Laptop best practices


Your laptop computer represents a sizable investment, so it makes sense to take care of it and make it run well, and last as long as possible.  Here are some ways to make that happen.

laptop care

First of all, there are some practices that are standard procedure for any computer, whether it’s a laptop, desktop, netbook, whatever.  These are things I talk about pretty regularly,  which include:

  • Antivirus
  • Antispyware
  • Back up important data
  • Don’t open attachments
  • Don’t click on unknown links
  • Get Windows Updates automatically

Those “routine” things aren’t really what I am focusing on today.  The things I will mention below are procedures that are specific to laptops.

1. Power cycle the battery – This really only applies when you buy the laptop new (or you buy a new battery for your laptop).  In order to get the longest life out of your battery, you need to kill it a few times.  By that I mean you need to unplug the power cord, and run the laptop on just battery power until it actually shuts off.  Then, plug the power cord in and let the battery fully charge again.  Go through this cycle twice or even three times, and it will break in the battery properly so that you will get the longest life from it.

2. Use on a flat surface – You might see pictures of people using their laptop with it sitting on their bed, or on a couch cushion.  It might look cool in an ad, but it’s a bad idea!  Wherever you are using the laptop, it should be sitting on a surface that is hard and flat.  If you want to use it in bed, just get one of those lap desks with a hard surface and a bean bag underside.  Laptops can get hot, and they need to have good ventilation.

3. Don’t tip it – This is a big one!  If you tip the laptop up in order to pick it up, the power jack gets stressed (this is where the power cord plugs into the laptop).  If you do that enough, eventually the power cord will no longer make good contact with the power jack, and it won’t charge the battery.  This is not usually an easy fix.  It’s easily avoided though!

4. Use a cooling pad – I already mentioned the issue of heat.  Laptops get hot, and when they are hot they don’t operate as efficiently (kind of like humans in that way).  A cooling pad is a cheap investment in the long life of your laptop – about $15 – $20.  They have 2-3 fans and get their power from one of the USB ports.  Your laptop sits on top of it and those fans suck away the hot air.

5. Don’t have drinks near it – This is one of those things that you don’t really place a lot of priority on, until you spill a drink and ruin your laptop.  After that, the “No Drinks” rule is hard and fast.  Until then, however, you will probably have some kind of beverage nearby and not think much about it because you will “always be careful”.  Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

6. Never leave it unattended – Laptops are among the most commonly stolen valuable items.  This makes sense – they are small, easy to grab, and have a quick resale opportunity.  Wherever you are – airport, Starbucks, even your office – remember that there are certain people who will not think twice about walking by and picking up your laptop and walking away with it.

7. Install Prey tracking software – This program is amazing!  And free!  Download it at, and create your free account.  I have talked about Prey before.  It’s sort of like insurance.  If your laptop gets stolen, there is very little chance that the police will recover it.  It’s just gone.  But, if you install Prey, it runs in the background and the thief can’t see it running.  All you do is report it stolen, and the software goes into action – when it goes online, it will send back reports of where it is located.  And even cooler – if the laptop has a webcam, it will grab pictures of the person using it.  It can also take screenshots and send them to you.  I think it’s your best chance of getting back a stolen laptop.

If you have other tips to take good care of a laptop, please put them in the comments below.


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