October 20, 2020

7 things you do every day that can harm your laptop computer

Learn the IT habits you need to break to take care of your technology

We’d venture to guess that one of your most important possessions is your laptop computer. 

Whether it’s your personal or work computer, it’s essential to all facets of your daily life—from spending the whole day on your laptop for work, to ending the night with a TV show on your favorite streaming service. 

However, you’re probably guilty of doing things every day that harm your computer without even realizing it. That’s why we’ve compiled the top 7 most common mistakes people make while using their laptop. 

Continue reading to learn what you do every day to harm your laptop computer and how you can change those habits! 

#1: Letting dirt, dust, and liquids invade your laptop

Computers naturally accumulate dust and other contaminants over time, so it’s important to proactively prevent them taking over. 

Dirt, dust, and other debris harm your computer because they heat up the components, causing the fans to work harder. Elements such as pet fur and food crumbs only increase the amount of debris that your laptop naturally works to combat. 

Although it can be tempting, we highly recommend not eating or drinking near your laptop or desktop computer. Aside from the sanitary issues, food crumbs can get stuck in your keyboard and damage the switches. As for liquids, spilling coffee or even water on your laptop can destroy the machine and cost a small fortune to repair! 

We also recommend cleaning your computer regularly. But before you grab the disinfecting wipes, stop and read on! The harsh chemicals found in household cleaners can severely damage your device.

The best cleaning method is to gently run a dry microfiber cloth on the screen and all plastic or metal surfaces. If you need to remove stubborn smudges, a gentle screen cleaner can be sprayed sparingly on the cloth. If you want to thoroughly clean your keyboard, consider purchasing a can of compressed air duster. 

#2: Allowing your computer to overheat

Many people, especially those with laptops, unknowingly put their computer in positions that cause them to overheat. Prolonged overheating will wreak havoc on your computer through slowing and damaging its processor, fans, battery, and internal circuitry. 

Your computer’s vents are vital to maintaining the temperature of the device, and blocking the vents causes overheating. Putting your laptop on a plush surface like a pillow or keeping it in a space that traps heat will block the airflow under and through the laptop.

Try to only use your laptop on a flat surface and keep your desktop computer in a place that allows adequate airflow. If you can’t use your laptop on a flat surface, at least keep it off pillows and blankets. Better yet, consider investing in a lap desk!

It’s also unsafe to expose your computer to direct heat such as sunlight or heaters. With heat already being produced by your computer, adding more can cause plastic parts to melt or even solder.

Keep your computer in a place that’s nice and cool—ideally indoors in AC. If you’re using your laptop outside, try to keep it in the shade to remain as safe as possible. 

Bonus tip: Keep your pets off your laptop! We know it’s adorable, but it can harm your computer. Pet hair can block vents or jam internal fans, causing overheating. 

#3: Not removing unused apps and plugins

It’s just as important to keep the inside of your computer clean as the outside. It’s likely that you’ve downloaded third-party apps or browser extensions and over time you’ve stopped using them.

Unused apps and plugins take up valuable space on your hard drive, cluttering it up and often slowing your system. Some of them may even be silently running in the background while consuming valuable resources. Plus there’s also the chance that they could be capturing and selling sensitive user data such as passwords and credit card numbers without permission. 

We recommend taking the time to remove these unused items from your computer to prevent the unexpected use of resources and provide more space on your hard drive for items you actually need and want to use.

A word of caution: It’s important that when you’re going through this internal cleaning process to not accidentally delete vital system files. Oftentimes, users will unknowingly delete files that can render the system inoperable and prevent certain key features from working. Don’t delete any files ending with .SYS, .DLL, or .EXE especially from the directories Program Files, System32, Windows, and Users. If it’s a work computer, we recommend contacting your employer’s managed IT service provider before making any changes. 

#4: Using the same password for multiple accounts

Possibly the most common mistake you’re making that harms your computer is using one password for everything. While this doesn’t affect the physical health of your laptop, keeping your laptop safe from hackers is extremely important to protect your data and private information. 

Most hackers get into your online accounts by taking advantage of a weak password. If they obtain one, they can often log in to many of your private accounts. 

If you struggle with remembering passwords, try using a password manager app to keep them safely in one trusted place. If that’s not an option, we suggest creating at least three different passwords at different strengths depending on the importance of the site.

Learn more here:

 Your top 5 password security questions, answered 

#5: Not restarting your computer regularly

Do you simply close your laptop when you’re done with it at the end of the day? While it may seem like the laptop is off, you’re actually only putting it in sleep mode—which is very different from shutting it down.

Completely shutting down your laptop on a regular basis is extremely important to keep it running properly. This is important whether you have a PC or a Mac. For a long, healthy device life, we recommend you form the habit of shutting down your computer when you’re done with work for the day. 

Learn more here:

Computer Crash Course: What happens when you close the lid of your laptop?

Bonus tip: Restart your computer after installing new software! You may be tempted to skip this step when prompted, but it’s necessary for most new applications to function properly.

#6: Browsing the web without (updated) antivirus software

Antivirus software is vital to the safety and security of your computer. When you’re surfing online, it’s always important to remember that websites—even those that may seem secure—can be infected with malware and can pass those issues on to your device.

We recommend that you install antivirus software as soon as you get a new computer. If you don’t have any on your existing device, install it now! Antivirus software also needs to be updated, much like your computer, so check for updates on a regular basis to keep your device and information as secure as possible.

If you’re looking to ensure that your work computer is properly protected, your company’s managed IT service provider can help check if you’re equipped with the right antivirus software and make any changes necessary. 

#7: Mismanaging your laptop’s cables, ports, and battery

When handling your computer’s external accessories and attachments, it’s essential to use them properly to avoid damaging the equipment and harming your computer. 

Your laptop’s battery is one of its most essential parts, but you may be confused about how to best care for it. Batteries naturally degrade overtime, but to prolong its long-term health, we recommend shallow discharges and recharging it frequently. Allowing your laptop to fully discharge occasionally won’t cause irreparable damage, but it can cause the battery to overheat and have a reduced lifespan. 

It’s important to be careful to not stress the ports and cables of your laptop computer. Don’t force a device into a port and if you leave something plugged in to a port, be careful not to bend it. It won’t only damage the attached device, but it can internally harm your computer. When caring for your computer’s charger, don’t wrap it too tightly because you risk damaging the connection inside. 

Bonus tip: Don’t ignore electrical safety measures! It’s important to use a dedicated surge protector and unplug your laptop’s cable when it’s not being used. Both of these measures are recommended not only to protect your device, but also to avoid fire hazards. 

In conclusion 

If you’re guilty of any of these mistakes that can harm your laptop, don’t despair! Now that you understand the issues, you can take steps to modify your habits before it’s too late. That way, your laptop computer can live a long and healthy life without worries of unexpected shutdowns or loss of data.

How we can help

Need support managing your business computer systems? With our Managed IT Services, our team of technical experts are here when you need us. Click here to learn more. 

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