Computers are sensitive devices, and since laptops are portable, they're easier to physically damage. If you're not careful with your machine, you could end up destroying it quickly or over time.
Let's consider some of the most important ways to care for your laptop physically, which will help you keep it running well for as long as possible.
1. Avoid Excessive Heat
Heat is deadly to computers. Laptops have fans and other components inside to help them keep cool, but these aren't perfect. One of the most important ways to promote airflow through your computer, thus keeping it cool, is by keeping the vents clear.
You should identify the vent holes on the outside of your laptop and make sure you don't block them. Avoid putting your laptop on a blanket or other soft surface that will block airflow. It's best to use your laptop on a hard surface, like a table.
Also make sure not to leave put laptop in situations where it will become super hot. Don't leave it in direct sunlight, or let it sit in the car on a hot day, for hours. This kind of concentrated heat can ruin the sensitive internals.
Another common way to inadvertently expose a laptop to excessive heat is having it in a bag or other enclosed space when turned on. Even if you put your laptop to sleep before putting it in a bag, there's a chance it could wake up due to some kind of system event, or even from a Bluetooth accessory connected to it.
For maximum safety, always fully shut your laptop down before you put it in a bag for any length of time.
2. Handle Your Computer With Care
When you move your laptop, you should do so carefully. Always pick your laptop up by the base, not the screen. Swinging your laptop around by its screen can break down the hinges, eventually damaging the cables inside and causing the display to malfunction over time.
It's a good idea to always grab your laptop with two hands, too. Mistakes happen; you don't want to misstep and lose your grip on your computer. Physical shock will almost certainly cause damage.
You should also avoid putting heavy items on top of your laptop. They can push down on the screen, possibly damaging it over time. You don't want to put undue stress on it.
On a similar note, it's good practice to never leave anything sitting on your laptop's keyboard. If you leave something like your car keys sitting on the laptop, then later forget and snap the top shut, you could end up damaging the screen when it collides with the keys.
3. Avoid Accidents Waiting to Happen
A lot of laptop-ruining accidents could have been prevented with a bit of forward thinking. It's all too common to spill water, coffee, or another liquid all over your computer by knocking a cup over.
To avoid this, don't have open liquids anywhere near your computer. It's a bit inconvenient to reach or get up to enjoy your drink, but it encourages healthy movement and the extra moment is worth protecting your laptop for.
Don't use your laptop near the pool, or anywhere else where a water splash could quickly cause problems. If you have young children or pets, you should also keep your computer away from where they can access it. Don't leave your laptop sitting right at the edge of a table where a dog's tail could knock it over, or a curious toddler could pull it down.
Finally, if you often travel with your computer, it's smart to get a protective sleeve for it. Whether you get a backpack that protects your laptop on flights or a smaller bag for carrying around town, having protection from drops is important.
4. Treat Ports and Cables With Care
Having one of your laptop's ports or a cable go bad isn't as frustrating as destroying your entire laptop, but it's still something you should try to avoid. When connecting a USB drive or other device, make sure you're inserting it into the right port and in the correct direction. Don't force anything, which could damage the port or device.
Additionally, don't leave taut cables hanging from your laptop for long periods of time. If you don't have some slack in a cable, it could put undue stress on the port. Over time, this could loosen the port and prevent you from charging the battery or connecting a display cable normally.
When you put your laptop in a bag or similar, it's smart to remove all connected cables and devices. During travel, an odd angle could cause connected devices to snap off, breaking them and potentially ruining the port.
5. Keep Your Laptop Clean
Over time, laptops build up grime naturally from use. It's a good idea to regularly clean your laptop to remove this buildup and keep it as fresh as possible.
Wipe the screen off with a lint-free cloth, and remove any visible dust. Depending on your laptop, dust could get underneath the keyboard keys and cause problems down the road; wiping it regularly will help with this.
Over time, your computer will also build up dust inside. This can trap heat inside, which is an issue as discussed above. If your laptop's fan is running loudly and feels hot, but you're not comfortable with removing your laptop's cover and blowing out the dust, you should bring it to an IT professional to clean out.
Keep Your Laptop Investment Healthy
With just a few tips in mind, you can hopefully increase the lifespan of your laptop and avoid having it suffer an early death. Mistakes happen, but weeding out the most common causes of laptop damage will go a long way in keeping your machine running at its best.
If your PC is quite old and has built up a lot of problems, it might be worth considering whether it's time to replace your computer.