Make Your Computer Last (Almost) Forever With Some Simple Tricks
There is a piece of electronics in my house that I couldn't do without. I need it for communication, research, entertainment, work, basic household functioning, our homeschool lessons, and to occasionally keep my kids' occupied while I make an important phone call or get dinner on the table. There's a good chance it is equally as important to you, too. (See also: Why You Should Buy a Desktop Computer)
The computer has become one of our most needed and essential items in our homes and when it breaks or — even worse — dies for good, we are lost without it and forced into an expenditure that we may not be ready to make. Keeping your computer up and running for many years is vital for your productivity, your sanity, and your wallet.
To keep it lasting forever, it is important to practice diligence with the protection, cleaning, maintenance, and care of your computer. Read on to learn all the ways you can do just that.
A good defense is the game to play when it comes to computer maintenance. Prevent problems from occurring in the first place with these protections in place.
The first order of business upon opening your brand new computer is to install virus protection. An adequately protected computer will keep you from the loss of important files and personal data and will give you a smoothly functioning operating system. While a virus, malware, or spyware will probably not cause you the loss of your hard drive, it is best to have what is internally stored on your computer as safe as possible. Free virus protection can be downloaded from Avast, AVG Free or Microsoft.
While viruses, spyware, and malware can slow down your computer's system, files saved to the hard-drive can do the same thing. To keep you computer running smoothly, it is best to save files on an external hard-drive. These hard drives plug into your computer and are perfect for storing data that is taking up space within your computer. The more space available on your hard drive, the better it runs.
A rush of electrical current to your computer can burn the components and cause you to lose data, as well as the computer, so always plug it into a surge protector.
Like your home, car, or anything else you value, computers should be cleaned regularly to keep them from working harder than they need to. This can be as simple as wiping down surfaces or as complicated as taking your PC tower apart to do some internal clean up.
Cleaning the monitor is a quick task that should be done weekly or as needed to keep oils and debris from breaking down the components. Using a special monitor cleaning product is usually not necessary, and LifeHacker actually suggests that plain water is the best solution. Be sure to use a scratch-free cloth made from microfiber or a clean T-shirt and have your monitor powered down before cleaning. Directly spraying the monitor is not recommended.
A dirty keyboard isn't just a health hazard, it can result in stuck keys or or completely dead keyboard. By unplugging the keyboard and turning it upside down, you can free any particularly loose materials right away. Blowing compressed air into the keyboard will clean out any debris that may be sticking to the keys. If you have a particularly sticky key (or when cleaning your trackpad), dip a cotton swab into rubbing alcohol and clean the area gently.
It is also essential to clean dust that collects on the fan and any other small crevices. Dust collecting on the fan of your computer can cause it to overheat and burn up. Regular cleaning with compressed air will help keep your laptop or computer working for years to come. (Much of this can be done without opening anything, but if you live in a particularly dusty area, a deep cleaning may be necessary.)
Keeping the internals operating efficiently does not require a lot of complicated hackery, just some basic maintenance, with software tools you probably already have.
Much like regular cleaning, your computer needs regular maintenance to keep it running smoothly. Defragmenting should be done once a month to clean out your computer's temporary files. If you are running a newer version of Windows (7 or 8), defragmenting is done regularly by your computer. However, older versions of Windows and those people who have their computer turned off during the scheduled defragmentation (usually 2 a.m. on Wednesdays) will need to manually defragment their hard drives.
Cleaning up a cluttered desk top can significantly increase PC speed, as well as dumping the Recycle Bin at least once a month. (Tools like CCleaner are free and can assist with some of these processes.)
If you haven't thought about your computer's battery lately, you should! The battery should be completely drained at least once a month and then be allowed to fully charge before being used again. This draining and recharging cycle keeps your battery fully operational. If you are using a laptop, it is also good to unplug it regularly and rely on the battery to keep it working.
More than anything you can do for your computer, taking care with how you handle and use it is the most important. Computers are damaged and ruined beyond repair due to careless and uneducated users.
Keep Liquids Away
Most of us are guilty of doing this; when you work at your desk, you want a drink handy, whether it is your morning cup of coffee, water throughout the day, or a glass of wine as you wind down in the evening. However, that beverage could easily spill and ruin your computer. It's best to keep it out of reach of your computer or, at the very least, in something with a lid.
Ensure Proper Ventilation
If you own a laptop, it's nice to take it to the couch or into bed with you while you surf the internet. However, this seemingly normal task could be destroying your computer and it's motor. They need space underneath for air to flow through and a soft surface from a blanket or cushion could cause it to overheat. If you are going to be laying in bed, place a book or a lap desk under your laptop while you work. The best place for it, is on a hard surface with a cooling pad or fan underneath. This will protect it from overheating at all times.
Transporting your laptop can also be the cause for irreparable damage. Whether you are carrying your laptop in your hand or in a bag, something can go wrong if you are not doing it properly. Laptops should always be turned off and carried with two hands when walking around, and the monitor should be down. (See also: 11 Cool Uses for a Tablet Computer)
When transporting it in a bag, it is important to have it inside a case. A neoprene case that slips snugly around the laptop will keep it from being broken if it bangs into something in your bag and prevent anything like food or sharp objects from getting into the ports on the side of the laptop.
You should also consider unplugging the power cord from the unit when not charging or in use, the small hole (or "jack") where the plug goes in can become loose over time, causing your laptop to be unable to be charged and resulting in a costly $75+ repair.
Most manufacturers will tell you that the average lifespan of a laptop is 2-3 years and a desktop computer 3-5 years, but this is typically due to newer technology being developed. If you keep your computer running smoothly and upgrade the operating system every few years, there is no reason it can not outlive what is "average." In addition, it's possible to get more life for your gadget by upgrading the following:
One of the most effective ways to give new life to your computer, giving memory a boost can be a DIY project. This classic article from PCWorld still applies, and most upgrades can run between $40 to $200 with the cost of the memory product and any tools you'll need to perform the task.
If you have a drive crash, or just feel like you would like a better brand/model, switching out your hard drive may be something you can do at home. It's not a simple process, but it definitely can be one of the best "CPR" procedures you can do for a PC or Mac.
If you find your computer lagging a bit, or unable to play newer, faster games, you may simply find a new video card to be the fix you need. Cards range in price from $75 to $500, so do some research to buy the least costly solution for your PC or laptop.
Proper protection, maintenance, cleaning, and care only take a few minutes each month to ensure a long lifespan for our most-essential of electronics.
How do you keep your computer running smoothly? Please share in comments!