Prepare Your PC for Chinese New Year

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The next Chinese Lunar New Year starts Thursday, February 3. Now's the time to freshen up the house, yourself--and why not your PC?--for the year to come. A few of these holiday traditions seem especially useful right now. And to learn more about the lunar calendar itself, check out Chinese Calendrics ($20, free demo).

Cleaning House and PC

Tradition dictates that it's best to do the cleaning before the New Year. You can tidy up your PC, too, with the free and low-cost Downloads in "Clean Up Windows and Your Hard Drive."

Legend holds that cleaning on New Year's Day sweeps out the good luck you generate with your observances. It's hard to see how this could happen to your PC, but one thing about that practice does make sense: Not only is it important to back up your data and set a restore point before scrubbing out your PC, it's good to let those changes sit for a few days of use before making more tweaks. That way, you can see how things are going and avoid problematic overcorrections.

(For a handy list of the rest of the programs in this article, see our "Welcome the Year of the Rabbit With Chinese New Year Downloads" collection.)

Change Your Look for the New Year

Lunar New Year revelers get their hair cut before the holiday and wear new clothes on the big day itself. The story goes that changing your appearance keeps your bad luck from recognizing you and following you into the next year. This may not work on bad luck any better than it works on bad exes, but it's certainly worth trying something new that could lift your mood.

Perk up your Windows 7 desktop with a handsome Year of the Rabbit theme (free), or follow the tradition of eating something sweet on the eve of the Lunar New Year by slipping Candy Theme (free) onto your desktop.

Set a Feast for Friends and Family

The celebratory dinner takes place on New Year's Eve. Many traditional foods follow the theme of plenty: golden oranges, dumplings resembling fat purses of money, fish (a play on the similar-sounding Mandarin words for "fish" and "left over"). Whatever your choice of cuisine, serve or order more of it than you can possibly eat; that heralds a cornucopia of a year.

You may already have recipes for your favorite Chinese New Year dishes stored in a program like Living Cookbook ($35, 30-day free trial). But if you don't--and even if you do--what's stopping you from entertaining with tasty and convenient takeout? With the Chang Chang and Chang Chang Woodcut fonts (free), you can craft "Happy New Year" banners and food-identifying signs reminiscent of the characters on takeout boxes.

Spend Time With Your Loved Ones

Like most holidays, Chinese New Year is best celebrated with those who matter most to you. If you're all close by, you can spend the time together. If you live far from one another, this might be the time to try something like Skype Premium, a new voice-and-video chat service that can display up to ten smiling faces on webcams around the world. Although the service carries an additional fee, it uses the usual Skype software--no extra download required. At $9 per month or $5 for a one-day pass (for the host only), it's a good way to wish "Gung Hay Fat Choy," "Xin Nián Kuài Lè," or just plain "Happy New Year" to friends and family.

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