GEEK-TO-YOU: How to Take Care of Your Computer





Introduction: GEEK-TO-YOU: How to Take Care of Your Computer

About: The author of the GEEK-TO-YOU series: a series of Instructables designed to educate YOU about computers. I am interested in computers, and the world of technology in general. I am pursuing a career in softwa...

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 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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    44 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Great article. Had some useful tips as well as explaining the technology and reason behind them. Dust is such a big issue when it comes to laptops and computer maintenance but people still don't understand how to get rid of it safety. I found this article which outlines the basic instruments needed to clean your computer;

    Such an easy solution which needs to be more wellknown to stop computers being destroyed!

    1 reply

    Thanks for your comment, I really appreciate it! Thank you for the link as well :)

    Learn why this Tripp Lite surge protection device is important in your computer and notebook. Click here

    Great tips in your instructable! Plugging your computer and electronics to surge protectors will protect them from potential hazards, especially during thunder storms. The average home receives 20 surges per day that can potentially damage sensitive electronics. As an appliance repair technician at Del-Air, we frequently replace as many as 10 computers and appliances per week.

    1 reply

    Thank you very much! I can't believe you replace that many computers each week!

    You need to rectify a common misconception.

    "CPU (central processing unit): also known as a processor,..."

    A processor is part of the CPU but it is not in itself the CPU. CPUs have other components like the clock to synchronize all the functions of every component in the computer. Also consider rewriting the following paragraph:

    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.

    It is the air cool because it is lower? Cool air is denser therefore it goes down and hot air is less dense therefore it rises. However the design of the computer case allows for hot air to be forcibly exhausted through the computer fan or fans.

    13 replies

    The CPU is the processor. I just found this article.

    I am not exactly sure what you mean by:
    "However the design of the computer case allows for hot air to be forcibly exhausted through the computer fan or fans."

    The computer case IS designed how I described. There fan in the front (near the bottom of the case) of the case to pull in cool air. The fan in the rear pulls it out after it gets hot from the components. This cycles cool air through the computer while pulling the hot air near the top out. That way you do not have hot air sitting in the computer, you constantly have cool air going though it.

    Let me fix what I said "The fan in the rear pulls it out after it gets hot from the components." The fan in the rear top part of the computer pulls out the hot air which rose in the case.

    I am an A+ Certified Computer Professional. I have worked on computers for over 20 years now. Like I said, it is a common misconception to believe that a processor is the CPU. There are other components that make the CPU, like the computer clock. A Wikipedia article describes what is a CPU.

    "The central processing unit (CPU, occasionally central processor unit[1]) is the hardware within a computer system which carries out the instructions of a computer program by performing the basic arithmetical, logical, and input/output operations of the system. The term has been in use in the computer industry at least since the early 1960s.[2] The form, design, and implementation of CPUs have changed over the course of their history, but their fundamental operation remains much the same."

    Regarding cooling in a computer, I have worked on computers that have the fan at the bottom of the computer, and some had them on the side. An analogy would be an exhaust fan installed on a window or an attic to draw the hot air out the house.

    Ok, I am sorry I questioned your expertise. I am taking A+ Certification this year in high school. My teacher told us that CPU and processor are the same thing. I will let him know. I will also note the misconception in the Instructable.

    Ok, your analogy for the fan makes sense. I was just saying that the fan at the bottom pulls cold air in to cool down the components, then the one at the top pulls the hot air that correct? The in the rear is positioned at the top because that is where the hot air goes. That is what I was trying to describe...I should have done a better job. Sense you have so much experience in the industry, you will be the authority in this situation.

    It is cool that we are interested in the same industry! What have you done in your career? I would be very interested in that.

    Mention that although the processor is the main part of a CPU, other microprocessors are involved, and sometimes there are not physically next to each other on a motherboard like crystal clocks and other coprocessors. Thread carefully! Maybe it is better not contradict him in class but a one on one conversation, and be as polite as you are. To prepare for your certification, you may want to have a few books in your personal library.

    I must apologize to you. You and your instructor are also right. I checked my old reference books to make sure that I gave you accurate information. It seems that newer processors are becoming more and more miniaturized. The functions of coprocessors are becoming integrated to the processor. In the future not only processors but motherboards will have less and less components.
    About your question, I recommend that you plan to continue your studies. The certification might help you earn some money while you continue your university studies. An A+ certification will be more valuable with a degree in Computer Science. Also a Network+ certification is becoming more in demand. The market for certified professionals is larger in big cities. In the small city where I live, the market for computer repairpersons is saturated.

    Oh, thank you. I am also sorry because I held you in contempt earlier.

    I absolutely plan to continue my studies. I am way too eager to learn more! I was hoping to get a good job during high school and college one I get my A+ Certification because I know that is what employers would want. I did not know there was Network+ Certification, thank you for telling me! I am planning on going into a career of network engineering! I live in a small city as well, Sandpoint Idaho. I do not think there will be such a demand for these skills. But, maybe I will be hired by a business that needs a computer technician or something.

    I was kind of annoyed that somebody was trying to correct me. I was thinking "Oh my gosh! I'm in A+ Certification and have taken Intro to Tech. My teacher knows what he is talking about!!" But, now I understand where you are coming from. I am sorry.

    Back when I became certified, once you were certified you were certified forever. I believe that now they want you to recertify every so often. By the way, I gave my youngest brother my copy of Scott Mueller's Upgrading and Repairing Networks. Another great book whenever you decide to study for your Network+ exam.

    Ya, my teacher was just talking about that. He said that you were certified for life until January 1, 2011. If you are certified for the first time after that date, you have to re-certify every three years.

    Earlier I emailed Intel (pretty ridiculous) and I thought this might bring some closure to our "debate":

    "Please be informed that these terms [CPU and processor] are synonymous. CPU states for Central Processing Unit or Central Processor Unit.

    It may be also named as the Central Processor, but more commonly its called Processor."

    I am also A+, among many other certifications. You will find that the A+ is just an entry level certification... it doesn't stand for much considering that most of your competition in larger areas (like Chicago in my case) will have the A+ as well as Cisco and Microsoft certifications.

    blkhawk is correct that the processor is separate from the CPU, but you are right that processors now have all the functions of the CPU built right into them.

    I heard that the Cisco certification is tough! Only brawny men like you with hairy chests can pass it.