Can't live without your laptop? If so, these five maintenance tips can help you avert a crisis, writes Sue Hayward.
Many of us rely on our laptops so much that a malfunction can turn into a major crisis.
When mine recently had a blip which resulted in a blank screen, I was so relieved to get it back in one piece, I made it my mission to find out how to look after it properly.
Here are the five most important tips.
1. Let your laptop breathe
Using your laptop in bed, where its air vents get easily get blocked and suffocated by thick duvets and pillows, isn't good for it.
"There's a reason those air vents are there, and the cooler you can keep your laptop the longer it lasts," says Matt Egan, editor-in-chief of PC Advisor magazine.
"Components like the processor and hard drive generate a lot of heat, so where ever you regularly use your laptop, make sure it's clean, dust-free and vents are clear from walls or surfaces."
If you use your laptop for long periods it can be worth investing in a cooling stand, which you can pick up for under £20 from computer shops or the likes of Amazon.
2. Drain your battery
"With modern battery cells the advice is to run your laptop on the mains until you need to use the battery," says Egan.
"Then it's good practice to run the battery down each time rather than resorting to constant top-ups." So wait for that 10% warning light to come on and then plug in.
And if your battery's running low and you're not able to charge it, you can squeeze more power from it by reducing the screen brightness, which can boost life by around 30 minutes.
3. Don't clean the screen with a damp cloth
A quick wipe with a damp cloth can sound like the easy way to clean your screen.
But aside from the obvious danger of water and electrics, the minerals found in plain old tap water can actually leave marks on your screen.
"You need to clean it with something that's pH neutral," says Egan. He says baby wipes should be fine or you can buy special screen wipes.
4. Use protection
My local computer shop recommends having your laptop serviced every six months which costs £50 a time.
But let's be honest: while we may have good intentions, does anyone actually book their laptop in for a regular service? Or do we all use them until the horrible moment they go blank and pack up?
Even Egan, of PC Advisor, admits he's not one for regular servicing but says the reason most laptops end up running slowly and may need fixing is down to software, not hardware.
"Your priority should be getting good anti-virus software and keeping it up to date," he says.
The package should include anti-virus, anti-spyware and a firewall and you can pick this up from most computer shops for between £40 and £90.
"But don't just buy it and forget about it," Egan says. "You've got to keep it up to date which means paying the annual fee."
5. Back up your files
"Nobody ever does it till they've had a problem," says Egan.
"Most problems aren't mechanical so providing you've backed up your work, then once your laptop's fixed you won't have lost your stuff."
You can buy external hard drives to store documents but for more instant insurance, consider signing up to an automatic online backup service such as Dropbox.
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