In the last 20 years, computers have become a necessity. People can spend hours in front of one at work, only to come back home and use their personal one, for which they've paid a handsome sum. Sadly, many people unknowingly engage in actions that are harmful to their computer. We’re all guilty of one or two of these actions, so I’ve compiled a list of the 16 most common things we do incorrectly, and how to do them without needing to take our computer in for repairs.
1. Blocking the Computer’s Vents
Trying to save space can often lead you to placing your computer close against the wall, desk, sofa, curtains, etc. The vents are vital in keeping the computer cool, and anything that blocks them may cause it to overheat. High temperatures damage the internal circuitry, so keeping the computer nice and cool by not blocking the vents should be a priority.
2. Deleting System Files
When we use our computer, we sometimes clog the hard drive with pictures, movies, music, and other junk. When the hard drive is full, it works harder, making your computer sluggish. The problem arises when inexperienced users try to clear up space by deleting files they don’t know of, and more often than not – they delete important system files. Deleting these files can render the computer inoperable, or prevent certain features from functioning (example: deleting system files related to the sound drive can disable your ability to listen to music, etc.) Don’t delete any files ending with.SYS,.DLL, or.EXE, in particular from these directories: Program Files, System32, Windows, Users.
3. Cleaning the Screen with Liquids
When you want to clean your computer screen, you probably use a wet wipe or some basic cleaning detergent, but this may actually damage it. Any type of liquid can cause corrosion if it gets into the screen, and detergents (even natural ones) may damage the special coating on the screen. The best way to clean a computer screen is by using a dry microfiber cloth, or the same kind of cloth you use to clean your eyeglasses.
4. Pushing the CD/DVD Tray to Close it
Even I do this from time to time, instead of pushing the open/close button on the drive. You may think that these actions are the same, but when you apply force to the drive, you can break the opening and closing mechanism. So next time you’re closing the drive, use the button.
5. Not Restarting After Installing New Software
When you install a new piece of software onto the computer, some may ask you to restart it. You may feel that it’s a waste of time, but these requests are not mere whims of developers. Some applications need to start up with the computer for them to function properly, so using them without the initial restart can result in them not working properly (or not at all). Even if you don’t have the patience for it, make it a habit of restarting your computer when prompted to.
6. Letting Pets Get Too Close to the Computer
If you’re a pet owner, you probably noticed that your pets like to use your computer as a pillow. Who can blame them? It’s nice and warm. You may find it adorable, but it’s actually very bad for your computer. Fur finds its way into the computer and can block the vents, or jam internal fans, causing the computer to overheat. So keep your furry friends away from your computer, and have it cleaned at least once a year.
7. Installing Programs Automatically
You may not like to read the information in the various windows during a program installation, and many programs will offer to “save you the effort” and automatically install themselves. The problem arises when these programs install add-ons like unwanted toolbars on your computer, which will, at best slow it down, and at worst steal your information. Next time you install anything, take a moment to read what’s going on instead of just clicking “OK”.
8. Opening the Computer Case When it’s Still Plugged In
It is recommended that you clean your computer every few months, clearing dust, fur, etc. from the case. Some of us like to do it ourselves, but sometimes forget to unplug the computer from the power socket. While you may think that when the computer is off it’s safe to touch the insides, it is not. There still is a current running inside, and touching any electrified part may short-circuit the computer and damage it, or worse – electrocute you.
9. Putting Magnets on or near your Computer
Regular hard drives use a magnetic system to store data. Unshielded cables can experience magnetic interference, resulting in loss or corruption of data. Older CRT computer screens (not the LCD or LED kind) are also very susceptible to magnetic interference. What all that means is that magnets are bad for computers, so keep them away from each other.
10. Exposing the Computer to Heat
Exposing your computer to direct heat sources such as sunlight or heaters can cause severe damage. Electronic devices such as computers, produce heat, so adding more heat can cause plastic parts to melt, as well as solder. So make sure that you keep your computer nice and cool.
11. Hitting the Case
If you hear strange noises coming from inside the computer case, when the computer behaves sluggishly or when it stops reacting, many people feel that a good thump will fix the problem. Computers are full of delicate parts, and hitting them can cause these parts to become loose, cables to disconnect, and even break important parts. Next time you feel like hitting your computer, take a breath, switch it off, and let it rest for a minute before starting it up. If you hear strange noises, it can mean that something has gotten loose inside, so don’t wait and take it to a technician for a checkup.
12. Not Logging out of Your E-mail When You’re Done
Once you’re done with your e-mails, you should log out from the service, even in a safe place like your office or home. If you don’t log off, you risk having a stranger access your account, exposing all of your personal information. If you need another reason, remember that you can reset your passwords via your e-mail account, so someone with access to it can access your other accounts.
13. Using Force when Connecting a USB Device
USB connections are great, they make connecting devices to your computer easy, using one type of connection. We use them for flash drives, to charge smartphones, connect our keyboard and mouse, etc. The shape of the USB can sometimes be a source of frustration when trying to connect it the wrong way. Even if you tried 2-3 times unsuccessfully, don’t jam it in by force – doing so can break the connector in your computer, and replacing it can cost a pretty penny.