Working from home has become easier and more productive with the hosts of desktop and mobile apps built especially for this purpose. But before you can take full advantage of these powerful programs, you'll probably need to clean up and perform some maintenance on the home iMac or MacBook that will soon become your office. Luckily, that's easy with the following tips and app downloads.

Gather the tools

The first step in any project is preparing the tools. In this case, that means downloading two incredibly helpful, free apps.


But even before that, there's a pre-Step 1: update. All of the following steps will work better if the computer is running its latest operating system. If you're anywhere near the newest version of MacOS, simply open the App Store and download MacOS Sierra for free. This could be the longest step, depending on your internet connection. Opt for a direct Ethernet connection for the fastest download.

Clean

Once your MacOS is freshened up, choose your tools. Two of the best are both free (for their trial versions). Dr. Cleaner will jumpstart your cleaning with its easy-to-use interface. It lives in the menu bar, tracking in the background and offering quick access to memory usage stats and junk file cleaning. For the initial clean, click System Optimizer and explore the file tabs: "Junk Files," "Big Files," the new "Disk Map," duplicates, apps and more. The categories are self-explanatory and will help erase clutter in the Mac's hard drive. Quickly delete leftovers from uninstalled applications and app caches, target the biggest files that might be unnecessary and scan for duplicates.

For $15, Dr. Cleaner Pro will actually delete the duplicates it finds (the free version only locates and lists them). It also unlocks smart app uninstall.

The other app that will help with the initial clean is Cocktail. It's free for the first ten launches and costs $20 after that. With similar functions to Dr. Cleaner (but a deeper, more technical interface), Cocktail might be the preference for someone looking for deeper interaction with the OS. It also has options for changing the behavior of the OS, like changing animations and customizing the dock.

Keep it clean

Now that you've searched, scrubbed, optimized and purged, the marathon task is keeping it all clean. Diligence is required for this but several apps will also help you stay ahead of the clutter. AppTrap is a simple, free app that acts in the background, residing in System Preferences and keeping watch for app extras that linger even after the app has been deleted. Without any effort, AppTrap will warn you about app leftovers when you delete something and offer to wipe the remnants.

Part of maintaining your new "office" is security. This is important for every computer but it's vital for a computer storing sensitive business data. You can spend plenty on name-brand software or you can download Sophos Home, a free security package for your Mac (or PC). It works in the background to protect your computer from malware, adware, malicious websites and those with known security flaws. It also monitors tracking and lets you manage up to ten computers from its in-browser dashboard. As part of your initial clean, it would be wise to perform a full scan (this could take several hours).

For the price (free!) it will be tough to beat Sophos's features set and user-friendly interface.

Back it up

By fully exploring the tools available and performing a smart, thorough cleanup, you'll have reinvigorated your Mac and prepared it for office duty. The last step in ensuring future success with your digital workspace is the most important: Back. It. Up.

Maybe you've never experienced a computer failure before. Maybe you've never even chipped the casing or eaten in the same room as your Mac. Nevertheless, things happen. Besides a hardware failure, your computer could suffer a glitch while updating to High Sierra later this month. A historically safe website could suffer a freak malware attack that damages your computer. One important file could disappear over the weekend. Backing up ensures that even the smallest, least painful glitches won't affect your life or your business. Plus, it's easy.

Your Mac has Time Machine, which is a great, built-in, automatic backup system. It doesn't really get better. All you need is an external hard drive. Buy one that's as big as you can afford. Twice the size of your hard drive might sound like enough, but that will only store two backups, at most. Storage is cheap and becoming cheaper every day. A 2TB Seagate backup hard drive is less than $80 on Amazon and can store lots of backups so you have the best chance of catching everything you need and anything you might have lost.

Make the right choice for your future self and invest (this is an investment in your future) in a backup drive. Simply plug it in, turn on Time Machine and forget about it. Your home office is ready to work as hard as you do and it won't let you down when the pressure is high.

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The Federal Reserve sets the guardrails for the federal funds rate, and through that helps control the money supply for the nation.

When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.

A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.

One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.

The Federal Reserve The Federal Reserve


The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.

This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.

The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.

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