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Keeping Cool (And Functional)

Computer DOs and DON'Ts

6/21/2024 | Bits & Bytes

The encroaching summer heat (and dealing with a broken air conditioning unit at home for the last three months) has inspired this month’s topic for Bits & Bytes. Just like AC units, computers are effectively electrical appliances, prone to malfunctions due to wear and tear like any other, but there are things you can do to maintain them and help keep them running smoothly. Here are some helpful DOs and DON’Ts you can follow to maximize the lifespan of your desktop or laptop computer.

  • DO keep your computer well ventilated. For desktops, this means placing it in an uncluttered area in a relatively cool room, with enough space around it so that any fans can properly vent the heat from inside. For laptops, keep it on a smooth surface like a table or desk so that the fans and vents on the underside aren’t obstructed; avoid running it on a carpet or bedspread.

  • DON’T run your computer with the case open! Though it may seem like a good idea, computer cases are designed specifically to encourage air flow across the internal components so that the heat they generate can be properly vented. With the case open, lack of proper air flow can create voids that lead to overheating.

  • DO keep your computer free of dust buildups and clogs. Dust can build up inside your computer just like lint in the lint tray of a washing machine. This can limit air flow, cause shortcircuits, and even become a fire hazard if left to accumulate for too long. At least once a year, you should unplug your computer and bring it to a low-static area like a kitchen, open the case carefully, and then use a can of compressed air to blow out the dust from any fans and break up any large build ups. You can buy cans of compressed air online or at just about any computer or electronics store.

  • DON’T run your computer without a surge protector! Take it from someone who’s lost a perfectly good laptop to an unexpected power surge while on vacation at his parents’ house. Trust me – it’s not worth it.

  • DO turn off your computer when it’s not in use. You don’t have to shut it down every time you leave the room, but the simple fact is that every minute your computer is on is another minute closer to its end of life; usage requires electricity, electricity generates heat, and heat depletes the lifespan of electronics. So, consider shutting down your computer at work over the weekend, or your home computer overnight or while you’re at work. At the very least, you should restart your computer once a week to flush out the cache, free up any stale memory, and keep it running smoothly.

  • DON’T overly rely on sleep mode! When your computer goes to sleep, its current state gets stored in RAM so that it can be quickly restored again the next time it wakes up. However, this requires that your RAM remains in a constant low-power state that still draws electricity.  Over time, heavy use of sleep mode can actually degrade the performance of your RAM and thus your computer. If your main reason for using sleep mode is because your computer takes too long to boot up, you might consider switching to a solid state drive instead.

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