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Simple Care and Maintenance to Extend the Life of Your Computer Hardware

Caring for your computer hardware today will go a long way towards extending its life. I’d like to share with you some easy things you can do to keep your computer running in top form.

1. Many of the computer desks available today have a closed cabinet for you to place your computer in. Computers need circulating air to keep them from overheating. I recently replaced a video card that got too hot and blew some capacitors because it was in a closed cabinet. If possible try to put your computer out in the open and up off the ground. Also the environment should be moisture, smoke and dust free if possible.

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2. I’m often asked if it’s better to leave a computer left on or shut it down when you’re done until the next time you need it. If you use your computer daily it’s best to leave it on. Every time you have to cold start your computer it causes stress to the electrical components.  Leaving your computer on is better for it but make sure you’re using the energy saving features that turn off your monitor and hard drives after a set amount of time. I don’t recommend the Windows hibernate feature though. Also insure your computer is plugged into a surge protector and that you’re using a firewall if you have a broadband connection. The Windows firewall is sufficient, Comodo’s free firewall is even better.

3. Dust inside the computer case can plug fans and coat components causing your computer to work extra hard and overheat. I worked on a computer recently that the fans were literally plugged with dust and debris.  The extra stress and heat caused three blown transistors right next to the processor and a fourth was bulging.  The life of this computer has been cut short due to too much dust. Once a year I make it a point to clean up the inside of my computers. I also clean the inside of every computer I fix.

Here’s how to do it:

  • A. Shut down the computer and unplug it.
  • B. Open the case. Usually it’s as easy as removing two screws in the back of the computer or pushing a latch. See the documentation that came with your computer if you’re not sure how to open the case.
  • C. There’s a huge debate about whether you should use a vacuum or not since vacuums can create static electricity which can cause permanent damage to the computer. Everyone agrees though that using compressed air is OK to use as long as you keep the can upright. If you tip the can it starts blowing moisture and can even freeze components in the computer.

I’ve always used a combination of compressed air and a vacuum. You might want to do this outside or in the garage if you don’t want a bunch of dust blown into your house. I usually just hold the computer hose outside the case and blow the compressed air to dislodge the dust. If the computer is really dirty and you can see that the fans/heat-sinks are plugged and components are coated with dust you can carefully use a small paintbrush and/or these great, inexpensive vacuum micro attachments. Personally I would never purchase the special vacuums created specifically for vacuuming out computers because most of them get bad reviews.

4. While the computer is still unplugged, close the case and take a slightly damp rag and wipe down the exterior of the computer. I usually wait at least a couple hours after doing step 3 and 4 before I plug in and turn on the computer.

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5. Next I unplug and clean the monitor. It’s very important that you don’t just start spraying Windex on your screen. LCD screens used on laptops and flat screens can be ruined using abrasive cleaners. Personally, I use Monster ScreenClean Display Cleaning Kit that includes a reusable MicroFiber cloth to clean any type of screen. Don’t spray the screen, spray the cloth then wipe the screen gently. You can find other screen cleaning options in your owner’s manual or a quick Google search.

6. You’ll also want to clean your keyboard. I usually just turn the keyboard over and shake it out then use compressed air to blow the dust out.

Following these simple and inexpensive steps to keep your computer hardware clean will extend its life and save you money in the long run so get started today!

 

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How to Speed Up a Slow Computer

Having worked with computers for several years there’s one complaint I hear more than any other. The complaint is normally given to me as a question basically asking how someone can speed up their slow computer. Fortunately there are some things that anyone can easily do to speed up their computer.

One of the main reasons computers run slow is they don’t have enough memory (RAM). RAM is the memory that’s used every time you run a program on your computer. Some programs use very little RAM while others can use a lot of RAM. If your computer is short on RAM your computer will use virtual memory, which is very slow.

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If your computer is more than 4 years old you may need more RAM unless you’ve already upgraded it. Also, companies often sell new computers with too little RAM so they can charge you to buy more later. I know, that’s not very nice of them! If you’re running an Operating System prior to Windows 2000, seriously consider buying a new computer since Microsoft is no longer supporting it with essential security patches. This includes Windows 95, 98 and ME (Millenium). If you’re running Windows 2000 or Windows XP you should have, at a minimum, 512MB of RAM. I recommend 1GB.

If you’re running Windows Vista you need at least 1GB and I recommend 2GB. Vista is a very memory hungry Operating System that still has a lot of bugs. As of this writing I’m still not recommending it to people buying new computers (but it’s getting harder to find new computers that come with Windows XP).

 

 

There are a couple more simple things you can do that can add a little more kick to your computer.

The first thing is to turn off hard drive Indexing. Click Start and open “My Computer” right-click on your C: drive and go into Properties. Uncheck the box that says “Allow Indexing Service to index this disk for fast file searching”. Apply this change to C:\subfolders and files when you get the confirmation window. This may take several minutes to run. You’ll only have to do this once though.

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The second thing you can do is Defragment your hard drive. Click Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter. Click the Analyze button and you’ll get a message letting you know if your hard drive needs to be defragmented. If you decide to Defragment your hard drive, this is another function that can take several minutes to run. I usually Defragment my hard drive about once per year.

One final bit of advice… If your computer is infected by a virus or adware your computer is going to be slow and do things like: change your Internet Homepage, give you endless pop-ups telling you need to buy some software (don’t do it!), produce system errors and a host of other annoying things. The things I’ve covered in this series of posts may help but your computer will never run right until you get rid of the malware (malicious software).

 

 

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Guide to Choosing : Desktop or Laptop ?

Its a plain and simple fact that desktops are faster, more powerful, more easily expandable, and cheaper than laptops. But because laptops are infinitely more portable than desktops people still keep buying them.

If you are in the position of buying your first computer or are replacing your primary computer you should definitely get a desktop PC. Sure you could buy refurbished laptops under $500, or you can buy a brand new giant screened desktop that you can play video games on. The choice really is a simple one, but here are a few more reasons why you should get a desktop over a laptop.

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Desktops really are cheaper. It doesn’t matter which laptop you choose, it will cost more than a desktop with the same specs. This is because laptops have to use less power so they don’t run out of battery after only 30 minutes. They also need to be smaller and weigh less. All of these extra requirements drive up the price of development and manufacturing which then gets passed on to us, the consumers.

Laptop PCs have a shorter lifespan than desktops. Its not just that laptops wear out faster than desktops, except for maybe the battery but then again desktops don’t have a battery like laptops, its that they aren’t as future proof. Laptop hardware is hard to upgrade. With a desktop you just pull open the side and switch out or add whatever you want, but with a laptop you have to unscrew 20 screws, remove the keyboard and screen before you get down to the motherboard. Pain in the neck. On top of that most of the hardware like processor and graphics unit are built into the board so you can’t just swap them out like on a desktop.

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Building your very own desktop is super fun. Figure out exactly what specs you can get for how much money and being able to get exactly what you want, down to the very last eSata port is just good old fashion fun. Choosing what you want is most of the fun for me. But when you get all the parts in the mail and you get to put them together, I learned more about computers in that hour than ever before. You can’t beat that experience, so don’t mess around with a laptop, get a desktop.