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Helpful Hints and Tips

Certain behaviors of computer users may unknowingly contribute to problems or the untimely demise of computer systems and other electronics.  Here are some of these with tips on how to prevent problems from occuring.  You may be destroying your computer and not even know it.

Smoking, Dust, and Dirt

Dirty environments are one of the biggest killers of electronics and tobacco smoke is likely the largest culprit.  The fans inside your computer suck in outside air with all contaminants included.  Tobacco smoke is especially bad because the tar in it acts as a glue.  Dust and lint that would have normally passed through the fans and other cooling components of your computer now become cemented or glued together, forming a thick layer that can cause overheating and other failures.  This is especially problematic in laptops with their tight internal spaces.

The best solution is to not smoke around your computer or other electronics but an air filter in your room near the computer might help.  Also try to have your computer elevated some off the ground.  Dust settles so computers sitting on the floor will suck in a lot more.  It is possible to clean the insides of a computer so contact me if you feel this might be helpful in your situation.


Power Surges and Brownouts

Everyone knows that power surges are harmful to electronics but dips in voltage, commonly known as brownouts, are just as bad.  Brownouts may occur from a tree brushing a live power line or a major load kicking on in your own home or a neighbor's on the same power line and are apparent when your lights dim. Voltage regulators within power supplies and other components must work extra hard to compensate for this low voltage.  This shortens the life of these components and will eventually lead to their failure.


I suggest buying a battery backup Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) to protect against both surges and brownouts.  Although this isn't as important in devices like laptops with an internal battery, it is critical for desktops.  As with anything, you get what you pay for.  Don't expect the cheapest UPS or surge protector to provide the same level of protection as a more costly unit.  The specs are usually listed in fine print on the box or bottom/back of the unit.


Vibration and Mechanical Shock

Although computers and their components, especially laptops, are designed to withstand getting bounced around some, excessive vibration or drops will lead to failures.  The most common failures are the hard drive and optical drives which are mechanical in nature.  Hard drives are where all your information, programs, and operating system are stored so if they fail, your computer will no longer function.


Solid State Drives or SSDs for short have become increasingly popular and lower cost in recent years.  SSDs feature no moving parts, are exceptionally forgiving to being bounced around or use in other extreme environments, use less power, generate less heat, and last but not least, are 10-20 times the speed of a traditional mechanical hard drive.  Although an SSD is an upgrade for anyone, these characteristics make them an excellent choice used by people with on the go, outdoor, and critical jobs such as police, fire fighters, EMTs, utility workers, and the like.

Lack of Antivirus/Security

Viruses and malware are common on 90% or more of computers I service.  These, along with people actively giving scammers access to their computers, causes most of the problems I see.

Improper DIY Repair Attempts

Do it yourself (DIY) repairs are a great way to save money and possibly learn something new by fixing problems with your home, car, or computer yourself.  DIY repairs can also turn into a literal and costly nightmare if performed incorrectly.  I have seen DIY repair attempts for what started out as minor problems turn into much more costly repairs or a ruined computer.  I have seen more than one computer turn apart in pieces brought to me in a box.  These are usually beyond economical repair.  If you don't know what you are doing, leave repairs to the pros as it will save money in the long run.   

Buying Cheap/Black Friday Sales

The old saying, "You get what you pay for" couldn't be more applicable to computers and electronics in general.

You may think the $250 doorbuster laptop you got on Black Friday was a "great deal".  That is until you realize just how slow it is and the fact that it cannot be upgraded and the overall quality is lacking.  The same goes for that discount computer you bought at the same time as that gallon of milk, package of toilet paper, and tube of toothpaste.


These discount units are among the most problematic and with good reason. Retailers pressure their vendors to sell something for as low of a price as possible and the quality suffers.  They are "cheap" in the purest sense of the word.  They may be the same brand and look similar to a higher priced unit elsewhere but they are not the same.  They are usually made just for one retailer or sale day such as Black Friday.


That "great deal" isn't so good when the computer isn't able to do what you want and requires frequent repairs.  It may end up costing you more than buying a more costly unit due to the repairs and upgrades, if they are even possible.


Leaving Laptop Power Cord Connected to Unit During Transport or Storage

With the exception of Apple, no computer manufacturer  makes a laptop that is forgiving to having the power connector on the side or back abused.  If you leave the power connector plugged into your laptop, this puts stress on the internal port of the unit.  While power cords are a simple "plug and play" replacement, this usually results in damaging the internal connector which is not so simple or inexpensive to repair.


Uplug the power cord from your laptop when not in use.  Sticking it in the carrying case with the cord still connected is a going to eventually lead to costly internal damage.


Temperature and Humidty Variations

Electronics/computers used in environments such as garages or shops are subject to temperature and humidity variations that shorten the life of various components.  Keeping a constant but reasonable humidity level and temperature that prevents condensation from forming will go a long way towards extending equipment life.

If this is not possible, you might wish to consider upgrading to a Solid State Drive or SSD as they are much more forgiving to this type of environment.  See the discussion on these in the section titled "Vibration and Mechanical Shock" to find out more.  

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