As 2014 draws to a close, here is a quick list of simple things you can do, and to avoid, to keep your computer working at its best.
Things To Do
Clean the dust out of your computer every 1-3 months. If you have a laptop, use a can of compressed air and blow out the fan intake on the bottom and the vent on the side or back. If you have a desktop, disconnect the wires and remove the side cover, step outside and use a can of compressed air to blow out the inside of the case. A dusty computer creates and holds more heat, using more energy and causing more wear on the parts. Disconnect your keyboard, turn it upside down and blow air through the keys. A clean computer is a happy computer.
Give your computer space to breathe! If you use a laptop, try to keep it on a hard surface so the fan isn’t blocked and consider using a cooling pad if you use the laptop on a desk. If you have a desktop, don’t push it tight against the wall, and if it’s kept inside a cabinet or behind a door, try to keep the door open when using the computer. Doing these things ensures the computer can pull in cooler air.
Set up and maintain a current backup of your files. Whether you do this manually or use an automated program, make certain you have a copy of your important files. Although data recovery is often possible, it is frequently more expensive than having a backup.
Make certain you have a good antivirus program. We recommend Avast, BitDefender and AVG, although there are others available. Remember that you don’t want to have multiple antivirus programs on the same computer. There are other security programs available that will enhance your computer’s security without interfering with your antivirus program, but do some research before installing.
Clean your screen. If your screen is just dusty you can use a soft cloth to wipe it off. If you have a touchscreen you will have fingerprints and smudges. A glass-cleaning microfiber cloth will take care of minor smudges but if it’s really dirty a simple 50/50 mix of rubbing alcohol and distilled water will clean your screen without damaging it. Apply a small amount to your cleaning cloth and gently wipe the grime away! This can also be used on the case if needed. Do not use vinegar, Windex or other glass-cleaning solutions unless they are marked specifically for use on electronic screens as they can damage non-glass displays.
Things To Avoid
Don’t eat or drink by your computer. Spills happen and computers really don’t like conductive liquids like soda, water, beer, etc. Keyboards don’t like crumbs either, so eating Christmas cookies while typing your letter to Santa is a no-no.
Don’t leave your computer (or other electronics) plugged in during an electrical storm. Remove ALL cables connected to the computer (including your Internet cable) to prevent damage from power surges.
Don’t use the power button to shut down your computer. Unless your power settings have been configured to perform a normal shutdown when the power button is pressed, the system won’t shut down properly, and this can cause errors the next time you use the computer.
Don’t leave your charger connected when transporting your laptop. Doing so causes excessive stress on the charging port inside the computer and could even break it off. You will then need to have the port repaired or replaced in order to charge the battery.
Don’t download “free” stuff. Remember that most “free” software comes with some kind of cost, usually in the form of unwanted and potentially dangerous software. Whenever you download something off the Web read each screen before clicking “next.” You can also hover your cursor over a link to see the address it actually goes to. This simple tip can save you from ending up in the seedier side of the Web.
Do you have other tips and tricks or questions that you’d like to share? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. If we feature your tip or question, we’ll send you a $5.00 gift certificate!