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How to maintain your PCs health.

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Twelve Simple Steps

By following these steps you increase the chances that you can avoid some of the most common problems that are brought to ITS.

Step One: Laptop Cases

Carry your laptop in a protective case or bag, free from any potentially harmful substances.

  • Computers should be carried in a bag with lots of padding and protection.
  • Alternatively, you can purchase a "laptop sleeve" to protect your computer. Models with padding inside and a hard shell are preferred.
  • Don't place food, drink, or other potentially harmful substances nearby or in a bag with your computer, as liquid spills on laptops are all too common and often come with a heavy price tag.
  • Be sure to include accident protection in your warranty, if you are concerned about accidental damage or spills.

Step Two: Power Off Your Computer

Computers need a rest every once and awhile.

  • Depending on your computer, your hard drive (where your data is stored) can be made of a series of spinning discs with a read/write head (like a record on a record player). Thus, transporting or moving your laptop while powered on can cause corruption to the hard drive (analogous to a record scratch).
  • To avoid long boot-up times, you can also put your computer into Sleep, Standby, or Hibernate modes.
  • Any time your computer is not running as smoothly as it used to, make sure the first thing you try is power cycling the machine. 

Step Three: Screens and Keyboards

Take care with the screen and keyboard.

  • The laptop's compact design means sensitive components must be stored directly below the keyboard.
  • Avoid slamming or punching down on keys with excessive force, as this may damage the components underneath.
  • The LCD screen is also sensitive, so avoid poking the screen too hard or placing heavy objects on top of your laptop.

Step Four: Avoid Laptop Overheating

Keep the laptop on a flat surface when in use and avoid blocking air vents.

  • Blocking air vents will cause the computer to operate above the normal operating temperature range, which over time will decrease the lifespan of your computer.
  • Avoid using your computer in a particularly dusty area.
  • Consider purchasing a compressed "air" canister and blowing out the dust from the vents.
  • Consider avoiding or force quitting processes on your machine that are not required and not in use. 

"Lap"top is a Misnomer

Professionally known as portable computers, the term "laptop" can be deceiving. Most of the circulation for the computer to cool itself is located to the back, sides, and bottoms of the machine. When you use your computer on your lap or on a soft surface like a bed or pillow, you can obstruct the ventilation causing the computer to overheat. This can easily be resolved by using the computer on a flat surface like a table or desk, or even on a specially made lap desk that is designed to support airflow to the computer.  

Step Five: Backup Data Regularly

Backup your data regularly and backup important files to multiple locations.

  • Hard drive failure is difficult to predict and may even occur within the first few months of computer ownership
  • Develop a strategy for backing up your data regularly, suggestions are available at answers.syr.edu for how to backup your data.

Step Six: Email

Keep your email healthy by keeping your inbox small.

  • Often mail services are slow because your inbox is too large, making loading times of your inbox very slow.
  • If your inbox becomes too large, it may become corrupted and you could lose emails or miss incoming messages.

Step Seven: Security

Install a good Antivirus, keep it updated, and perform scans regularly.

  • Be sure to install a good antivirus. Your computer may come with a free trial of another antivirus, but we strongly suggest a complete version to be installed.
  • Keep the software updated by checking for daily updates.

Step Eight: Passwords

Set strong passwords.

  • Be sure to set a strong password for your username; use numbers, letters, and capitals.
  • In macOS and Windows be sure to set a strong password for the Administrator account, too.

Step Nine: Junk Files

Delete unwanted programs and files, and avoid installing lots of 'extras'.

  • In Windows, there are many flashy programs that run in the background of your computer (usually showing up as little icons in the task bar, e.g., WeatherBug). Use 'Add/Remove programs' in Control Panel to remove these programs or any others not in use.
  • In macOS, be sure to remove unwanted programs from your 'Applications' folder.
  • Empty your Recycling Bin or Trash.
  • Delete old files from your desktop or documents folders.
  • Remove any excess user accounts that may be taking up space.
  • Use CCleaner and PCDecrapifier, registry/cache files cleaning software which clean and remove unwanted softwares and programs.

Step Ten: OS Updates

Update Windows/macOS regularly.

  • To have the best patches and security updates available, be sure to regularly update your computer, or better yet, turn on automatic updates for Windows and for Mac.

Step Eleven: Illegal Downloading

Avoid P2P software.

  • P2P programs often come bundled with adware or spyware.
  • P2P downloads can sometimes be bogus files and may contain viruses.

Step Twelve: License Keys

Keep track of your software CD/DVDs and license keys.

  • Never discard the Windows, Office, or other discs that come with your computer; these can be invaluable in getting your computer running fast.
  • Keep all official documents, receipts, and license keys for your software, which are needed if the software must be reinstalled.


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