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Spring Cleaning, Tech Style

De-gunk your tech with this guide to deleting old apps and their permissions, erasing browser history, and cleaning out programs you no longer use.

Ah, spring. Birds chirp, flowers bloom and winter cobwebs get swept away. But what about the cobwebs in your personal technology? Though these aren’t visible in your everyday life, they create their own sort of digital dust, and can benefit from a spruce-up session.

This week, I’ll guide you through some simple steps for spring cleaning your virtual world. In your social networks, I’ll walk you through steps for deleting apps or turning off permissions that you unknowingly enabled. On your browser, I’ll explain how to delete saved browser history that could be slowing you down. For Macs and Windows PCs, I’ll explain how to delete old apps and programs that you haven’t used in months or years.

De-litter your Twitter

Twitter just celebrated its eighth birthday. Over the years, you may have granted dozens of apps the ability to access your account in this social network.

To find which apps you linked to Twitter, open and select the gear icon in the top-right corner. From the drop-down menu that appears, select Settings. A screen will appear that lists various topics in a left-side list; select Apps. Here, you’ll be able to scroll through all of the apps that have access to your Twitter account.

My circumstances are a little different than the average person, because I test so many products, but I found 53 apps that had access to my Twitter account.

A description beside each app describes what permissions it has, like “Read, write and direct messages,” as well as the date when it was granted permission. Click “Revoke access” beside an app (or “Undo revoke access” right afterward if you mis-click) and you’ll remove that app’s ability to use your account. In the case of some iOS apps, a link beside the app instructs you how to remove the app on your iPhone.

Scrub-a-dub-dub, Facebook

If you wonder how many websites and apps you’ve logged in to using Facebook, but can’t seem to find a list of them in your account, you’ve come to the right place.

The easiest way to clean up apps and their permissions is through Settings. Open the homepage and look for the small downward-pointing triangle in the top-right corner. Select it and click on Settings. In the left panel, choose Apps. Here, you’ll see a list of apps you use.

Beside each app, you can see who can see your behavior with that app, like Public or Friends. Click on Edit beside an app, and find a list of all the things the app can do, like access posts in your News Feed, access your data at any time, or post on your behalf. It also explains why the app is asking for these permissions. If you don’t like any of these, click the “x” to disable that behavior.

You can also select Remove in this Edit window to remove an app, and a dialog box will appear, offering you the option to check a box and delete all of your activity with that app on Facebook. Note that the app may still keep any data that you shared with it.

A faster way of removing individual apps is to select the “x” beside each app in the “Apps you use” list. If you’re tired of using all apps, plugins, games and websites on Facebook, pull the plug completely by choosing to turn off all interactions. This is the first option at the top of the App Settings menu; select Edit next to where you see the word “On” and you’ll be able to turn off the platform of connected programs.

Brushing up browsers

Deleting your browser history, or the automatically-generated list of sites you visited, could help your computer run a little faster.

Do this in Google Chrome by selecting the three-line icon in the top-right corner of your browser, then choose History and select Clear Browsing Data. Here you can choose what you’d like to “obliterate,” as Chrome describes it, including cookies, cached images and passwords, and you can specify how far back you want to go.

A list of the extensions that you use in Chrome are also accessible via this History menu, and they can be accessed in the left panel. Review the permissions that these extensions are granted, and delete any extensions that you no longer use.

Safari browser history can be wiped out by opening Safari, selecting the History menu from the top of your screen, and choosing Clear History. An additional box can be checked to reset your Top Sites.

Internet Explorer users can clean up their browser history by clicking the gear icon in the top-right corner of their browser window, selecting Settings, and choosing the option to delete browser history. People can opt to include specific aspects of their history, or not, and a checkbox option lets users delete browser history every time they exit this browser.

Mopping up the Mac, washing Windows

If your computer needs a little de-gunking, the steps for cleaning are pretty straightforward.

On a Mac, get a general idea of what’s taking up the most space by looking at the storage pane. From anywhere, click the Apple icon in the top left of your computer screen, and select About This Mac. Choose More Info, and click on Storage from the top row to see how much space is free or used on your Mac, and how it’s allocated, like audio, movies, photos, apps and backup.

Open the smiley-faced Finder to locate and sort your computer’s files by different categories. For example, open the Finder and select Applications from the left-side panel, then click on the Arrange button in the toolbar to sort by Name, Application Category, Date Last Opened, Date Added, Size or Tags.

Windows PCs can be cleaned using Disk Cleanup, which can get rid of files that you don’t need — this can help your PC run faster. Instructions for using Disk Cleanup can be found at this link, including options for Windows 8.1, Windows 7 and Windows Vista.

Enough reading. It’s time to get busy tidying up your data. Like cleaning a house, it will make you feel a little more organized — without breaking a sweat.

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