Introduction: GEEK-TO-YOU: How to Take Care of Your Computer
The second Instructable in the GEEK-TO-YOU series, "How to take care of your computer" will guide you on how to take better care of your computer to improve and maintain it's longevity and efficiency.
This may not look like many steps, but there is plenty of information on each one!
Step 1: Heat: a Computer's Kryptonite
Heat is one of the biggest factors in your computer's performance. Heat plays such an important role, your computer case is specifically designed to keep it cool. When the components in your computer get hot, their performance drops, and your computer runs slower. This is why computer cases are designed to keep your computer cool; but, bad placement of your computer can render the design useless.
First, I must explain how the computer case aids in the cooling process. Most likely you will notice a vent at the bottom front part of your computer case. Cool air (the air is cool because it is lower; heat rises) is drawn into the computer through that vent by a fan that is right behind it. As the air is sucked in, it cools the components down; but, the air gets hotter as it rises. A fan on the back side of the computer near the top pulls the hot air out. It is also drawn out by the power supply's fan which is right above the rear fan. In some computers, there is no rear fan, just the power supply's fan.
If you place your computer so that something blocks one vent or both, (i.e. a wall, cabinet) then cool air can not come in, or hot air will not be allowed out; both of which results in a hotter computer. Also, if your computer is kept in a confined space, the hot air will be blown into the area and stay there; then, hot air will be sucked back into the computer.
Another thing that keeps your computer hot is dust, believe it or not. Dust is like insulation, or a blanket. The design of your computer case creates a suction effect. This suction effect is also important in cooling your computer; but, just like bad placement can block the vents and make them useless, bad placement can turn a positive design into a negative, turning your computer into a literal vacuum. If you place your computer on the floor, it will suck up all of the dust that lies there. You might not even have to use your Dyson anymore. This is especially bad on carpeted floors because carpets hold on to so much dust...you might even get loose carpet in your computer. One thing you can do to keep your computer off the floor AND off the desk is to purchase a "CPU" holder. (CPU really means processor. For some reason, people call computers CPU's, this is incorrect; hence the air quotes)
Despite your diligent efforts, dust will inevitably creep into your computer. You should regularly clean it out with compressed air. NEVER use a rag or cloth to clean it out. NEVER use cleaning products or other liquids to clean it out. Refer to my Instructable, "GEEK-TO-YOU: How to safely troubleshoot, clean, and repair a computer" for an in-depth guide on cleaning your computer and other important information.
Fun fact: Your computer's processor, or CPU (central processing unit), does so many calculations, and gets so hot, that with out a fan and heat sink, it would burn through the mother board of your computer.
Step 2: The Small Things Count
In this step, I will focus on the small things you can do to help out your computer.
One important thing to do is turn off your computer when you don't plan on using it for at least a few hours. The longer you have it on, the more strain you are putting on your computer's hardware.
Run Disk Defragmenter every month or so. This is for Window's users. To access this program: Start>all programs>accessories>system tools>disk defragmenter
It is not necessary to run Disk Defragmenter if you have a solid state drive.
Let me explain why you would want to defragment your computer (defrag for short). Information is saved onto your hard drive. Your hard drive has one or more "platters" (circular metal plates) which store information. When you save a Word document with the text "hello world" (for example), a little arm goes across the "platter" to place the fragments in any empty spot it finds. But, your document gets split into "fragments" which are saved in empty spots spread all across the "platters". When you want to retrieve that document, open it, it takes longer because a physical arm has to move across the platters back and forth. When you run Disk Defragmenter, all of the "fragments" of a saved file are reorganized so they are all next to each other. This shortens the amount of time it takes to access a file because all of the parts are together, hence, the arm doesn't have to move back and forth as much.
For more information about how a hard drive works, refer to my Instructable, "GEEK-TO-YOU: How to take apart a hard-drive (humor included)!".
To increase your login speed, get rid of some desktop icons! The icons are more things that have to load before you can get to business. Put things in folders that go together, like work or school documents. Links to web pages can go in a folder, etc. Also, take a look at what programs run automatically when you login. Start>control panel>classic view>windows defender Limiting the number of start-up programs will increase your login speed.
Step 3: Proper Shutdown, Power Outages, and Power Surges
When your computer suddenly loses power, there is a chance that your hard drive can become corrupted. Do not shut down your computer by holding the power button down (forced shut down). This prevents your computer from doing a proper shutdown because it will suddenly lose power.
Power outages can also prevent a proper shutdown. You can purchase a UPS (uninterruptible power supply). A UPS is basically a big battery that can power your computer and other devices. It plugs into your wall, and you plug your computer into it like a power strip. While power goes to your computer, power is also charged in the UPS, so in the case of a power outage, you computer will still have power. Some higher end UPS's have software that will run proper shutdown for your computer in the case of a power outage; you can even set a certain amount of time that it will stay on after a power outage. I would not buy a cheap UPS; the cheaper it is, the less reliable. I would buy a UPS for an expensive computer, or if it holds very important documents, like at a doctor's office. I would also buy one if you live in an area where power outages are frequent. For more information about UPS's, visit this site.
Another risk to your computer is a power surge. If lighting strikes it can cause an excess amount of electricity to come out of the jacks in the wall. This can severely damage your computer. To prevent damage to your computer, plug it into a surge protector. In the case of a power surge, the surge protector will prevent excess voltage from reaching your computer. UPS's can also act as a surge protector. Note: not all power strips are surge protectors. Read the packaging to check.
I truly hope this Instructable will help you improve and maintain your relationship with your computer!
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Step 4: Geek Jargon Used in This Instructable
- CPU (central processing unit): also known as a processor, a CPU does millions (or billions depending on the processor) of calculations each second. It processes the computer language called binary, comprised of 1's and 0's. You can think of the CPU as the "brain" of a computer.
- Heat sink: the heat sink sits on top of the CPU to suck the heat out of it. The heat sink is usually made of aluminum or copper, which is colder than the CPU, pulling the hot air into it. Heat sinks usually have a fan on top of them to pull the heat away and out of the computer.
- Motherboard: the motherboard can be thought of as the "nervous system" of a computer. It connects the CPU, RAM, Hard drive (or Solid State Drive), DVD player, CD player, and other components together, telling them what to do.
- Hardware: any physical part of your computer, example: CPU, hard drive, motherboard, etc.
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