How To Extend Your Computer Life

How To Extend Your Computer Life

While your laptop computer comes with instructions on how to use it, it will not come with any instructions on how to take care of it. This article is written for YOU the new laptop computer owner. Even if you currently have a laptop computer, these maintenance ideas will save you time and money.

The singular reason that a laptop computer requires more attention to its maintenance is that all of its components are smaller, lighter, and enclosed in a much tighter space than the identical components of a desktop computer. The original portable computer was the Compaq Portable which was put on the market in January, 1983 at a price of $3,950.00. Essentially, the Compaq Portable had all of the same components of the desktop computers of the day, but it was enclosed in a sewing machine size case and it weighed almost 30 pounds. At Compaq, it was affectionately known as “The Huggable Luggable.” By today’s standards a 30 pound laptop computer would not be very favorably received. Since 1983, the laptop computer has truly been an example of the only absolute in the technology business – over time EVERYTHING gets smaller, faster, and cheaper.

There are two things that all computers have to deal with effectively – heat and electrostatic discharge. Because of the compact size of today’s laptop computers, these two things are particularly important to deal with.

TIP #1: AVOID OVERHEATING YOUR LAPTOP.
This can be accomplished by always using your laptop on a flat surface or a cooling pad. Every laptop computer has an intricate design for dissipating heat. All of these designs include the movement of air underneath the notebook. If you use the computer on a blanket (in bed), on a stack of papers (on a desk), or on your lap, you are interrupting the flow of air. Additionally, dust build-up inside the computer can prevent proper air flow. This dust can be removed by a qualified technician performing an internal cleaning. It is not recommended to try this yourself as there is a risk of damaging the internal components if not done properly.

TIP #2: ALWAYS GROUND YOURSELF BEFORE TOUCHING YOUR LAPTOP COMPUTER.
Get into the habit of touching something metal right before you touch your laptop computer. I know that this seems a little ridiculous, but those of us who actually work on laptop computers have seen the destruction that a “harmless” static discharge can do. Laptop computers can accumulate or build up a static charge. Among other things, this build-up can actually stop your laptop computer from turning on and/or stop the operating system from working. It will require the dissipation of the static and sometimes you will need a professional to do this for you.

One thing that will help you with this problem is having a grounded (or three-prong) electric plug on the end of the laptop computer’s AC adapter that plugs into the wall. This will help to dissipate the static. However, this only helps when you are running it on AC power. This is a good reason to use your laptop computer as much as possible on AC power. When the laptop computer is being run on battery power, it is much more susceptible to damage from electrostatic discharges.

It goes without saying that laptop computers should NEVER be dropped. At a minimum, that case will be cracked or damaged and at the maximum you will destroy the laptop computer so that it will have to be replaced. Even if you have the “accident” insurance that some big-name computer manufacturers offer, their definition of what constitutes an “accident” as well as proving to them that the computer was not damaged by owner abuse, will cause you more grief than the cost of the insurance in the first place. However, there are two parts of the laptop computer that you should always be protective of – the screen and the AC adapter.

TIP #3: PURCHASE A GOOD CASE TO CARRY YOUR LAPTOP COMPUTER IN THAT HAS A PADDED COMPARTMENT IN THE MIDDLE.
The reasoning here is very straight forward. Transporting a laptop computer is probably one of the main reasons to purchase a laptop computer. It only makes sense to protect your investment. There are several laptop computer cases that do not have a padded compartment in the middle of their case. This is a big mistake to use these kinds of cases. They do not offer the protection you will need.

TIP #4: NEVER TOUCH THE FRONT OF THE SCREEN OR PUT ANYTHING ON TOP OF YOUR LAPTOP COMPUTER WHEN IT IS CLOSED.
The front of your laptop computer screen is not really designed to be touched. If you have to point at something on the screen, come close to the screen but don’t touch it. You may think that you are applying light pressure, but light pressure to you may be heavy pressure to your laptop computer’s screen. In addition, to potentially damaging the screen, touching it will leave an oily residue that will attract dust and have to be eventually cleaned off. There is ONE AND ONLY ONE WAY TO CLEAN A LAPTOP COMPUTER SCREEN PROPERLY. Take a clean, white athletic sock and get it moist (not wet or damp) and very, very lightly rub the screen. Barely touch the screen. To clean the screen will take more time than if you pressed harder, but rubbing very, very lightly will not scratch the screen or damage the internal parts.

The back of the laptop computer’s screen is also very vulnerable to damage. When the laptop is closed, the back of the screen is behind the top of the computer. Putting anything on top of it in this position will press down against the back of the screen. With enough weight it will crack the back and damage the internal workings of the screen. Also, when you put a laptop computer in its case, make sure that there is nothing else in the case that IF it were to press against the top of the laptop computer will cause enough pressure to crack the screen.

TIP #5: PROTECT THE KEYBOARD AT ALL COSTS.
Small hands are very curious hands and can easily get under the keys of a laptop keyboard and pop the key right off. We have seen many laptop computers with keys missing and an owner who would love to get it fixed. The origin of the lost keys is curious young children who were just being kids. They popped the keys off and apologized profusely afterwards. The parents were “amazed” the keys could not just be popped back on. This is a hard lesson learned that to fix one key on a laptop keyboard requires the replacement of the entire keyboard. Most laptop computer keyboards can be replaced for around $125 -$175 (includes parts and labor). This is pretty expensive when compared to desktop keyboards. However, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

TIP #6: PROPERLY INSERT AND REMOVE THE AC ADAPTER FROM THE LAPTOP.
You may be saying to yourself that anyone should be able to do this without a reminder. However, the number one repair that we do on laptops is the replacement and re-solder of the DC-in connector. What is the DC-in connector? This is what the AC adapter plugs into inside of the laptop computer. The plug from the AC adapter MUST be pushed straight in and pulled straight out. If, as many people do, you pull the AC adapter out sideways or “twist” is out, over time the DC-in connector inside the laptop computer will become loose and will not be charging the battery or providing power to the laptop computer. In the automotive business, there has been a huge business in radiator and alternator rebuilding for years. The DC-in connector repair has become so prevalent today that there are several companies that specialize in doing these repairs. The repair of a DC-in connector will cost you about $200.00.

In conclusion, the benefits that a user of a laptop computer receives come at a cost. The laptop computer requires more care and feeding than a desktop computer. Follow the above tips and you will continue to receive the benefits far longer than a laptop computer-user that does not follow them.