How to Extend the Life of Your Computer
Posted on: June 29th, 2010
Recently, I’ve seen a lot of hardware failures ranging from burned out motherboard to simple power supply issues.
I though to put down some of the common sense guidelines that can help you make your computer last longer, as far as its hardware goes.
The first and foremost requirement for the proper operation of a computer is to be in an acceptable temperature range. Over-cooling is usually not a problem but overheating is very much so.
The most common causes for overheating are the followings:
Here are some of the manifestations of overheating:
What you can do to prevent overheating:
Keep It On Or Turn It Off?
If you use your computer frequently then you can keep it on, providing you make the actions I described above to keep it from overheating.
If you just use it once in a while then it just makes sense to turn it on only when you are actually using it. You can use hibernation instead the normal shutdown procedure to save time. It turns the computer off but before it does it saves everything and when you turn it on next time it’ll just load that back in. It usually takes less than half the time to start up the computer that way.
The rule of the thumb is: “If you are not using the computer for a period more than 30 minutes then either turn it off, or hibernate it. The exception is when you have something lengthy running on the computer that you need completed, such as a big download or a video rendering.”
Also check your power settings, give at least 30 minutes of inactivity before the computer is set to go into standby, or turn the hard drive off. Setting it shorter than that will actually have a negative effect, particularly on the hard drive.
USB Devices’ Hidden Dangers
USB devices can fry a computer. Okay, it’s not very common but it happens.
USB ports provide the power to the devices that are plugged in to them. The current for that usually flows through the motherboard. This means that a short circuit in a USB device can cause a serious overload on the motherboard and can fry it. Some boards have protective circuits that prevent such thing but many don’t.
One thing that most frequently happens is that a USB flash drive is plugged in at the front of the computer and somebody (or something – like a pet) bumps into it and breaks it. In a lucky case only the flash drive gets damaged. In a less luckier case the USB port gets broken and in a very unlucky case the motherboard could die because of a short circuit.
Generally, it’s a good practice not to leave things plugged in which can be bumped into, or have tension put on them for some reason.
Power Connections of Laptops
Now this seems to be a very common problem amongst laptop owners. The plug where the power cord is attached gets broken inside. While this seems to be such a little thing it’s actually may very well be the end of your computer!!
Why? Because the power plug inside is solder onto the motherboard so any mechanical stress exerted onto the connector gets transferred over to the circuit board and it cracks. And the circuit board of a motherboard is not a simple circuit board like kids use in their high school projects – it has several internal layers and if those get severed then there’s no way of fixing them unless you have one of those kids from Matrix around (you know: “there’s no spoon”…)
I’m telling you this from my own experience I’ve tried quite a few times to fix this issue because it just seems so wasteful to scrap a laptop just because a connector broke in it. Well, I had very little luck, every fix in this area turned out to be very temporary at best.
Now, the problem can be fixed by doing a motherboard replacement but the cost of that is about the same as getting a new laptop, due to the high labor costs (as it takes a LOT of time to take a motherboard out and then put it back together again- a complexity similar to putting a several hundred piece jigsaw puzzle together)
Apple has a very ingenious solution to this. They use a magnetic coupling for the power connector so if the cord is yanked or twisted, etc then it simply disengages with only a very slight force to the connector. However, they must have patented this solution because no other laptop manufacturer have used this. And probably, it’s not even in their interest to figure out a way to prevent this kind of trouble. For them it just means more business.
So, if you want your laptop to last longer then pay attention to the power plug. Make sure that it’s not pressed up or down or sideways. Make sure that the cord is not stretched out in a walkway so people or pets trip over it or yank it hard.
Hard Drive Deaths
Our records show, without the slightest doubt, that hard drives are the most failure prone components in a computer. The reason is that they contain the most moving parts while requiring the highest degree of precision to be maintained for proper operation. The usual life span of a hard drive is about 2-3 years.
There are two main things that contribute to premature deaths of hard drive:
If you pay attention to these two things than you have a good chance (there’s no guarantees) that your hard drive will last for years.
Having a good backup is a must with today’s hard drives. It could save you big money if you have one and you don’t have to pay for expensive data recovery that is necessary in some cases.
I’d also recommend reading and using the tool described in this article: A Tool to Predict Hard Drive Failures. With that you can, in most cases, take action and get the hard drive replaced before serious data corruption or loss happens.
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