The holiday weekend is finally here, so how are you going to spend it? Hanging with loved ones? Shopping for a must-have gadget? Geeking out over football, gaming or movies? Don’t blame you. Life can be a ringer, so having some down time is crucial for recharging and rejuvenating.

While personal maintenance is important, that doesn’t mean you can’t squeeze in a few bits of tech maintenance too. Not all tech jobs have to be a colossal time-suck (unless upgrading your hard drive or reinstalling that operating system is incredibly necessary or is your idea of a party). There are quite a few tasks that you can knock off the old do-do list quickly, so you can easily fit them in between activities of your epic weekend of fun.

5 Fast and Simple Tech Tasks To Tackle This Weekend

Make sure your voicemail is passcode-protected

voicemail passwordWhen it comes to mobile phone security, the native feature that seems to get a lot of attention is the pin code/pattern unlock. However, voicemail shouldn’t get overlooked either. What’s particularly unnerving about voice mail hacking is how easy it can be in some cases. Perpetrators just spoof their caller IDs to show the victim’s phone number and then dial into that cell carrier’s VM line. Once inside, they have access to every message recorded or saved there. Of course, this only works if the voice mail password authentication has been bypassed — which many users do, to save themselves the hassle. Some carriers — like AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and USCellular — let users to turn off passwords for this reason. (Verizon Wireless, however, does not allow it.)

An easy way to see if your voice mail bypasses the passcode prompt is to press and hold “1,” to dial into your voice mail. If it goes right in without asking you for authentication, then this security has been turned off (at least from your own handset/caller ID). Depending on the device or carrier mobile apps you use, you might be able to turn it on right from there. Or for instructions on how to dial in for this setting, consult these help docs at AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular. Once you’re done, don’t forget to check that your passcode is saved in your phone’s settings, so you won’t have any difficulty retrieving your messages.

  • Android: Settings / Call settings / Voicemail settings
  • iOS: Settings / Phone / Change Voicemail Password

And don’t choose 0000, 1234 or the last 4 digits of your phone # for your passcode. These are always the first ones hackers try to bust in with.

The whole process shouldn’t take more than a minute or two, and it will ensure that your messages stay secure.

backup solutions

Set up your back-up system

Got an external flash or hard drive still sitting in the box on your desk? What are you waiting for? Unbox that sucker. Usually it only takes plugging it into an outlet and hooking up the USB cable or, for older products, a firewire cable. Fancier hard drives even have wireless features, so you can attach it first to set it up on your network, then relocate it to another location, if you want. If it’s a NAS drive, the set up could take longer, but still shouldn’t take more than a few moments for a standard installation. If you’ve been considering a cloud back-up option, the process is even easier. Just hit up Mozy, Carbonite, Norton, or whatever your service of choice is, sign up and then follow the online instructions. You can have your initial sync started within moments. While the first back-up can take quite awhile, you don’t have to stay tethered to your computer while that’s going on. (By the way, if you haven’t synced your smartphone, you’ll definitely want to do that first, so this back-up will be stored along with the rest of your important data.)

Roku channel store

Reboot your Tivo, Roku, Apple TV, etc.

When things start to run slowly on our computers, our phones and tablets, or we begin to notice crashes or freeze-ups more often, the first thing many of us do is reboot. That’s tech maintenance 101. What might be 101-and-a-half is the learning lesson that our streaming media devices are also terminals that could use the same treatment periodically — especially since most of them remain powered on constantly. So if you haven’t rebooted your Tivo, Roku, Apple TV, etc. lately, then take a few seconds and give it a fresh power-down/power-up. You may have to unplug it, as some of these types of devices don’t have On/Off buttons. 

Wipe down your keyboard, trackpad and touch displays, for crying out loud!

stinky germsWe live in a technological era that offers us incredible functionality at our literal fingertips. And so we press, push, touch and swipe hundreds or thousands of times, which is not only amazing, but also incredibly gross if you don’t wipe down that hardware. 

Did you know that computer keyboards have 200 times the bacteria of a toilet seat? (Even more, if it’s shared.) And 16 percent of cell phones actually have feces on them! Blech! Unless you wash your water-resistant keyboard often or keep your mobile devices hermetically sealed, do yourself a favor — wipe these suckers down. If necessary, use a vacuum (with brush attachment) to suck up crumbs, then hit it with a disinfecting wipe or cleaner. DO NOT submerge it, but do keep the solution in contact for 5 seconds, for maximum sanitizing. Or, if you have a specialized tech cleaning product, bust that out to vanquish those nasties.

Finally get that skin or case for your device (or if you have one, put it on!). 

smartphone casesHit up Otterbox, Zagg, CaseMate or another brand online, or if you’re not sure which skin or case you want, do a little window-shopping on Amazon. With just a few clicks, you can make sure your phone, tablet or handheld gaming device is covered. Of course, you could also hit up stores like Walmart, Best Buy, Target and others in person — and if you do, just be prepared for the holiday shopping stampede. If you’ve already gotten your device protection of choice, be sure to put that puppy on before you head out for your weekend activities.

None of these tasks should take much time, so they won’t detract from your holiday weekend. And just think of how great you’ll feel, knowing you whacked some things off your to-do list.

Got any other tech duties to do this weekend? Are they big projects or quick and easy tasks? Let us know in the comments below. 

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