Reset Your Computer Once a Year for a Happier Life

Resetting your laptop is one of the most powerful munitions you've got in your troubleshooting armory. It puts your Windows, macOS, or Chrome OS computer back to the state it was in when you first got it home from the store, and that means you've got none of the clutter, or bugs, that may have built up in the time since.Thankfully, the process is much easier than it used to be. Microsoft, Apple, and Google have put tools for the job right inside their operating systems, while applications have come to rely more and more on the cloud, so your important data is most likely already backed up somewhere online ready to be redownloaded.

Resetting gadgets has become something of a cliché when it comes to getting them working again, but that's because it's actually an effective tactic. As time goes on, software can get bloated, settings files can become corrupt, and your computer's drive can fill up with superfluous stuff you don't really need—not unlike your house.

Not only that, but a reset wipes out most—but not necessarily all —malware and other unwanted programs that may have found their way onto your system. After you've put your computer back to square one, you're essentially starting from scratch with the opportunity to load only the apps and files you really need.

Once upon a time, this process was fraught with difficulty and danger; one false move and your photo library could be lost forever. But nowadays it's straightforward and swift enough for most people to manage it without much trouble.

That said, make absolutely sure that you've got everything that you need backed up before you get started. Where are your important photos, videos, and documents? Can you reinstall all of the software you rely on from the web? Are all your browser passwords and other data synced somewhere safe?

Services like Netflix and Spotify mean we no longer keep as much stuff on our computers as we once did, but do a full audit of everything you have saved locally. It's going to be wiped, so make sure it's safely stored somewhere else. If you haven't already, signing up for a cloud storage service or attaching an external hard drive can help here.

With those preparations out of the way, you're ready to reset your laptop and enjoy all of the benefits that it brings.

Windows

Photograph: Microsoft