TIME computer

How to Clean Out and Organize Your Computer

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Follow these tips for a lean, mean processing machine

If you haven’t been organizing and discarding files as you go, it’s likely your hard drive is stuffed with downloads, unwanted photos, file copies and other digital dust bunnies. This can reveal itself in slower performance, that unsettling humming noise, and the Mac’s dreaded spinning wheel or Windows’ inverting hourglass.

You may even have, like me, taken advantage of the Mac’s awesome Migration Assistant to shift all your documents, files and settings from one Mac to another — only you now have duplicate Downloads and Documents folders in different destinations, causing bafflement every time a file is saved.

Deep cleaning your computer of unwanted files and streamlining your folder system can not only free up storage space, but improve your computer’s performance. From decluttering tips to apps that do your organizing for you, here’s how to spruce up your computer and make sure it stays that way.

1. Cleaning

Find duplicate files

You’d be surprised how much storage is used up by duplicate files, whether they’re files you saved twice to different locations or multiple downloads of the same file. If you buy music on iTunes, you may have a few gigabytes of duplicate songs from, say, buying a greatest-hits album that contains tracks you already own.

The easiest way to find those superfluous files is to download a third-party app that will scan your folders for duplicate content, then let you review the dupes to decide if the extras should be deleted.

Mac: Head to the App Store on your computer and search for “duplicate cleaner.” We like Duplicate Detective ($2.99), a simple app with a straightforward interface for hunting down duplicates. Duplicate Cleaner For iPhoto (free for a limited time) is an easy to use app for zapping double images, even if they’ve been edited.

If you fancy doing it manually, you can also click All My Files, order the files by sealecting Name from the drop down sorting icon, then scan for files that have the same name. However, this method is less effective if you’ve saved the same file under different names.

Windows: There are quite a few good options for free duplicate zappers for Windows, so we’ll skate over the manual method, and recommend Duplicate Cleaner (free) and DupeGuru (free), which comes in three versions: regular, a Music edition and a Pictures edition that can find duplicate songs and images even if the files are coded differently. For example, if you have the same music track at different bitrates, or if a picture has been resized or slightly edited, DupeGuru will flag it and let you decide which to keep.

Clear your system’s cache

The processes your computer runs through when you use files or programs creates tons of tiny, temporary files that help it retrieve the information you’re need faster. Clearing your computer of all these can often help speed up its performance.

Mac: Start with Disk Utility (Applications > Utilities), and hit First Aid > Repair to scan and patch up your hard drive. Next, search for “Mac cleaner” apps on the App Store, such as Dr. Cleaner, to clear your computer’s cache of temporary files from browsers and other programs. Dr. Cleaner found 12.89GB out of my meager 140GB storage that could be reclaimed, with 12.82GB coming from application-cached files. This app also gives you to option to clear your Downloads folder, but unless you have a clever structure in place to automatically save important downloads (see the final section for relevant tips), don’t check that box just yet.

Windows: For Windows 8, head to the Control Panel and find Disk Clean-up. If you’re on older versions of Windows, find it in System Tools. You can then start cleanup for temporary and system files that are no longer needed.

Clear the downloads folder of unnecessary files

The Downloads folder can be expunged of detritus such as PDFs of old plane tickets, GIFs and humorous cat pics from emails, torrent links to files you now have, .dmg (Mac) or .exe (Windows) installers of apps you now have, and so on.

Mac and Windows: Open the Downloads folder, and view its contents by file type, then go through each category and drag the unneeded files to the Trash (Mac) or Recycle Bin (Windows).

Leave the documents, photos, music and videos for now. They can be dealt with when you’re ready to start sorting the files you want to keep (see the next section).

Delete applications

Mac: You can delete unused programs by dragging them from the Applications folder into the Trash. This deletes most files associated with the app, such as data generated, but not preference files and support files. Preference files contain info about your settings in the app and are usually only a few kilobytes, while application support files can range from kilobytes to gigabytes when it comes to large media apps such as DVD Studio Pro or GarageBand.

To delete these, head to Finder, click on Macintosh HD (or Home) > Library > Application Support, where the files will be listed by app. You may even find some old files from apps you’d thought you were totally rid of. Dump them in the trash by dragging and dropping. Be careful in here: only delete files from apps you know you deleted, otherwise you may end up deleting crucial files from, say, Microsoft, which makes the Silverlight video plugin you probably use regardless of whether you have any Microsoft programs. Alternately, try out AppZapper, which lets you delete five apps and all their associated files for free; after that it costs $12.95.

Windows: Windows PCs have a pretty spiffy uninstall feature that removes everything associated with an app, so on all versions of Windows, head to Control Panel > Programs and Features, select a program and select uninstall.

Although some programs may leave behind settings info in the registry, a database of configuration settings, the data is minimal and Microsoft recommends not modifying the registry unless you really know what you’re doing.

Defrag? Still?

In the long-ago times of early 2000s computing, most of us incorporated disk defragmentation into our cleaning rituals. Disk fragmentation occurs as a file system loses its ability to keep related data together, causing the hard drive to work harder to bring up data related to current tasks, thus slowing down performance.

In general, Mac computers don’t need to be defragged, especially newer Mac laptops that have solid state drives (SSD), use a different method of maintaining data. Windows 8 automatically runs a disk defrag (now called disk optimization) on a weekly schedule.

If you want to hasten a defrag (or optimization), Windows support has the lowdown for Windows 8 computers as well as PCs running Windows 7 or older.

Zap spyware and trackers

It’s possible that in the course of your internet browsing, you acquired some trackers, spyware or even minor viruses (unless, of course, you have been using up-to-date security software). Even so, malware is an ever-evolving beast, so it’s a good idea to run a scan of your system with an anti-malware program such as Avira Free (Mac/PC), which scans for viruses, trojans, trackers and other malware.

Finishing touches

Mac: In Finder, if your Favorites column contains links to unused folders, delete them by right-clicking and selecting “Remove from Sidebar.” And don’t be afraid to remove applications from your Dock unless you really need daily access to them. Just close the app first, then hold on its icon in the Dock, and drag it to the Trash.

Windows: Minimize the number of programs that get to be in the Start Screen (Windows 8) or Start Menu (Windows 7) by right-clicking the unwanted app, and selecting “Unpin from Start Menu.”

2. Sorting

Now that we’ve cleaned things up a bit, we can get down to gathering all files of a type.

Merge duplicate folders

If you have two folders with the same name and they should really be the same folder — say, two “Invoices” folders squirreled away in different parent folders (or in my case, two of every important folder) — you can manually merge them.

Mac and Windows: Choose which folder will be the one you use henceforth, then select all the files from the other folder and drag or Copy/Cut+Paste into the desired folder. If files have the same name – either because you saved twice to different locations, or simply because you accidentally named different things the same – select to “Keep Both” and sort out the naming later.

Find a home for photos

First, identify where all your pictures might be – for example, the Downloads folder if you often download from email or Facebook; folders for imports from phones and digital cameras; or a cloud storage service such as Google+ or iCloud where they may have auto-synced from your smartphone.

If you use an iPhone and a Mac, assuming you’re on iOS 7 or newer, your photos will be synced to Photo Stream and viewable on iPhoto on the Mac.

If you use an iPhone and a Windows PC, Apple’s My Photo Stream automatically downloads the most recent photos to your PC, viewable in C:\\Users\[user name]\Pictures\iCloud Photos\My Photo Stream. Make sure you have iCloud installed and that Photo Stream is turned on in Settings > iCloud > Photos.

If you use an Android phone, your photos may be auto-synced to your Google+ account (on the phone, open the Photos app > Settings > Auto-backup toggle), or you can import them via USB connection to a folder on your computer.

Mac and Windows: Next, create the master collection of photos. You may want to simply download all photos from, say, Photo Stream or Google+ to your computer, but with digital cameras allowing infinite shots of the same scenes, this can quickly fill up your hard drive.

Instead, consider purchasing an external hard drive specially for photos, then transferring photos from your phone and digital camera into the hard drive, followed by moving any other photos on hard drive folders into the external photos-only drive.

Alternately, a cloud storage service for your photos can be a handy means of ensuring a backup even if your devices are lost or damaged. Our list of the best photo-sharing (and storing) sites includes ThisLife, which pulls together pictures from your social media accounts, including Facebook and Instagram, and allows uploads from your hard drive too.

Move all your documents to the Documents folder

Sounds obvious, but I have docs floating on my Mac desktop, in my Users folder and in Downloads. Comb each folder for documents then move them to their rightful home via copy/cut and paste.

Move all songs to the Music folder and all video to the Movies/Videos folder

There are a finite number of file types you use on your computer, and both Macs and Windows PCs come with predefined folders for them: Documents, Movies (Videos in Windows), Music, Pictures. Sort each file type into its appropriate “master” folder, and further sort the files into sub-folders later.

Alternatively…

Sorting your files manually is simple, albeit potentially time-consuming, but if you feel like taking a crack at creating some software rules to automatically organize photos, music, documents and videos across all your folders – and keep them organized — check out the next section for Mac and Windows apps that do just that.

3. Getting Organized

Now that you’re free of all digital flotsam, the next step is to build a folder system that will allow you to save files where they should go and incorporate an intuitive naming system so that when you forget where you put things, it’s not so hard to find them again.

Make a nest

…of folders and sub-folders. Take Documents: within this master folder, create sub-folders for major categories. For example, Work and Personal, or more specific folders such as Invoices, House Budget, or Ideas. Browse your Documents folder to get an idea of the types of files you’ve built up, then create the folders-within-folders you need.

Make sure to download new files to the Downloads folder

Then implement a regular Downloads cleaning schedule where you manually sort files into Documents, Movies, Music, or Pictures. If you have a bit of time to invest in building simple software rules, you can also check out a couple of apps that automate the process.

Organize new files as they arrive

Mac: Hazel is an intuitive, easy to use app for monitoring and auto-sorting any folder on your Mac. Setting up rules is extremely simple in an interface with drop-down options for each aspect of a rule (see screenshot). For example, when setting up a rule for moving music files out of downloads, instead of needing to specify file extensions (of which there may be several), you can simply select “Image” as a file type. You specify which folders that your rules apply to at the start of setting up each rule and then Hazel works in the background, popping up notifications when it moves files. It’s $29, with a 14-day free trial and works on Mac OS X 10.7 or newer.

Windows: DropIt is a free, open-source app that allows you to set up rules for what to do with particular file types so that you can, for example, dictate that all .jpg files are to be moved to Pictures. To zing that rule to the Downloads folder, you can add a monitoring option so that DropIt scans Downloads for new files to apply the rule to. Other actions include copying, compressing, as well as extracting – handy to apply to downloaded .zip image or music packs that you want unzipped straight into the correct folder. Setting up a rule is a straightforward process: name the rule, select the file type, pick the action from a drop-down menu, then type in the destination folder the file should be sent to afterwards — for example: C:\Users\[Your Name]\Pictures.

A similar app with a more novice-friendly interface is File Juggler, which costs $25 and features a 30-day free trial.

Back up efficiently

Setting up a backup system is crucial. Better yet, it’s a system you’ve taken the time to automate so that in the event of a computer crash or data loss, your most valuable documents will still be safe. For example, a cloud storage service such as Google Drive or Dropbox is handy for automatically backing up smaller files.

When you sign up for a cloud storage service, it will create a folder on your computer that constantly syncs to the cloud so that anything in the folder is saved online as well as on your computer. You might want to save all insurance applications or a long-term project to the cloud-synced folder. Depending how much storage you have, you may want to save special photos. Amazon Prime subscribers, for example, get unlimited storage for full-resolution photos. Check out our feature on cloud storage services to see what works best for you.

If you’re backing up larger media files, such as songs or videos, you can purchase external hard drives with 1TB or more of storage (A terabyte is 1000GB, which can hold up to 250,000 photos or 1,000 HD movies). LaCie and Western Digital both offer 1TB Wi-Fi drives for $179.99, and non-Wi-Fi versions for $99.99 and $64.99, respectively.

Wi-Fi-connected models allow you to send and back up files from your smartphone as well. Some, like the Western Digital My Cloud external drive, offer 2TB to 6TB (starting at $149) of storage in a personal cloud, accessible from other connected devices and handy for creating two backups – one in the cloud, one on the drive itself.

The ultimate folder nest? Save long-term projects and other crucial files to a cloud-synced folder on your Wi-Fi hard drive for one-click multiple backups of your work that won’t crash even if your computer does.

This article originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME How-To

How to Stop Your Phone From Tracking Your Location

Google Maps Returns To Apple's iPhone
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images The Google Maps app is seen on an Apple iPhone 4S on December 13, 2012 in Fairfax, California.

But remember some apps need your location to work properly

While scrolling through your photos, you may notice your smartphone has created albums based on your location, tagged with eerie precision. How does my phone know that I was taking a photo of a certain cathedral, or that on one night in January I took a photo in South Slope and then another by 14th street?

It’s all about location tracking, which use your phone’s internal GPS and other sensors to track your whereabouts and feed that info to various apps.

For some, location tracking can be convenient: It helps apps like Google Maps and Uber know where you are to better deliver you information and services. But for those who have just seen Citizenfour, it could be creepy and invasive. And those people may wish to disable their location services.

Here’s how to do it:

On Apple’s iPhone or iPad: Go into your phone’s Settings tab, and then select Privacy. From there, select Location Services. You’ll see a string of apps that use location services. You can choose to disable them all by moving the slider at the top, or disable location services only for specific apps. Does Fruit Ninja really need to know where you are in the world? Probably not.

On Android: Open the App Drawer, go into Settings, select Location, and then enter Google Location Settings. Here, you can turn off Location Reporting and Location History. Location Reporting feeds your location data to various apps, while Location History stores your whereabouts for future use in searches and software like Google Now. You can also jettison your entire location history by selecting “Delete Location History” below Location History.

It’s important to remember that lots of popular apps like Google Maps, Foursquare and more are pretty dependent on having access to your location data to work to the best of their ability — turning off location services means losing some of your smartphone’s capabilities. But that just might be worth it if you’re ultra-concerned about your privacy.

TIME How-To

6 Tips to Save Your Laptop’s Battery From Dying

Apple Hosts Event At Company's Town Hall
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images A member of the press inspects the new trackpad on a MacBook Pro laptop after a special announcement event at Apple Headquarters October 14, 2008 in Cupertino, California.

How to squeeze more life out of a dying battery

We’ve all been there: Typing away furiously on our laptop, only to find our battery is quickly approaching zero and there’s not an outlet in sight. In order to resolve an immediate crisis of rapid battery drainage, there are a few things you can do to buy yourself some time before you need to reach for a charger:

1. Close any unnecessary applications or programs running in the background. Stopping your laptop from multitasking will help conserve battery.

2. Lower your screen brightness. Keeping your screen too bright is a huge drain on your batteries.

3. If you’re listening to music, cut it out. Your laptop speakers aren’t very power-efficient at all.

4. Turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth if you don’t need them. They can both drain your battery even if you’re not connected to anything.

5. Turn on your laptop’s power-saving modes. On Windows machines, click the battery icon in the Windows taskbar, then toggle your battery settings from “Balanced” to “Power Saver.” On a MacBook, you can access the Energy Saver settings by clicking the battery icon in your top toolbar or via System Preferences -> Energy Saver.

6. Keep your battery healthy. Don’t expose it to extreme temperatures, make sure to leave your laptop out of its case while charging, and only charge your laptop when it has as close to 0% power left as possible.

TIME How-To

5 Data-Backed Tips to Boost Your Online Dating Game

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Portra Images—Getty Images Romantic couple at a dinner party

Changing just one character can increase your response rate 79%

Whether it’s hitting the gym or brushing up on 19th century French poetry, almost everyone is doing something to make themselves more attractive to that special someone — especially with Valentine’s Day right around the corner. But as countless relationship experts say, in the end you’ve just got to be yourself.

Besides, the era of big dating data has plenty of other ways to put your best face forward. “We have a vast number of data points that our engine is constantly analyzing automatically to do behavioral matchmaking,” says Allison Braley, vice president of marketing and communications at Zoosk, an online matchmaking service with more than 30 million users.

“We’re able to look at that data in aggregate — always anonymized with our users’ safety always top of mind — and make some predictions as well as some analysis in terms of what’s going to work to attract a partner for you.”

Here are some statistic-backed hacks Zoosk has learned by studying its users’ interactions:

Outdoor photos: great or bait?

Zoosk predicts “Lumbersexual” with be among 2015’s buzz words, replacing “basic.” But if you’re a guy, you’re going to want to walk the talk, because men with outdoor photos on their profiles received 19% more messages than those who didn’t.

“We do see a lot of men’s profiles that have been quickly put together,” says Braley. “Women really reward the guys who take the time to get outside, get a friend to take a picture of them, and put in a little bit of extra effort.” Women, on the other hand, are advised to keep it inside, because outdoor photos decreased their messages received by 40%.

Selfies: Master the art

Whether or not you think selfies are embarrassing, they do impact online dating profiles, for better or worse. Female profiles with selfies get 4% more messages, while guys took an 8% hit.

“People who want to date women, whether that’s men or women, seem to be more concerned about authenticity and is this person heavily filtering this picture,” says Braley. But for men, she wonders if they are lacking skills in the art of the selfie. But get this — full-body photos net users (either men or women) 203% more pick-ups on the site. So, invest in a selfie stick, and start working on your technique!

Forget your friends

Including your besties in your profile pics is also a big no-no. First off, would they approve of being outed as your sidekick? And secondly, isn’t there some sort of waiver they should sign? But the hard fact is that people who use group shots including themselves see 42% fewer messages than those who fly solo.

“So many dating products today, including our Carousel product, are heavily reliant on first impressions,” says Braley. “Certainly as your main profile photo you really want to avoid it.” And if you’re a cat person, or you happen to roll with man’s best friend, it’s even worse. Posing with your four-legged friend will result in 53% fewer messages.

Be word-wise

There are no secret passwords in dating (online or off), but according to some late 2013 research by Zoosk, there are some terms that can give you a bump. For instance, honesty increases guys’ odds in online dating, with the terms “divorce,” “separate,” and “my ex” netting 52% more messages, while “son,” “daughter,” and “children,” up their response rate by 7%. For women, it’s a different (and very unfair) story — if they use those words, they get 4% fewer messages. But they can take control of the dates by saying “dinner,” “drinks,” or “lunch” and see 73% more replies to their profiles.

Regardless of your gender, spelling counts, with “teh,” “ur,” “cuz,” “im” and “u” dinging daters with 13% fewer replies. Be sure to “lmfao” (up 193%) and not “rofl” (down 13%), and if you’re going to put a smiley face in your message, go with “:-)” instead of “:)”. Nosey smilers get 13% more responses, while those sans-sinuses receive 66% fewer replies.

Timing is (almost) everything

Remember Vince Vaughn’s three-no-five-day advice in Swingers? Great—now forget it. With online dating it’s all about getting their attention when they’re online. According to 2014 data, Zoosk says women are most active between 10 and 11 p.m., while men hit their inbox between 9 and 10 a.m. And no one is on it around between 2 and 3 p.m.—so get back to work.

But if your online dating profile is currently inactive, you’re actually in luck. “Valentine’s Day itself is not a big day for people to do a lot of outreach on online dating sites, or even sign up,” says Braley. Instead, things heat up before Feb. 9, she says. “People are happy to set that profile but they don’t necessarily want to make their first date with someone Valentine’s Day—it has a lot of pressure attached to it for a first date.”

When do things heat back up again? Typically, it’s the Sunday after Valentine’s Day — so that gives you some time run a spellcheck and snap some new photos.

TIME How-To

Lost Your iPhone? Here’s How to Find It

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Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

You have to set up Find My iPhone first

So your iPhone is gone. Before you panic and run over to the Apple Store and spend a few hundred dollars on a new one, please know that there’s an easy way to locate your lost iPhone.

Here’s how to do it, assuming that you set up Apple’s Find My iPhone feature before you misplaced your device. If you haven’t done that yet and you still have your iPhone, now’s a good time to set it up just in case.

After you’ve made sure that your iPhone is not, in fact, in your jacket pocket, purse or the other room, your first step is to visit Apple’s iCloud website. Once you’ve logged in, hit the “Find My iPhone” button. The site will automatically load a map and note your iPhone’s location with a green dot. If you have multiple Apple devices attached to the same iCloud account, the site will prompt you to select which device you want to locate.

Find My iPhone

At this point, it’s important to wait a few moments while your iPhone’s GPS adjusts and more accurately pinpoints itself on the map. Once you select the device, you can also monitor its battery life.

One caveat here: If your iPhone’s battery is dead, Find My iPhone will only display the device’s last known location. Helpfully, Apple’s iOS 8 upgrade introduced a new feature that has your iPhone transmit its last known location just before its battery dies. Turn this on in Settings -> iCloud -> Find My iPhone -> Send Last Location.

Sometimes, the map will show your iPhone in a general area within a block or two of its actual location. This should, however, be enough to remind you where you left the device. iCloud also allows you to play a loud, annoying noise from your iPhone to make it easier to find, even if it’s stuck on silent mode.

As you search for your device, iCloud also lets you activate your iPhone’s “Lost Mode,” which locks it with a 4-digit pin so nobody can use it. It also gives you the option of displaying a custom distress message across the lock screen with essential contact information. More importantly, if you have credit cards synced to Apple Pay, Lost Mode disables all payment options.

In a worst case scenario — like if your iPhone was stolen — you have the option of remotely erasing your phone, which is a lot like that scene in Argo when staffers at the American embassy start shredding and burning documents. Which is to say, if you’ve given up hope entirely, you can purge it of all personal data.

These features are also available on Apple’s Find My iPhone iOS app.

TIME How-To

How to Easily Switch to Smart Home Lighting

Belkin WeMo Light Switch
Belkin Belkin WeMo Light Switch

Linking Belkin’s WeMo switches to lamps is simple, but connecting the devices to the Internet can be a big turn-off

The smart home is more an evolution than a revolution. Homeowners will mostly integrate Internet-connected devices gradually, rather than all at once. And when it comes to turning on smart lighting, from switches to plugs to bulbs, there are many ways to leave the dark ages and step into an era of intelligent solutions.

Over the past six months, I have used two devices from Belkin’s WeMo line: The in-wall WeMo Light Switch and the plug-connected WeMo Insight Switch. A pair of bright products, these two net-connected power-controlling devices have worked well, for the most part — once I got them installed.

The Good: Set It and Forget It

Both WeMo switches are powered by Belkin’s WeMo app, which is available for iOS and Android, and the interface is fairly straightforward. Open up the app and you’ll see your light(s) and a power button. Whether your smartphone is connected to your home’s Wi-Fi or mobile data connection, that button will operate your lights. There’s also a tab for “rules,” which let you program times for turning your lights on or off, including a sunrise and sunset option, which changes according to the calendar and your location.

I have used this rule exclusively with the in-wall WeMo Light Switch, and it hasn’t failed once in the past six months. Typically, I’ve used the plug-in Insight Switch with a floor lamp. And though I have that light turn on at sunset, I turn it off manually with the app, if I can (more on that below). Over the holidays, I moved the Insight Switch over to the Christmas tree, so that would turn on automatically instead.

Of course, timers can operate floor lamps for much less cash, but the Insight Switch also provides energy usage data within the WeMo app. (The Light Switch does not provide this information.) According to my app, on average, I run my lamp just for under six hours per day, and it only costs me 38 cents a month (it has an LED lightbulb). If you were ever curious how much energy your window-unit air conditioner costs, for example, this gadget will tell you.

The Bad: Where’s My Wi-Fi?

As happy as I’ve been with my WeMo setup, our love affair almost stopped before it ever started. That’s because the initial Wi-Fi detection on these devices was, in a word, horrendous. I’ve set up both the Light Switch and the Insight Switch multiple times (more on that below), using different wireless routers, different networks, and even different network settings, and every time it was not only unbearable but also baffling. The process looks like it’s working fine, but when you enter your network’s Wi-Fi password into the WeMo app to connect the switches to the web, it tells you that your password is wrong.

After a back-and-forth with WeMo’s customer service Twitter account, I finally got a solution: Delete the WeMo app, reboot the smartphone, and reinstall the app. This is a very underwhelming software fix for an otherwise good piece of hardware.

On the bright side, the WeMo Light Switch rarely has this problem. Hard-wired into the wall where my porch light switch once was, it reconnects to my home’s Wi-Fi after a network or power outage just fine. But the Insight Switch is a completely different beast that has been known to misfire no reason whatsoever, even minutes after it was just working. Then, when you try it again later, it’s operational like there never was any problem.

The Ugly: Firmware Faux Pas

If you’d think that a device with inconsistent behavior like the Insight Switch would benefit from a firmware update, then this will blow your mind: they don’t help. Belkin regularly sends along software patches to WeMo devices, and that’s a good thing — or at least it should be. Firmware updates show that the manufacturer still cares about their products and their customers. But the WeMo firmware updates have knocked my Insight Switch off my home’s Wi-Fi so many times that I’ve decided to avoid the updates moving forward. I’ve found a firmware that works for me, and I’m sticking to it.

Of course, this workaround doesn’t make for a ringing endorsement. As much as I want to love the Insight Switch, for all its watt-counting ways, its inconsistent and intermittent behavior makes me pause before recommending it. Though you can plug more than lamps into it, I wouldn’t use the WeMo Insight Switch for any vital tasks. On the other hand, the WeMo Light Switch is a keeper for anyone looking for app-powered porch lights, ceiling fans, or other hard-wired electrical needs.

TIME How-To

How to Hide Anything on Your iPhone

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Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

You have a right to privacy. Here’s how to protect it.

The eyes may be the window to your soul, but your iPhone is the peephole into your daily life. Who you contact, which apps you use, which selfies you snap — it’s all right there. So if you care about your privacy, it’s worth taking some simple steps to protect it. Here are seven ways to keep digital snoops at bay.

Pair Touch ID With a Complex Password

If you’re already using your fingerprint to unlock your iPhone, you’re on the right track. (If not, tap Settings >Touch ID & Passcode and add it now.) Here’s another trick: add a complex password to enter each time you power up your phone. (Tap Settings > Touch ID & Passcode, disable Simple Passcode and follow prompts). For a stronger passcode that’s quick to enter, stick to all numbers and aim for up to 12 digits. That won’t stop a dedicated hacker, but it’s tougher for an unwanted onlooker to figure out than a standard 4-digit password.

Nix the Notifications on Your Lock Screen

Hide your notifications by going to Settings > Notifications and toggling off the Show on Lock Screen slider. Alternately, you can also fine tune this setting so that only certain apps can place notifications on your lock screen using the options right below this setting. You can even block notifications from individual message threads: go into the message, tap the word Details on the upper right hand corner of your screen and slide the Do Not Disturb Button to the left. Voila.

Hide Clandestine Contacts

There’s no built-in setting for hiding individual contacts, but there are some smart workarounds. The simplest way is never to save the person’s name so only their number appears in your recent calls list. To hide all your recent and favorite contacts in the App Switcher – which appears atop your screen when you press the home button twice – tap Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Contacts > Show in App Switcher and toggle off Phone Favorites and Recents.

Deep-Six Secret Texts

This one’s easy – just delete them. Swipe left on the Messages screen to delete entire exchanges at once. If you only want to nix certain parts of a thread, hold your finger on the offending text bubble, tap More when it pops up, select each bubble you want to delete using the check marks at left, then tap the trash icon at the bottom left of your screen.

Zap Photos and Videos

Here’s one case when you’re better off using a third-party app instead of the iPhone’s built-in option. While you can hide any photo from your camera roll by holding your finger on it, then selecting Hide, the Hidden Album is not password-protected. Instead, try a free app like KYMS or Private Photo Vault, which require a password to access. Just remember to permanently delete the originals from the default iPhone photo app afterwards.

Make Apps Disappear

Don’t want anyone who borrows your phone to know you’re on Tinder or have a Private Photo Vault? There are two ways around this. First, you can hide apps inside another folder like your “Extras” by holding down the app icon until it starts shaking, then dragging it into the desired folder. Second, you can hide app icons altogether by dragging them into the dock, then using Spotlight to access it. Get a detailed explanation for how to do both tricks here.

Hide Your Search History in Safari

If you just want to browse privately for a while, open Safari, tap the page icon in the lower right corner, then tap Private. To clear your entire browser history, go back to your phone’s home screen, tap Settings > Safari > Clear History and Website Data. Pro tip: download the DuckDuckGo search engine and use it instead. Unlike Safari, it never stores your search history.

TIME How-To

Here’s How to Send Money Over Gmail

Didn't notice that little dollar sign at the bottom of every Gmail message? You're not alone

Gmail users in the United Kingdom may notice a new attachment icon today shaped like a British pound sign which does exactly what it suggests: attaches money to an email.

American users need not be envious. Google already released the feature this side of the pond more than a year ago, even if it was easy to overlook that mysterious little dollar sign at the bottom of every message.

Here’s a refresher on how it works:

1) Open a new message in Gmail and click on the dollar sign icon beneath the text box.

2) A pop-up window will appear prompting the user to link an existing credit or debit card to Google Wallet. Already have Google Wallet? Skip ahead to step 3. Otherwise, grab your credit card and fill out the billing information to set up an account.

3) Type in the amount you want to send to the recipient, hit “send,” and it will land as an attachment in the recipient’s inbox, regardless of whether they’re using Gmail or an alternative email service.

4) Here’s the rub: Recipients also need an existing Google Wallet account to receive the payment. The money automatically uploads to their Google Wallet balance, or it can be transferred directly into a banking account.

5) Swallow the fee. Google tacks on an extra 2.9% fee for credit or debit card payments, but the user can avoid the fee by sending money directly from a banking account or by living in the UK, where no fees apply. The receiver gets off scot free.

That’s it, an incredibly handy feature which is only limited by the number of users on Google Wallet and their keen eye for mysterious icons.

TIME How-To

Here’s How to Build a Homemade Sled in 10 Minutes

Sledding
Scott Suriano—Getty Images/Flickr RF Sledding

Get out there and enjoy the snow this week

Snow will pelt the Northeast on Monday and Tuesday, with snowfall in the New York City metropolitan area potentially hitting record levels. Is it massively inconvenient? Yes. Dangerous? Possibly. Most fun you’ve had sledding since the blizzard of 2006? That’s up to you!

Once the snow stops falling, sledding is one of the best ways to get out there and enjoy all that fresh powder. But not everyone still has their childhood sled lying around, so instructables has a nifty guide for building your own out of a large garbage bag, a thick cardboard box, and duct tape.

The basic idea is to use the cardboard box to make a solid base, and then wrap it with a black garbage bag. Voila: you’ve got a seat, and insulation to reduce friction. Read the step-by-step guide here.

You could still pick up one of these beautiful, old-school wooden sleds. But it’s snowing right now! Make that homemade sled and get out there — and stay safe!

MORE: Here’s Who Decides if Your Flight Takes Off This Week

 

TIME How-To

How To Get Your In-Ear Headphones to Fit Better

headphones
Getty Images

Try looping the cable that connects them behind your head and around the top of each ear

If your earphones are too loose or aren’t seated well in your ear, even the best in-ear headphones, or earphones, can sound awful. And if they’re too tight, they can quickly become uncomfortable. To get the most out of your earphones, follow these tips to getting the proper fit.

Size and material matter

The key to a proper earphone fit is using the right size ear tip. So try the various sizes of foam and silicon tips that come with your earphones. Foam tips are more forgiving for size differences, so they’re a good option for hard-to-fit ears.

For comfort and better fit, you can also buy specialized tips. Comply also makes a 3-pair foam variety pack that includes a pair of sound isolation tips, sport tips (without SweatGuard) and comfort tips in your choice of S, M or L for $14.95 on Comply.com. And Monster makes a 6-pair variety packs with extra-soft gel tips and foam tips in S, M and L for $17.71 on Amazon.com.

Also, one of your ears may be slightly larger than the other, so you may need to use a different size tip for each ear.

Seat the eartip firmly

To get the best sound, you need to seal your ear canal with the eartip. So simply pushing an eartip into your ear often isn’t enough to create a proper seal. Try gently pulling on the outer rim of your ear to ease the tip into a comfortable position. You should notice a drop in ambient noise when the tip is seated correctly. And when you’re listening to music, you’ll notice more range, especially bass.

Secure the tip for sports

Getting headphones for working out to fit well is particularly tricky. The constant pulling on the eartip as you move can loosen even well-inserted eartips.

Try looping the cable that connects them behind your head and around the top of each ear. For eartips that are angled to fit in the ear canal, place the side marked “L” in your right ear and the side marked “R” in your left ear. Some headphones, like those made by Shure, are designed to be worn this way, so check before swapping sides.

Make sure to use any stabilizers that may have come packed with the earphones. These plastic pieces basically wedge the eartip into place to keep it from wiggling as you move. You can also try a generic stabilizer, like the BudLocks Earphone Sport Grips ($14.95 on Amazon). And for Apple Earpods, there are Earbudi Clips ear hooks ($9.99 on Amazon) you can attach to help them stay in place.

If your earphones come with eartips that have double or triple flanges, you may find they stay put better than the regular tips. And check to see if your earphones are compatible with Comply’s new Sport Plus tips ($12.95 on Comply.com) with SweatGuard that prevent slipping when you exercise and moisture from getting in your earphones.

You can also try anchoring the headphone cable to your shirt with a clothing clip so it doesn’t flop around as much. I like Bud Button, a magnetic cord holder ($11.99 on Amazon) that anchors your earphone cord to your shirt, or Sport Guppy ($12.99 at Amazon.com), a magnetic clip that also attaches to your shirt and holds excess cord.

Need a new pair of headphones? Check out our picks for great sports headphones under $50 and the best Bluetooth headphones.

This article originally appeared on Techlicious.

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