By: Sara Roncero-Menendez
Tech habits can be particularly tough to break, especially when you interact with multiple digital interfaces everyday. But just because your bad habits are ingrained into your daily device routine, that doesn't mean they're excusable.
The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to make a change for the better in your digital day-to-day. The most important — and, perhaps, daunting — question is where to start.
While it may not cover every tech vice currently in practice, this roundup discusses some of the most prominent and easiest to remedy. Whether you're nipping a bad habit in the bud concerning your smartphone, tablet or laptop, here are seven tech habits it's time to break in 2014.
1. Update Security Software Often
We all emit that groan of despair when our computers need to update their software, but in reality, it's necessary to keep them running.
If you don't update your security software frequently, it's easier to get malware or trojan horses that could steal your information and harm your computer. Most programs will schedule updates, but making it a part of your routine is helpful. Set aside 10 minutes on a less busy day to update the definitions while you wait for that pizza you ordered or before you brush your teeth.
2. Schedule Back-Ups to an External Hard Drive
Let's be honest, backing up your hard drive is the last thing on your to-do list. The only thing that seems to jog your memory is when your computer refuses to turn on, and you realize you haven't backed anything up for six months -- too little, too late.
Like the security software update, make it a part of your routine. Set aside some time while watching Netflix or reading news online. If you use services such as Time Machine, you can schedule updates, but otherwise you'll have to do manually.
3. Stop Reusing Passwords
It's easy to fall into the habit of using the same generic password for all of your online profiles and pages, especially since writing them down is ill-advised. But having the same password for every account can put your entire online presence at risk, since a person only needs to guess correctly once to access them all.
Create passwords with numbers, letters and symbols to add diversity, and use a random password generator for a unique combination. If remembering them all is too much work, use one of these password tools.
4. Use Secure Wi-Fi Networks
The Wi-Fi from the local coffee shop, public park or bookstore seems safe enough -- but if you see a network with a dubious name (like "Free Public Wi-Fi") that doesn't require a password, you're better safe than sorry. Even if you're using a network you can trust, there are some best practices you should adopt: Use the secure browsing extension, turn off sharing and change your settings so you don't automatically log into Wi-Fi hotspots.
5. Stay Up-to-Date on Your Privacy Settings
Technology is all about change, so whenever a social network undergoes a major update, the privacy settings may have also changed. This means that your once-hidden and private profile could be out in the open for others to see.
Check your own settings regularly, keep an eye out for major site changes or news of a settings update, and learn how to hide your profile again.
6. Stop Throwing Out Busted Tech
Not only is trashing your tech terrible for the environment, it's potentially dangerous for you. Old tech can still retain important information, so whoever picks up your old computer off the curb might able to grab sensitive information you thought you erased ages ago.
A much better alternative is to recycle your products. It's less convenient, but there are plenty of resources to help you.
7. Keep the Clutter Off Your Computer
It's common to let emails accumulate in your inbox or leave files on your desktop. But there will come a point in time when you'll have to find key content hidden among the mess, and it will be significantly harder to find.
With some good, old-fashioned organization skills, it's possible to maintain a clutter-free digital life. For emails, answer or delete messages as soon as you can, sort them so you can find important ones faster and download productivity plugins. Save files to appropriate folders when you first create them, and delete duplicates or old files whenever you see them.