Hackin’ the net


This is the month of love and that not only means we love that certain someone, but to many of us it’s also love of our devices — computers, iPhones, pads and any number of other options. But if you love your device, that means it needs to return the love by working well and always. Sometimes, just like with a relationship, that entails some tough love. And, as I found out recently, that can include a bit of pain. How much and for how long is up to you, but it’s the end result which pays off.


What I’m talking about is a complete re-do of that phone, computer or pad. And by complete I mean a “set up as new” where you save what you need and then wipe the drive clean and reinstall the OS and the apps you need.


This gives you a chance, too, to not return apps to the device you were excited about, but never use at all anymore and which take up space on the phone, pad or computer. Why am I telling you all of the above? Because after 16 months of great service my iPhone was getting slower and failing to update item after item. My stock list showed items from six weeks earlier. Weather forecasts had predictions for dates long past. It was clear something just was not right.


First I took the easy way: It was gonna be an easy (I’d hoped) fix to do a back-up, wipe the phone and then restore from said back-up. Sadly, it failed to work and I ended up with a brand new copy of everything wrong! That means most of the errors and problems were somewhere in the back-up and, when I restored, were restored too. I put the problems and errors right back on the phone!


The only solution was to set up the phone as “new” so let me explain. But wait! Before you dash out and do that you need to do a few other things first.



—Most vital: save those contacts. You can do it to the cloud in the Apple case or to Google or one of the other address book / contact spots out there for iPhone, Droid or Microsoft OS. Please, please, please, no matter what else you take away from this column take the thought that you must save those contacts or re-enter each and every one. And I know a few folks with upwards of 500 contacts. That’s a whole lotta typing.


—The same goes for photos. Do you synch and download them to your computer or laptop regularly? Maybe to the cloud? Whatever, make sure you have each and every photo you want saved off your iPhone or other device before you wipe it clean. There’s no way to see Grandma Gertrude or Uncle Dave who have both died since you took their photos ever again if you erase without backing up or downloading the images. I repeat: NO Way.


It amazes me when I talk to techs at the computer firms how many folks forget this step and come in whining that this or that pic they lost was irreplaceable. Even the ones you downloaded to social media you should keep yourself because they won’t be back on the phone after you are done.


—Last (and this is a must to me) open your device and take a screen shot of each “page” of apps. This guarantees you know what you have and it also lets you “weed out” ones you might not want to put back on the device. More of that in a few…

OK, got that all done? Good. Next plug the device into power, go into controls and when the options show up “restore as new erase all content & settings” should be the one you pick.


This is something you should not do the day before a major trip or big event or other special time. It also can take a while, especially as after the setup is complete, you will need to restore those contacts and go to the iTunes or Android store and download every’ app you purchased and want back over again. Remember, you wiped that device clean for a fresh start and that means clean. Aside from the operating system and the pre-installed apps like weather and notes, there will be nothing there. The good news is the store should have the records of what you bought, so the cost to download those apps again will be a big, fat zero.


And before you download the replacement apps, think hard and long about what I said a few lines ago: get the ones you use all the time.


Get the ones you usually need. But do you REALLY want the London Tube status board you got before that trip or the Toronto subway map you thought was cute or the gimmicky battery use device that looks like an apple which slowly withers and turns brown as you consume your charge?


I know those (and at least a dozen others) were all amongst the ones I decided I could easily live without when I restored recently. I know you will have your own list, but regardless of what goes and what comes back, do not burden your device with extra “stuff” you never use.


No matter how fun or cute or useful something was when you grabbed it from the app store, just like the worn out Puma shoes in your closet or the moth-eaten ski coat from 1995, there are some things that you will never have a use for again. And just as you declutter the closet regularly (think Spring cleaning) this is a golden opportunity to declutter that device.

For guidance on what you have to have, want to have or do not need refer back to that set of screen shots I told you to take. That’ll let you see what was there and help you make the final “cut”.


Finally a 2nd caution about something we said at the outset: No matter how tempting it seems, do not restore the device from your back-up or you will simply re-install the same problems and gain nothing.


It would be like going out to buy new tires for your car but instead of the new ones you buy, putting the old fiats back on. Pay the tire shop to recycle the old ones. Pay yourself by throwing away the old back-up. Hang onto it long enough to be sure things are indeed back to where they should be then let go, put it in the trash and hit empty.


Like the old boyfriend’s photo, the old tires or that pair of shot shoes, there’s no reason to burden yourself or your gear with things you will never have a use for again — ever. If you do the job right, once things are restored and complete, you should have the apps you want and need, the contacts you had before and most importantly a working device which is literally good as new — mostly because as far as the operating system and apps are concerned, it IS new.


Good luck with your work and if you need help, there is a lot out there — from the Apple Genius bar to the local phone store and electronics retailer.


Just remember that like love, sometimes you got to say this is not working the way we want it to and re-think. If we want to continue loving our devices, the very same is true. Happy Valentines Day.

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