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Taking care of your computer

26/12/2016
Taking care of your computer

Not many can do without a computer in today’s busy world, but how many computer owners are conscious of the extra effort needed to take care of their computers, desktop or a laptop?

Since a laptop is a ‘mobile’ device, it is more at risk of being damaged than a stationery desktop. Nevertheless, we still should still make an extra effort to take care of any kind of computer we own.

When it comes to desktop computers, there are few things that can be done. One of the most important things is to install a UPS/Surge protector. A power failure can cause problems to the components of a Hard Disk - even though newer generation of Hard Disks are more resilient, they still can become corrupted by sudden power loss. A UPS will give you some time to be able to switch off your desktop in case of a power loss. A surge protector will protect against a sudden surge of current and protect you against the effects of thunder, even though it is always advisable to completely disconnect any device from its electrical socket in case of thunder in the area.

Be sure to place your desktop in a well ventilated area and to avoid placing it directly on the floor or in dusty environments. A computer needs a well ventilated area to be able to dissipate heat. Heat is one of the worst enemies for any device. If there is no ventilation, a computer starts heating up and there will be an immediately noticeable a sharp drop in performance - apart from damages that can be done to the components.

Dust is another element that causes computers to overheat. When dust settles on a computer’s internal components, it acts like a blanket that keeps heat inside, leading to overheating – one can think of it like small scale version of global warming going on inside a computer. Your computer should undergo maintenance at least once a year, which should include the cleaning of the components inside the desktop tower/laptop. You might be surprised by what you find next time you have a look inside a tower.

Laptops, on the other hand, are more susceptible to damage since they are portable. A laptop should always be placed on a stable surface in order to protect it from sudden movements or the risk of it dropping to the floor. Even abrupt movements can damage mechanical Hard Drives so it is advisable to avoid moving around with a laptop that is switched on - a laptop should be put into hibernate or sleep mode before moving it from one place to another. Always place a laptop in a laptop bag as that has a bit of cushioning which help to protect it when travelling from one place to another. At the same time, one should take care not overload the laptop bag with unnecessary items as doing so could still put a laptop at risk. Additionally, when travelling by plane, it is advisable to Remember to place a laptop in hand luggage as it would be risky to place it in a luggage that will be heavy handled on its way to the luggage hold.

Food and drinks should always be kept well away from a laptop. It is never a good idea to leave a cup of tea, coffee or water close to a laptop as accidents can happen any time. Liquid spillage is an all too common occurrence with laptops and few survive this seemingly avoidable predicament. When it comes to food, it has been scientifically tested that a computer/laptop keyboard is one of the three most unhygienic places inside a household! One should avoid eating in front of a keyboard for many reasons then, even if it is just for a healthy break.

One of the biggest problems with laptops is overheating. Since components are crammed into a very tight area within the laptop case, everything can overheat much faster. One should make efforts to avoid blocking any of the vents around the laptop case and under no circumstance should a laptop be placed on a bed or soft surface as this will definitely block the air vents, apart from risking dust and fluff getting stuck in the fans, which can degrade fan performance leading to overheating!

Plugging in connectors to any port is another area for consideration. Cables are designed to slide in easily into their slot so if the cable cannot be inserted effortlessly then one should not be trying to force it as that will risk damaging the port. A laptop screen should also be protected by avoiding placing anything on top of a closed laptop and always being sure that there are no items on the keyboard when closing the lid. Again, it is wise not to force the lid while closing as there might be foreign objects that can cause the screen to crack.

Not unexpectedly, a portable device’s weakness is always with its battery. Gone are the days where batteries had a sort of memory where we would need to discharge and recharge a laptop fully to complete a cycle. With today’s Lithium-Ion batteries, we need to ensure that they are never allowed to drain completely as this would damage them. One should consider charging the battery when it decreases down to around 30% charge. If a laptop is always connected to the power, it is a good idea to use the battery a couple of times during the week. One should never leave a laptop connected to a power source overnight.

The above is essentially very basic but often overlooked guidance that most are already aware of and a little reminder every now and then might be necessary as we are so used to taking everything for granted. Some additional care will make sure that computers and laptops can last longer.

Ryan Mintoff works at Deloitte Malta in Information Technology and Security. For more information, please visit http://www.deloitte.com/mt