5 Common Laptop-Killing Practices Most of Us Are Guilty Of

Unless you have a mortal grudge on your laptop, you certainly don’t want to kill it. Laptops are expensive, and you often try to make sure you do everything you can to keep it safe from an uneventful death. Although people have all the incentives to keep their laptops away from danger, they often do so. These little devices suffer many issues because of the limited amount of space their components reside in and the convenience presented by their portability. The mistakes I’m about to present doesn’t apply strictly to laptops; some of them are also useful for smartphones and tablets.

Although it’s called a “laptop,” its place is not on the top of your lap, or any soft surface, for that matter. Laptops are specifically designed to allow air to flow through the bottom and sides. They have little rubber stoppers on the bottom for the purpose of lifting the laptop slightly off the surface it’s on. If you put the laptop on your lap, you may block airflow through the bottom and insulate heat.

If you don’t like using laptops on tables, get a portable multipurpose laptop stand like the one below.

laptoppractices-stand

The urge to drink something is quite common when you spend long periods of time on the web. You often might have a glass of water or some other drink nearby. While you’re looking at the screen, you might miss the glass while reaching for it and spill it all over your laptop. In my case, one of my cats did the job for me on a $1,500 laptop.

The moral of the story is: If you don’t want your laptop to die from a short circuit on its motherboard, don’t give it the possibility to drink whatever it is you’re sipping on.

laptoppractices-genericcharger

Generic laptop chargers are often much cheaper than what most manufacturers offer as replacements. For this reason, they became quite popular with people who travel a lot and end up leaving their original chargers in the hotel room when they leave.

Each laptop has a specific amperage and voltage requirement for direct current (which translates into wattage). If you go over the requirement just slightly, the laptop might shrug it off and just charge. The problem is that some generic chargers go over by quite a lot. If a laptop gets overloaded, the battery will literally fry. Some batteries even leak gas or explode. In short, don’t charge your laptop (ever!) with a generic charger, unless you’re very well-versed in how electricity works and bother to check the specifications on the charger and battery.

laptoppractices-plugged

I get it. You’re in a hurry and don’t have the time to bother with unplugging the charger. Actually, I don’t. It’s really tragic that people do this when one simple hand movement could prevent such a mess. When you put the laptop into a confined space with the charger attached, the space might not account for this extra occupation. This presses the charger’s plug into the laptop’s socket, eventually bending it and possibly desoldering the socket’s housing from the main board. What you’ll end up with is a laptop that will never charge again. Good luck repairing that for less than a fortune.

When you close a laptop’s lid, it goes through a shutdown sequence (either hibernation, or a full shutdown, depending on what you configured). While it’s doing that, the hardware is still on. I’m particularly concerned about the hard drive, which uses mechanical parts to read and write data. The parts on the hard drive are situated at such a small distance, that even the tiniest shock can completely obliterate it while the discs inside it are still spinning.

If your hard drive crashes, you’ll lose all of your data. That’s a consequence of impatiently putting your laptop through stress right after closing its lid. Instead, wait for the laptop to finish what it’s doing before laying a finger on it.

Read each of these mistakes again. You’ll see a recurring theme that sums everything up: Keep your laptop away from things that can harm it, treat it with delicacy, and maximize its airflow as much as possible. That’s the gist of it! If you’d like to suggest something else, you’re welcome to comment below.

20 comments

  1. I can think of several additional points that prove common sense is not all that common.
    1. Do not EVER put your laptop in an overhead bin of an airplane. Eventually someone will come along with a gigantic suitcase they “forgot” to check that now needs to occupy the same compartment as your laptop. Result – compressed screen and costly repair. Stow it under your seat instead.
    2. Wash your hands before using the keyboard. Being an IT tech for many years I have seen my fair share of laptops with about a quart of what looks like 10/30w oil on the keyboards because someone just ate fried chicken for lunch and went right back to work.
    3. On that same vein, don’t eat while using your laptop. The last thing I want to see is a summation of every lunch you have had for the last 2 years when you bring your laptop to me because the ‘s’ key is sticking and won’t stop due to the potato chip wedged under the key.
    4. Finally, the laptop’s life line – the charger – does not need its cord wrapped around itself so tightly. This is the number one cause of charger failures in my opinion. Too often people wrap the cords around the charger so tight that it frays the wire going into the charger and causes it to malfunction. Thus, to cover their tracks, they claim it “lost” and go buy one of the cheap ones to replace it with the incorrect voltage (see #3 above).

    • Also… proper battery care.
      Discharge to 5% every couple weeks, than fully recharge it.
      Don’t let it drop past 5%, and don’t leave it plugged in ALL the time, and don’t do 50% drains either.
      These all cause “battery memory problems” – this is still relevant even with Li-Ion batteries.

  2. Ah, for the days of “Notebook Hell” testing. Way back in the 20th century, one of the things reviewers would do is drop, spill, run over and bake laptops to see which ones could survive the “Notebook Hell” test. These weren’t even the ruggedized notebooks and many survived pretty amazing feats of abuse. Not so much today as everyone insists that thin and light (read: delicate and brittle) is the need of the day. Gone are the days of muscle-building running through airports, walking from meeting to meeting. Now we need notebooks that require “care and feeding” instructions. They should come with kid gloves as a reminder how to treat your precious NB. ;-) ;-) ;-)

  3. I would just add that #5 isn’t really applicable if you’re fortunate enough to have a laptop with a solid state drive (SSD).

    • I suggest that anyone without an SSD does it as soon as possible as they are getting very affordable. I have lost a few HD’s on laptops just from carrying them around. They are very vulnerable on laptops, considering how they work mechanically. I think that they are the weakest link.

  4. If you love your laptop, don’t let ANYONE else borrow it, even for a short time. People with nothing invested in an expensive object tend to treat other people’s property with careless disdain.

    • I think the warning not to let ANYONE else borrow your laptop is a bit strong! I would like to qualify this by saying don’t let anyone who (a) doesn’t really know what they’re doing or (b) you can’t trust to respect your property as much as you do, borrow it! Because people who don’t really know what they’re doing can inadvertently cause serious problems with your system.

      • Sheri, I’m afraid that you’re a kinder person than I… I agree with bouledoux. I have learned the hard way that I would rather people thought I was a stingy stinker! I will not loan anything, particularly something I cannot afford to replace, to anyone with whom I do not sleep. And even then I wring my hands a lot!

  5. No one mentioned a real vulnerability in laptops …
    I just bought a laptop with a gorilla glass screen — WHAT A JOY! Especially since it’s touch-screen. Wash it with a damp cotton ball.
    Soooo much better than all those fragile soft screens that ding & mar that require special chemicals to (semi)clean.

  6. And . . don’t let someone point out something on the screen by “poking their finger” onto the screen. When I see that coming, I either deflect their action away from the screen, or ask them not to touch the screen.

  7. Don’t pull the screen by one corner to open or close it – the twist could fracture the screen. Hold it centrally – or use both hands.

    • This is because they make the lids so cheap now. There’s no structure to them. Some manufacturers offer models that are built better… MacBook Pro and Dell Latitude are good examples.

  8. As for sitting it on your lap, I always advise my customers to purchase a laptop cooler if they intend on using it in bed or on the couch while under a blanket. I always stress the importance of airflow because I have had to repair many a laptop because of overheating damage (that’s when the unit was still repairable). A lot of this is common sense but it amazes me how little common sense people use sometimes.

  9. i agree with all of the above,plus malware and great virus protection .that can reek havoc with laptop that is unprotected .it winds up cheaper to just buy a new one.i clean and scan several times daily when i am using mine.

  10. Static electricity in wintertime dry air can “zap” a laptop into oblivion. Keep and use the antistatic wrap when static electricity is known to be a problem.

  11. I didn’t read ALL of the above suggestions but I do have one that will make your laptop SAFE to use on your lap. Buy a cooling pad with fans that run under your laptop while it’s in your lap. They run off your USB ports and guarantee proper ventilation UNDER your laptop. The fan on your laptop is small and there’s ALOT of stuff crammed in a small space. The cooling pad is very cheap and well worth what you pay for it. Mine has 2 fans that run on bootup. The cooling pads are available just about everywhere and cost 10 to 20 dollars. I’ve been told by techs that a cooling pad will double the life of your laptop!

  12. I built a laptop cooler with a squirrel cage fan this creates a slightly positive air pressure at the internal fan intakes. Further if convected to a separate power source it will create an airflow similar to the internal fan while still cooling after the internal fan shuts down

  13. As a service tech PLEASE turn it OFF when you bring it in for service, and bring in the AC adapter.

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