We offer you six simple solutions to extend the life your personal or work computers.
PCs aren’t as pricey as they used to be, but that doesn’t mean you want to swap them out all the time, especially since processor technology long ago reached a “good enough” point for many people. Most modern programs can run just fine on PCs that are six or seven years old—or even older!—and the push to move many services to the cloud is only making older PCs less of a drag on productivity.
Upgrades like installing RAM or increasing hard drive capacity are great ways to help improve performance right away, but there are simpler ways to help extend the useful life of your PC. Keeping your system physically clean, following some basic preventive measures, and exercising common sense in daily use can add years of life to your PC.
1. Keep it Sparkling
Unless you’re working in a clean room, virtually every PC becomes filthy with dust, dirt, hairballs, and other unfriendly goop given enough time. Left to linger long enough, the grime can suffocate the hardware inside your PC, generating more heat and therefore putting stress on the components. This can reduce performance and even contribute to a component’s premature death.
2. Give your PC room to Breathe
Ventilation is another important issue when it comes to heat. The heatsinks and fans in your case can help, but they’ll struggle to keep the PC cool if the machine’s surroundings are stuffy.
Ensure your PC has plenty of access to cool air. Don’t enclose the tower, for instance, inside a cabinet of your computer desk. Additionally, don’t place the PC near a heater vent or space heater.
3. Stop Hard Drive Issues before they Blow Up
Hard drives can become corrupt with file system errors and bad sectors due to improper shutdowns, crashes, and other issues. This corruption can damage files, cause system instability and blue screens, and even prevent Windows from starting if things get really bad. However, the corruption can usually be found and automatically repaired by running the Check Disk tool that comes with Windows.
Thus, these are more of a concern if you’re using Windows 7 or earlier. Improvements to error handling introduced in Windows 8 can fix more file and drive issues automatically.
4. Keep your Hard Drive Defragmented
Data on traditional hard drives can become fragmented or spread out in different spots throughout the drive. In addition to slowing the drive—as it has to skip around to access the far-flung data—fragmentation causes the drive to work more. Defragmenting the drive regular helps reduce this extra work, which could reduce wear and tear on your drive.
Now for the good news: Modern versions of Windows now defragment your drive automatically so you only need to worry about manually running the defragment utility in Windows XP and earlier, which you really shouldn’t be using anyway.
5. Protect against Power Surges
Computers are masses of sensitive circuits and components, and any fluctuation in power can really upset them. Surges or spikes of any magnitude can put stress on your computer—and in extreme cases, outright damage the power supply and other components.
Plugging the computer into any old surge protector will fix the problem, right? Actually it’s not quite that easy.
Surge protectors can lose their protection mechanism with just one good power surge or spike, yet still continue to power devices, giving you a false sense of security. Make sure to check your surge protector’s status—your PC’s life could depend on it. (Note: Some have a status light, but on some models it may simply mean it’s getting power.)
Don’t forget about your laptops and other mobile devices; they’re sensitive to power fluctuations, too. When charging them, try to plug into a properly working surge protector as well.
6. Anti-Virus Protection
Don’t forget about software-based prevention as well. While viruses and malware don’t typically cause physical damage, repairing their destruction to your personal or system files can cost you big time. Some even encrypt your entire system and refuse to let go unless you’ve paid a hefty ransom—or nuke your hard drive and start over from scratch. In other words, make sure you’re running a good security suite to combat viruses, malware, and intrusions.