings tab, and other browsers have similar options.

Update your software

We’ve all skipped a software update because we’re busy, but keeping all your devices running the latest versions of their respective operating systems is hugely important in protecting your security and privacy (and fixing bugs). It’s important to update apps, too, and after you’ve checked your computer and your phone, don’t forget all the smart devices in your home, as well as your router if applicable.

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Analyze your fitness stats

Check in on your workouts.
Check in on your workouts.Screenshot: Gizmodo

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If you’ve got a bit of spare time on your hands, glance back through the last few days and weeks to check up on your activity stats. If you’re feeling more ambitious, you might want to think about exporting your data to another app or service and see if you can spot any patterns over time. That will help you plan your future workouts.

Cancel some subscriptions

Some subscriptions are useful, but are you getting the most out of all the ones you’re currently signed up for? Now might be the time to reassess just how many streaming services you actually need, for instance. To check what you’re spending money on, go to Subscriptions in the Play Store app menu on Android; open the Settings app then tap your name and Subscriptions on iOS; or glance at your latest bank or credit card statement.

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Turn on two-factor authentication

Stay safe with two-factor authentication.
Stay safe with two-factor authentication.Screenshot: Google

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One of the simplest and best ways to stay secure is one that many still neglect to turn on: two-factor authentication (2FA). This is worth switching on for all the accounts that support it: Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Dropbox, and many more. It’s possible that some of your accounts added the feature as an option without you noticing. Spend a few minutes running through the accounts you use most often to check.

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