If you want your money’s worth out of the laptop, you’re going to want it to last between three and four years. It’s possible, with the proper care. Last month, I wrote five tips to keep your laptop in tip-top shape. Now, here’s five more tips to make your laptop last as long as it can.
1. Proper Transport:
The greatest chance of bumps, bangs and bruises for a laptop comes when it is time to transport. Even in the proper bag and with great care, just carrying it and walking around is a great stress. Carry a bottle of soda or beer in a backpack and walk around for a few minutes. You’d be surprised at how much it was shaken up. So, how would you properly transport a laptop to minimize damage? First, turn the computer off. We don’t want any moving parts or electricity running around our laptop while we transport it. I’ve seen sleeping laptops mysteriously wake up and overheat inside bags.
Also, by turning the MacBook off, I mean go to the Apple menu and choose shut down. Then, wait for it to actually turn off before closing the lid. Sleep doesn’t cut it and neither does choosing shutdown and closing the lid a second later. Wait for it to turn off. Sure you can be impatient and “not have time for it”. You can also buy a new $1100 laptop within six months to a year. You are smarter than that.
Second, use a proper laptop bag that had a padded compartment for the laptop. Don’t just throw it into a bookbag with all your other stuff. Imagine everything else in the bag bumping into the laptop the whole time its in there. Oh the horror! Remember, AppleCare does not cover user related damage.
2. Accidents happen – Reduce your odds.
Accidents happen and they are by nature, accidental. If an accident with your laptop happens, it happens and there’s really nothing you can do. However, what you can do is reduce the odds that an accident will happen.
There’s three types of accidents that can happen. The first is an accidental drop. If you are outside and using the proper transport methods in the last tip, it may not be that bad. Indoors, just moving the laptop around, use two hands and be gentle. Keep the laptop level if it’s powered on and running. Don’t leave the laptop laying on the floor, unattended. Remember the attitude of treating your Macbook like the delicate and fragile computer system that it is.
Second, beware the dreaded power cord trip-wire. Out of all the accidents that I’ve come across, this one is quite common. Fortunately, with the MacBooks, there’s the safety net of the MagSafe power adapter. Even with this, I’d still be careful. There’s other cables such and Ethernet, USB and headphone cables that could be just as much of a danger. Basically, keep your cables out of harms way. If it looks like someone can trip over or knock into the cable, they probably will.
This brings us to the third and possbly most deadly and expensive laptop accident – the liquid spill. It happens and within microseconds it can short out the computer. Always keep food and drink a safe distance away. Keep cables and cords from knocking glasses over. If something does happen, move the laptop away from the spill immediately. If you spill on the laptop, shut it off immediately by holding down the power button until the laptop turns off. Let the laptop completely dry out before turning it back on. Unfortunately, the liquid spill is quick and deadly. Keep food and drink far enough away that it won’t hurt it if there’s a spill.
3. Speaker volume – Protecting the internal speakers.
The built-in speakers aren’t meant to handle extemely loud usage. A good way to preserve them is to keep the volume from going up all the way. Keep it a few ticks below maximum if you need to have the volume up that high. Need it higher? Consider headphones or external speakers. Also, set application volumes at about 75-85% of their maximum. For example, set the iTunes or DVD Player volume control to a little bit less than all the way. That way if the DVD or song is loud, it won’t ever push the speakers too far.
4. Proper battery care – Make it last as long as possible.
Unfortunately the battery in your laptop won’t last as long as the laptop will, even with proper care. Just by the passage of time, they lose their ability to charge and hold electricity slowly. After about two years, the battery will begin to seem like its not the same anymore. Two things you can do is properly calibrate them every few months by fully charging the battery. Then run the Macbook on battery without shutting down until the low battery warning comes up, then charging it fully again. Do not let the laptop sleep or turn off during this calibration (you can turn it off in the energy saver preference pane). This will calibrate the battery so it knows 100% is 100% and 0% is 0%. Also, download the free Coconut Battery application to monitor your battery. It will let you know if your battery has been used so much that it’s in need of replacement or not.
As a rule of thumb, with normal usage, the battery should go at least two years before it becomes noticable. Also, if in Coconut Battery, you see that the cycle count is under 130 and it is having trouble holding a charge, have Apple replace the battery because it may be defective. For more tips on battery care, read this article.
5. Cleaning the screen.
There’s nothing more controversial than proper screen cleaning technique. What to use, how to clean it and how often. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. What do I do? If its merely dusty, I use a nice microfiber dust wipe. You can pick one up at an electronics store, they aren’t expensive. For laptops with a glossy display coating, the microfiber usually takes off everything and leaves the display looking wonderful.
For older laptops without the glossy coating on the display, if there’s something on the screen that needs to be cleaned off, I will spray some ammonia free cleaner onto my soft microfiber and gently clean it off. You can buy special cleaner, I’ve heard arguements that anything else is bad. I’ve also heard arguements that it’s the ammonia that is bad for the display and any ammonia free cleaner will work just as well. Whatever you choose, the most important thing is to spray the cloth, not the screen. Note: This is for laptops without the glossy screen coating.
For cleaning the body and keys of the computer, shut down the computer first. Then I spray a paper towel with ammonia free cleaner and gently scrub away at the casing and keys. I recently heard that baking soda toothpaste will get rid of tough stains. Personally, for stickers, tape and marker, I’ve used Goo Gone with great results.
I hope you find these tips helpful. I’ve followed each of these rules for the past three and a half years with my iBook G4 and I have not had one problem with it. Any other tips would be greatly appreciated, feel free to post them in the comments. Good luck with your laptops!