Cute bathing suit vs. medical co-pay.
Yummy organic blueberries vs. credit card late fees.
Beachside mojitos vs. laptop repair.
When it comes to certain expenses, it's clear which we'd prefer. So, as a public service to help you fund all of your summer cocktails, we recommend taking a look at your Old Faithful—your computer, that is.
It's your buddy, your confidant, and it brings you all the great info out there (like, ahem, this article). And at a grand or more apiece, it's worth your while to make sure this expensive electronic goes the distance--if only to keep your summer funds going where they should be.
From dusting your USB ports to coddling that battery, we bring you nine tips to make sure that your machine does your bidding for ages to come:
1. Protect Yourself
If your computer were to get a virus, a diagnostic and fix at a place like Best Buy could cost as much as $200. So, protect yourself in advance. Make sure you have an antivirus and that all of your definitions are up to date. If you don’t pay for an antivirus, get a free one like AVG or Avast.
2. Watch Your Water
We can tell you from firsthand experience that one of the easiest ways to ruin a laptop is to reach for a glass of water on your desk late at night. This may sound basic, but prevent spilling on your expensive electronics by investing in a closed lip water bottle to use near your computer. If you’re on the market for a stylish new bottle that will keep your laptop—and the environment—safe, check out our picks.
3. Unclog Your Pores (Well, Your Ports)
If your USB and other ports get clogged up over time from dust or other materials (like, say, your son loves to poke his chocolate-covered fingers into everything), you don’t need to pay a lot of money to have professionals clean them out from you. First, turn off your machine. If you’re dealing more with dust than with a sticky substance like peanut butter, use a can of compressed air to blow away loose junk. If the ports are very badly clogged, use a toothpick to dig out gunk. Note that these ports are fragile, so try to carefully move in and out along the same path. When you’re done, dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol, clean the port area, and then give your computer a few hours to dry (leave the power off).
4. Pamper Your Battery
Laptop batteries have finite life spans of two to four years, whether you use them or not, but you can push that upper limit by doing a few things: Avoid keeping your computer plugged in and charging constantly. Once it’s charged, unplug and switch to battery power or remove the battery to limit its heat exposure. Note that letting the battery run all the way down at least once per month keeps it healthy.
5. Be Cool
Batteries don’t like heat (and neither do our palms when we’re typing). As much as possible, use your computer on a cool, dry, hard surface. Soft surfaces can block the vents and restrict air flow through the computer. If you find that your laptop frequently overheats, try buying a new fan to keep the situation from melting down—they can be had for as little as $5.
6. So Fresh and So Clean
Dust can be a computer killer because it can clog the power supply and cooling fans, but some people permanently damage their computers and screens because they clean too aggressively. Before you use Windex on an LCD screen ... don't. If you have an LCD screen, dampen a soft cloth with water and wipe the screen gently in a downward motion. Be careful not to press too hard, and don't make your wipe so wet that it will drip into the computer's internal mechanisms. You don't need fancy computer sprays and wipes, either; standard Wet Ones do the trick just fine (even CNET agrees).
If you have a PC, defragmenting your hard drive regularly can help your computer arrange data more efficiently. This can help your battery life a little, and simply help your computer run faster. For instructions on how to do this, here’s a tutorial we found helpful. If you have a Mac, don't worry about this step—most experts agree that it's unnecessary because Macs have better built-in maintenance routines.
8. Reformat, Reboot
Yes, we know it sucks to reinstall your operating system because it wipes out all of your files—so don’t do this lightly, and make sure to back up all of your files before you wipe everything clean. But think of reinstalling your operating system (whether it's Windows or Mac OS X) as putting your laptop on a cleanse, since its internal mechanisms have become bogged down by computer cholesterol.
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9. Protect Your Investment
Laptops are undeniably convenient, but they're also frustratingly accident-prone. Make sure that one little stumble doesn't ruin your lifeline in one fell swoop. Encase your laptop in a protective sleeve. To help you pick, we compiled some of our favorite laptop cases, including ones that are philanthropic, repurposed from old sleeping bags, DIY, and so protective that it even keeps your laptop cool. Check 'em out.
Go the Distance
For tips on ways to fix a slow computer instead of shelling out for a new one, click here.
Is your “high speed” internet too slow? Here’s why and how to fix it. Read on.
We’ve made an all-encompassing guide with ways to save on all of your tech needs. Check it out.