Laptop Tips and Advice.

Funny enough, many customers have asked me. “Zerin, how can I take care of my laptop?” That’s when I usually give them some tips like the ones you are about to read.
(The Warranty)
And here we go! Let’s assume you’ve bought a new laptop. Good for you rich person. And one of the many things that salesmen at the store do, is trying to sell you an extended warranty. Now do you need it? Most people answer a straight up “I don’t know!” But ask yourself, “How did my last computer die? Will I break it? Do I have kids? Do any of my other electronic devices last long past the warranty?” Knowing yourself will ensure you are buying what you need.

It also heavily depends on the hardware you are buying. A rule to follow is if it’s expensive, it might be best to get a warranty. If it’s a cheap laptop, that might not last very long, then it might not be worth it. The reasoning behind this is because by the time the machine breaks down, it may be best to get a new one anyways. Some laptops, no matter what the brand, can last up to ten years if properly taken care of. That is if they don’t have any design defects. Which was surprisingly common for laptops.

I don’t like this design. Only one fan? And what if it’s an AMD with a cheap no-name brand Motherboard? Tsk tsk.

(The Operating System)
If you are somewhat technically advanced, before you do any system changes to your system, make sure you create the restore disks or at least save the restore partition that most Laptop manufactures keep. One easy way to back up that recovery partition may be within the original OS the laptop came with, or using a drive back-up tool. Like Acronis(50$) or Clonezilla(free).

The reason I tell people to back up their OS is because hard drives WILL fail one day, and when they do, that recovery partition will be useless, making for a legal Windows reinstall, much more time consuming. Another reason for this is for warranty purposes as well. If you ever return your laptop to get it fixed, the manufacture has the right to refuse warranty if the OS is not the same as the one they sold you. But the good news is, if you don’t know what OS it is, then you have nothing to worry about.

(Laptop Cases)
Some people buy cases for their laptops. I usually recommend them only if you are going to be moving the laptop around, such as for school, offsite work, or Starbucks. But if it’s going to be sitting around at home all day, you don’t need it. However there are people who are paranoid about scratching their devices and keeping them smudge free, but that is a phase which does not last very long, just try to get through that as soon as possible and you can worry about other things. Also, please don’t run your laptop while it’s in the case, it will suffocate, just like a dog.

In order to minimize accidents happening to your laptop. It’s best to ensure it’s in a good home. Keep out of the reach of children, liquids and excessive dust. That means clean up your workspace/desk. Laptops have vents that they need to breathe cold air and cool the CPU. A very common problem in laptops is dust accumulating in the vents and causing it to get so hot, it causes random shutdowns and hard drive failures. Blow with canned or compressed air the dust out of your vents every year or so.

(Laptop Coolers)
I’ve only recommended a laptop cooler once. That was for a Pentium 4 Monster computer that was extremely fast, but did not have a fan powerful enough to keep it cool (or running for more than 15 minutes). I blamed the bad designed. Still, I clean out the vents, took it apart and re-applied the thermal grease. But it was still not enough. But after duct-taping a USB powered laptop cooler, the stability returned.

So remember folks, if you know your laptop is getting pretty hot and shuts down a lot because of that, and even after you’ve properly cleaned out the dust. Then you may need a laptop cooler when using your computer for extended periods of time.

-note about laptops coolers-
Most laptops are not designed for sitting on the carpet, couch, beds, or even laps! I know! See the fan below the laptops? Block that and it gets really hot. But lets assume you say, “I bought a laptop cooler, it’s not touching the bottom of the laptop, so it’s ok right?” Maybe, and maybe you’d like to clean out all the dust and fibers that are on the floor and currently blowing into your laptop vents! Laptops and the coolers are meant for hard, dust-free surfaces. Period. Except most Macbooks that have a smart patented designed. Darn you!

(Docks) Since we’re on the subject of laptop coolers. Maybe you’d rather get a dock. Some docks combine more usbs and sometimes even speakers with their designs. What are docks good for? Well, the docks stay at home or work. They don’t move from place to place often. They are “docking stations” for you laptop to go to and rest, even when in use, docks are designed to keep laptops cooler and safer from slips over the desk and theft. Most docks have a raised end, not just for screen adjustment, but to let air below the laptop flow freely. Here’s mine at work.

Well the dock’s under there somewhere.

(Hard drives)
When you drop your laptop, the thing most worry about is the spinning hard disk scratching the plates and ruining the data you have on your laptop. Even if you don’t have anything super valuable, it’s still a hassle to fix. But with new SSD hard drives out in the market. You can get something reasonably priced at 1$ a GB to replace the spinning disk in your laptop and prevent data corruption from sudden drops and heat. SSD hard drives are flash memory, same as flash/USB/Thumb drives, only they run at much faster speeds. They use less power and some new laptops come with them already. If yours doesn’t, just know it’s a nice upgrade to any computer system.

If you really want a good tip for maintaining your laptop. Don’t let anyone else use it. Statistics say more than 50% of laptop accidents happen when someone else is using it. Or was that one for cars? Doesn’t matter the point is. Let them use some other computer or keep a close eye on them if you must let them borrow it. You’d be surprised how easy it is to get a virus when you are simply, searching for pictures. ehh?

This is a VERY controversial topic. Most experienced technicians will tell you it’s best to let the battery fully discharge and then charge it. Others say keep it plugged in when you can, to always have it fully charged and ready to go. But what are the facts? A very good article I liked explains things here. But let me summarize for you from what I’ve personally seen.

Regarding the full discharge and recharge method? This may have been true for the older batteries that used NiCd (Nickel Cadium). All my dad’s drills used to run on these type of batteries, heck I still have one! For these drills to have a good battery life, legend had it that we needed to let them discharge and fully charge them again. The same was said for NiCD laptop batteries. But now with common use of Lithium Ion batteries, this is no longer the case for either laptops or drills.

-nerdy stuff-
Batteries had Memory effect in the sense that they know how much juice they have left and can charge up to what they know they need. NiCd batteries will over time lose their charge until they can no longer hold a charge, or so the myth goes. This is somewhat true for the older batteries. Age and use also contributed to this effect. Let’s put an example. If you discharged a battery to 50% of it’s capacity, the charger would not charger it all the way to prevent accidental overcharging, so over time, if you did not fully discharge the battery, it would eventually “forget” what it’s limit is. But in order to fix this, or delay the effect, people would fully discharge the battery, letting it know that this is the bottom point, then fully charge it. This is known as a deep discharge/charge. But doing this often would also damage the battery since it would technically be a stress procedure. Also something to keep in mind is that batteries do not like heat, so avoid that when possible. For more information about this..

For today’s batteries, Li-Ion Batteries in laptops, cell phones and tablets stop charging after they reach 100% (Obviously), and relays that power directly to the device. So technically it’s safe to leave your laptop/phone/tablet/mp3-player/electronic-nose-picker charging all the time. The only time it makes sense to remove the battery from power is when it’s a heat issue.

For example. Let’s say you are playing a game on your laptop, it’s plugged in of course, but it may be best to remove the battery to prevent the entire system from getting overall hot and causing damage to the battery. Heat and freezing cold are batteries worst enemies. So if you game a lot and stress and heat up your laptop a lot, then keep up plugged in and take out the battery during those long gaming sessions. but for the most of us, it’s pretty safe to leave it plugged in.

Remember that Panasonic Toughbook I mentioned a couple posts ago? That laptop had a Lithium ION battery. It was only used for 5-10 times, then put is safe room temperature storage until the guy let me fix it. The battery was in GREAT condition, it was never used so it did not wear out. 2 hours of battery life, easy. So we’ve proven that the less you use a laptop the longer it’ll last. And properly stored

If you don’t believe any of this advice, please try reading the manual for your laptop. If you already lost it, the manufacturer usually has it on their website. They pretty much all the same thing, which is, “Just leave your laptop plugged in. It doesn’t matter anymore.” And just a note, laptop batteries are not meant to last longer than 5 years, so you’ll have a buy a new one eventually, there’s no avoiding that.

(extra battery info) The only “real” reason anyone would still recommend to fully charge the battery and fully discharge it, is to keep the calibration info on the battery up to date, but doing this more than once a month is causing more harm than good, all for the sake of knowing exactly how many minutes of life you have left. So it’s not needed. Unless you commonly forget to plug in your laptop and every minute counts. But if that’s the case, I can no longer help you.

(Used laptop Shopping)
When you’ve just bought a used laptop. I highly recommend you to reinstall the operating system. If the person who sold it to you, did not do so. Then do it yourself or unless it you really feels it needs it, hire someone else to do it for you. one thing you do not want is the last person’s viruses and junkware on newly owned machine.

(Take good care)
Forgetful people will lose things and break them. There is no magic thing I can say that will prevent you from doing dumb things to your laptop. So I can only hope that you will treat it with respect, and may your machine give you many good years of service.

(One more thing)
Some laptops are just plain born defective, this will stick out like a sore thumb and just don’t buy that brand again. They are usually the rock bottom cheap laptops. Avoid anything that feels cheap, cause it usually is.


About Zerin

But can you show me the source code?

Posted on June 21, 2012, in Computers and Internet. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Ola! Zerin,
    Thanks for your thoughts, Is it really bad to keep laptop on charge for really long periods of time?? Can it be damaged??

    • It is safe to leave the laptop plugged in for really long periods of time. Most modern laptops have circuitry that stops charging the battery when no longer needed and will refresh it every now and then to keep full charger, depending on the manufacturer. Older laptops did not have this and would heat up the battery, thus killing them sooner. Some laptop gamers even recommend removing the battery all together if it’s going to be plugged in ALL THE TIME, but that’s being super safe.

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