Computer Tips #8: Turn Off Unused Devices

 Turn Off Unused Devices

In theory, hardware with no moving parts should last forever, and it sure looks like most electronic devices don’t have any moving parts—but what you can’t see are the electrons moving down the wires at 60% or more the speed of light.

In some places, the electrons need to cross a small gap. In these places, the electrons will sometimes pick up a tiny bit of metal from one side of the gap and deposit it on the other side of the gap. As time goes on, there is less and less metal at the starting side of the gap, until there is too little metal for the electrons to use—at that point your device just stops working. (You may get flickering for a few weeks beforehand.)

Some electricity needs to travel through electronics for as long as they are turned on, and the longer they are turned on, the sooner they will fail. You can add years of use to a device’s life just by turning it off when you aren’t using it.

Computer Tips #7: Prepare For Failure

Prepare For Failure

Prepare For Failure

Sometimes the best computer hardware maintenance is preparing for failure. All of the expensive tools you use, from your car to your computer to your cell phone, will fail eventually, so you should start preparing to replace them—especially since they’ll probably fail at the least convenient time.

For computer hardware, the device most likely to fail is your disk drive.

I used to keep a spare disk drive handy in case on of my disks failed, but with the rapidly dropping cost of hard disk drives, I think it’s better to accept the inconvenience of driving out to buy a new one every few years.

After your disk drive, the following devices are most likely to fail. You either want to have a spare handy or at least the money available to buy a replacement:

Printer (they tend to stop printing correctly, rather than break entirely. It usually isn’t worth fixing a cheap printer.)
Graphics card
Computer power supply (often starts making noises a few weeks before dying)
Power button (if you’re careful, you can hot-wire most computers to use your computer until you buy a new button LOLz 🙂 )

Computer Tips #6: Use A Surge Protector

Use A Surge Protector

Use A Surge Protector

Even if you always follow the above advice about unplugging your computer during a storm, you still need to worry about power surges frying your computer.

Power surges can happen for many reasons, including bad wiring, transformer explosions, squirrels or possums eating through power lines, and problems with other large electrical appliances in your house. You also have to worry about thunderstorms that happen when you aren’t home to unplug your computer.

To protect against unexpected power problems, buy a surge protector. Some of them even come with guarantees to replace hundreds of thousands of nairas of computer equipment if an electrical surge gets past the surge protector. This is an important part of computer hardware maintenance.

Computer Hardware Maintenance Tips #5: Unplug During Storms

Unplug During Storms

Unplug During Storms

Did you know that before radio was invented, some people used to send wireless messages by creating giant sparks? If you create a giant spark, which scientists call an electromagnetic pulse, it makes conductive metal spark in other places up to several miles away.

The problem with electromagnetic pulses is that long wires—like the wires in your house—can catch a lot of energy, creating a really big spark, and the surge of electricity from that spark can easily fry your computer.

The good news is that it’s illegal, for just that reason, to create electromagnetic pulses in most places. The bad news is that nature has her own electromagnetic pulse generator—lightning. A lightning bolt doesn’t need to hit your house to create a power surge—it doesn’t even need to be close.

Unplugging your computer from the wall is the best way to help prevent a lighting strike from destroying your computer.

Computer Tips #4: Avoid Moisture

Avoid Moisture

Everybody knows that water and electricity don’t mix, yet even I sometimes forget how sneaky water really is. When water gets in your computer, it can cause two wires to short out—to send their electricity across a path the designers didn’t intend—which will temporarily disable your computer. If the short lasts long enough, it can create enough heat to melt one or more of the tiny wires in your computer, breaking that component forever.

If it were possible, I’d suggest you only used your computer in a climate-controlled room with a no-beverages sign on the door, but here are some realistic ways you can avoid moisture damage:

Keep your computer away from windows that open. Although rain falling in through the window is one threat, I once ruined a laptop by leaving it by an open window on a foggy morning.
Be extra careful with drinks and laptops. With full-sized computers, you’re only likely to ruin the keyboard when your drink spills; with laptops, you’re likely to ruin the whole computer.
Unplug the power and (for laptops) remove the battery of any computer that might get wet. It’s ok for electronics to get wet if there’s no electricity traveling through them. (When I go camping, I always store my netbook and its battery in separate zip-lock bags.)
Don’t leave computers outdoors. I know this sounds obvious, but it’s too easy to go inside to fix a drink, get distracted, and forget about your laptop—until it starts raining.

Computer Tips #3: Store In Static Guard Bags

Store In Static Guard Bags

Store In Static Guard Bags

Computer electronics use almost imperceptibly small wires, many of them on printed circuit boards. Because they’re so small, these wires are very susceptible to electric shocks—like the static electric shock you sometimes feel when you touch a metal doorknob in winter.

Even a tiny electric shock can damage one of these wires and ruin the entire electronic device. Happily, you can easily protect against most static electric shocks by storing your electronics in a special bag. The bag has wires traveling through it, making it into what electrical scientists call a Faraday cage. (Many science museums have a great demonstration of a human-sized Faraday cage where the demonstrator stands inside a cage which deflects bolts of lighting right in front of the audience.)

All store bought electronics that go inside your computer come inside these bags. I usually save them for when I need them, but you can also buy static-proof bags for cheap in any computer shops or outlets.

Computer Hardware Maintenance Tips #2: Clean Inside

Clean Inside

Clean Inside

The same advice that goes for cleaning vents applies to the inside of your computer too. I know opening a computer case is a pain—but if you don’t clear out the dust that accumulates under the computer processor and optional graphics card processor fans, these two vital components will eventually over heat.

To clean inside your computer, turn off the computer and unplug its power cord, then open its computer case and use the compressed air to blow away any dust. Make sure you cover your eyes, and try not to inhale until the dust settles. If you’re really serious, use swimming goggles and a face mask.

10 Tips and Tricks for computer hardware maintenance

10 Tips and Tricks for computer hardware maintenance

If you don’t have money in the budget this year to buy a new computer, then it’s important you learn how to keep your current computer in top shape using our 10 tips and tricks for computer hardware maintenance. We always seem to mention computer maintenance but never maintenance on the computer hardware. We even have an entire computer maintenance checklist but computer hardware maintenance is only mentioned briefly.

Tips and Tricks for computer hardware maintenance

 

Computer Hardware Maintenance Tips

Computer Tips #1: Clear Vents

Hot computers die quickly. You probably know from elementary school science class that most materials expand when they get hot. There are various ways to stop a computer from overheating. Computers are built to exacting measurements—your computer processor has parts that are measured in nanometers and other parts of the computer just as precisely built, so when your computer gets too hot, and things expand too much, your computer is likely to die.

The part of your computer that usually dies first is your hard drive. Inside your hard drive are tiny ball bearings that rotate thousands of times a minute in tiny tracks. When they expand from heat, they rub against their tracks and quickly wear down. Once a disk drive ball bearing wears down, there’s no replacing it—your disk drive is toast. You should also watch for dust build up in your power supply.

The easiest way to keep your computer cool is to make sure its vents are clear. First, check to see if anything is obstructing the vents—too often I find computers that are pushed all the ways back against a wall so that their vents are blocked. Second, check the vents for dust and clean them if necessary. Computer vents are usually large, so you only need to check for dust every year or two (more often if you smoke near your computer).

Windows 10 Blue Screen

Windows 10 Blue Screen

Microsoft is adding QR codes to its Windows 10 Blue Screen of Death (BSOD).

Windows 10 Blue Screen

It’s the biggest change to the BSOD since the software maker removed a lot of crash details in Windows 8 and replaced them with a frowning face. The new QR codes are featured in the latest preview of Windows 10, which will debut this summer as the Anniversary Update.

Microsoft is using the QR codes to help support technicians identify error codes in the blue screens, and for Windows 10 users to quickly scan them from a phone to find support articles and assistance. BSOD’s have often been complicated to understand, and at times difficult to use to identify the root cause of an issue, but this simplified approach could help Windows 10 users troubleshoot any system issues. Steve Ballmer would be proud.