We talk a lot in our blogs about how best to keep your networks safe and secure, your machines in perfect working order and the apps and programs that can aid in your productivity. But there is one area that we rarely address – your actual physical machines.
Between remote working, hybrid work environments and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies becoming ever more prominent, device care has never been more important. Before, your personal laptop was just that – personal. You’d want to take care of it as well as you could, of course. No one wants to go investing in a new machine every couple of years after all! But maintaining your personal laptop or desktop was a footnote in your day-to-day routine. It would happen every now and then, but be honest with yourself, how often would you clean your keyboard. Or wipe down your screens. Or give your computer case a Thorough dedusting.
Now that your home machine is your work machine, the incentive to keep it clean is more important than ever. There is little worse than your hardware breaking down when you’re in the middle of a project or deep in a spreadsheet, or in the middle of writing the latest blog for your website. And yes, I am talking from personal experience.
So, with that in mind, I’ve put together the 10 commandments of computer care. Ignore them at your own risk.
The 10 Commandments of Computer Care
1. Thou shalt not overcharge thy device
What’s the point of a laptop if it dies as soon as you unplug it? Your laptop’s battery will of course come with a bit of a shelf-life – batteries don’t last forever! But you want to maintain its integrity for as long as possible. And one of the best ways to do this is to unplug your charger when your battery is at 100%.
Why? There are a few different theories doing the rounds, including that age-old myth that laptop batteries have a certain number of charges in them before they die. This may have been true of laptops in the ‘90s, but the modern equivalents don’t work that way. Another theory is that laptop batteries work best when operating on between 70% and 80% battery life. But that would be impossible to maintain! Overheating, undercharging and other factors can also impact how long your battery lasts.
What it all boils down to though is this: if your laptop is constantly plugged in, you don’t actually need your battery. It will have a constant power source, which makes it easy enough for you to take the battery out and store it somewhere safe. If you do need your laptop battery in, it’s best to regularly unplug it to avoid overheating and other wear and tear that may develop.
2. Thou shalt make note of thy warranty
It’s important to keep track of the warranties for machinery. It’s often the case that people will start experiencing issues well within their warranty period, but will wait until a computer breaks down completely before they do anything about it. Suddenly they realise that their warranty lapsed a week or a month ago and that all repairs are now entirely their own responsibility.
Checking your warranty is quick and easy. Simply head to your device manufacturer’s warranty website and type in your serial number or service tag number to check the device’s status.
3. Thou shalt save thine eating for thy dining room
Coffee and technology do not mix. Believe me, I know. All it takes is one simple slip of the hand for an entire cup of hot coffee to fall onto a laptop keyboard, and suddenly your machine is kaput. Even if it is salvageable, it will be out of commission for hours, which can have a detrimental effect on your productivity for the day (or week as the case may be).
And eating around your machine is no better. It doesn’t have to be a bowl of soup to cause damage. Crumbs have a tendency of getting into crevices. So does moisture. Trust me when I tell you that saving your eating and drinking for the dining room is really in your own best interest, much as that makes drinking your coffee while scrolling through your emails more difficult to achieve.
4. Thou shalt perform regular cleanings
Did you know that a keyboard has more bacteria on it than a toilet seat? 20,000 times more, in fact, if you’re like the average computer user.
Though that stat does date back to pre-Covid times and has likely been improved thanks to increased personal hygiene, the fact still stands that you definitely need to be cleaning your keyboard and mouse more often. This will not only see you being exposed to fewer germs (we hope) but will also reduce dust build-up and make your keys less likely to stick, your mouse move smoother, and your eyes less strained if you regularly clean your screens as well.
5. Give your eyes (and your body) a rest
Forget furniture polish (really, really forget it when it comes to your machines). Forget wiping things down with a damp cloth. What you really want when cleaning your machine is alcohol.
It dries far faster than water, making it the ideal solution when working with technology. So, whether you’re just giving your laptop or computer case a quick wipe down, or are taking your machine apart for a deep clean to get rid of that coffee you spilled on it, alcohol wipes are going to be your best friend.
6. Thou shalt oft make use of compressed air
Whether you’re using a laptop or desktop, compressed air can be a device lifesaver. Wiping down surfaces with alcohol is all well and good, but between desktop fans and motherboards, keyboards and mice, dust can become dangerous when left for too long. It can clog up circuitry and lead to overheating. It can stop fans from performing at their best. And it can make your computer keyboard, frankly, just plain gross. A quick blast of compressed air can help you get into the cracks and crannies that a cloth or alcohol wipe just can’t reach and give your machine a deep clean.
7. Thou shalt ensure great airflow
Computers don’t like heat. When you’re working with tiny and finicky tech like motherboards, circuitry, and such, any extra heat can see them burning out. It’s why you see gamers investing in ridiculously large computer cases and absurd systems to keep the devices cool (in more ways than one). They don’t just look awesome, but the space allows for better airflow, which stops components from overheating. Now imagine how hot things get when you’re using a laptop, which has no space for airflow. Even when you’re not pushing your graphics cards and processors to their limits, you still want to ensure that your device is getting as much cooling as possible.
For desktop computers, this means giving your case plenty of space. You don’t want it to sit directly against a wall or close to your desk since this will mean that the fans won’t have much air to pull in and circulate. It’s best to leave some space around the case, and it’s essential to make sure that all of your fans are working correctly. Fans are relatively low-cost to replace and are critical to keeping airflow running through the case itself.
When it comes to laptops, stands and USB coolers are your machine’s best friends. While laptop stands provide space underneath the device for the fans to pull air in and circulate it, USB coolers come with extra fans to aid in cooling.
8. Thou shalt avoid direct sunlight
Along the same vein as the previous point, direct sunlight can not only contribute to overheating but can also be detrimental to screens and monitors. If you’ve ever left a monitor in sunlight, you may have noticed a film of moisture that appears beneath the surface. While removing the screen from the sun will see the film disappear after a few minutes, the more often this occurs, the longer you’ll notice it takes for the moisture to evaporate, and more danger is posed since the only thing that computers hate more than heat is liquid! For laptops in particular, where the screen and the circuitry are intricately connected, direct sunlight has great potential for disaster.
9. Thou shalt invest in surge protection
Living in a country like South Africa, losing power is inevitable. Whether it’s load shedding or an unplanned blackout, there’s a high likelihood that your devices are going to lose power at some point. And get it back. It’s the getting it back that this commandment covers. When electricity returns, it doesn’t do so slowly. It returns in a surge, and can often result in any devices that are plugged in shorting from the sudden onslaught of power. This is why you need to invest in surge protection plugs for your computer, whether it’s a laptop or desktop, and for your screen.
10. Thou shalt regularly reboot
Have you ever noticed how smoothly your computer runs when it’s just been turned on? Programs take microseconds to open. Mouse clicks work the first time around. And in general, everything seems to work better. There’s a reason for this. With every app that you open, every new browser tab, every file, and every folder, your computer is using more and more resources. And it doesn’t have an infinite amount to work with. You are limited by your computer’s memory and processing capabilities. And even after you close programs, they will often continue to use resources in the background.
This is why it’s important to reboot your machine once in a while. Not necessarily every single day, but if you don’t plan to use your computer over weekends, for example, shut it down and let it rest while you do. Then, when you return to work (or to your dining room table, as the case may be) on Monday morning, your device will be as ready for the week ahead as you are.
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Where Should You Turn When Computer Care Fails?
While the ten commandments should always be followed, they are not always going to save your devices. Technology only lasts so long, after all. But this is where having a Managed IT Services provider like Solid Systems comes in handy. We don’t only take care of your cloud infrastructure and your IT support, but we can help you to manage your devices as well. And that’s from both a business and network security standpoint, and from a practical one as well.
Solid Systems is one of the few companies in South Africa to provide Microsoft Surface devices to businesses (rather than just individuals), but these aren’t the only devices that we can help your company to get. If you’re looking for laptops, screens, inverter systems, generators, or any other piece of tech for your teams, get in touch with us today and find out more about our Managed IT services and how they can help your business.