It depends on the type of liquid: water, coffee or juice.
Unlike water, sugar is acting as a glue and the motherboard and keyboard can get sticky and will need a safety wash.
1. Switch the laptop off.
Shut down the laptop! Pressing and holding the power button for five seconds is quickest. Remove the power cord, unplug any peripherals and remove the battery. The biggest danger at this time is the device shorting out (like this motherboard below).
2. Remove excess liquid from the laptop.
Blot up excess liquid with a soft lint-free cloth or paper towels. Do not use a wiping motion as that just spreads the liquid further.
3. Don't turn the laptop over.
Try not the move the liquid from the wet area to a dry one. Most laptop equipped with a drain hole at the bottom of the laptop.
4. Use compressed air to dry the laptop.
Make sure that you have removed all excess liquid. Then, use a can of compressed air to help dry the laptop. Alternatively, use a hair dryer on its coolest setting: keep the dry moving all the time and hold it at least 20cm above the laptop.
5. Leave laptop to completely dry out. Leave the laptop opened in a warm area, to completely dry out. Do not leave it in direct sunlight or on a radiator. Wait for 24 hours or longer, making sure the keyboard is completely dry, before reinstalling the battery and peripherals.
If the laptop won't turn on after 24 hours bring it to us, we can replace the laptop keyboard and board.
Remember the rule of thumb, never have any liquid around your laptop.
By: Brenden Mulligan
So this crazy thing happened recently with an old Mac I sold on Craigslist a few years ago. I noticed it was still showing up in my Find My iPhone app. Well, at first I didn’t realize it was that particular Mac. I just happened to notice there was a computer I didn’t recognize in Find My iPhone called “Michael’s iMac”.
I clicked in and saw a computer that wasn’t mine showing up on a map about 100 miles north of my house.
I vaguely remembered selling an iMac on Craigslist 3 years ago, and figured that was this one. Then I realized that meant for over 3 years, I had access to this person’s exact location. That’s insane to me.
How the hell did that happen?
Before selling, I erased the computer and re-installed a fresh OS X
I did a hard erase of the computer and reinstalled OS X factory fresh. The mistake I made was that before erasing the computer, I didn’t sign out of iCloud / Find My Mac. I figured erasing the computer would do that. It didn’t.
I sold the computer and the user didn’t log into iCloud
For whatever reason, this person didn’t need to sign into iCloud. So this meant that Apple still associated the computer hardware with my iCloud account. The computer wasn’t logged into my iCloud account, but was still associated with my account, so I still could track the computer’s location in real time.
For me (the seller), this isn’t much of a security risk
The buyer won’t see or have access to any private iCloud data; the hardware is just associated with it. But the seller can’t disassociate it without the buyer’s help (and I didn’t have any way to contact them), so it’s a pain.
No, logging all devices out of iCloud doesn’t work. And no, this has nothing to do with if the computer is in your Support Profile.
The only options I had were Play Sound, Lock, and Erase.
For the buyer, there are massive privacy concerns.
The biggest privacy issue is for the buyer. If they don’t turn on Find My Mac with their own iCloud account, they leave a lot of power in the previous owner’s hands.
The previous owner can track the buyer’s location.
At any time in the past 3 years I could have tracked this computer’s exact location. Not a huge deal with an iMac, but if this was a laptop, I’d basically know where this person was at all times. Terrifying.
The previous owner can erase everything remotely.
With two clicks, at any point, I could shut down this user’s computer and completely wipe it clean. They couldn’t stop it and would have no control. They’d lose everything.
The previous owner can lock the buyer out.
This is what I ended up doing. It was the only way I could get in touch with the owner. So I remotely locked the computer and in the lock message, put my phone number.
The new owner texted and we got it resolved. As mentioned, it wasn’t that they were still logged into my iCloud account, it was that they never signed into their own iCloud account.
Resolving it showed one last nugget of privacy ugh.
When Michael finally logged into his own iCloud account and turned on Find My Mac, the computer was nice enough to tell him my full name.
Not a huge deal, but for people who want to remain anonymous when selling a computer, this sucks.
Overall, this seems like a massive privacy / security flaw. Maybe Apple has patched this in a more recent OS X update. Again, I sold this computer 3 years ago. But just in case, if you sell a computer, turn off Find My Mac BEFORE wiping it. And if you buy a computer, immediately sign into iCloud so there’s no chance the seller can track you.
Your home Internet router has a lot of security features under its hood that you might not be using. You paid a lot for that box with all those blinking lights on it, which is why you should make sure you’re taking advantage of all the security it has to offer you.
Depending on how old your router is, it may offer you more or less security features. You might need to upgrade its firmware to ensure you have access to all the latest bells and whistles offered by your router manufacturer.
If your router is really old, it might be too old to be “secure” anymore and it may be time for an upgrade.
Let’s take a look at 6 router security features that you should consider turning on right now:
1. WPA2 Encryption
Do you leave your doors and windows open and unlocked at night? If you aren’t using WPA2 encryption (or a more current standard) on your wireless router or access point, then you might as well not even have a door because you’re letting hackers and everyone else into your home via your wireless network.
This means not only do they have a connection to your network and possibly its shared resources, but they are also likely leeching off of the Internet connection that you are paying for. Check out these Tips For Securing Your Wireless Network.
2. Guest Network Access
Do you have visitors that need access to the Internet but you’re not to keen on giving them your wireless password because you don’t want them having access to the rest of your network resources and you don’t want to have to change the password on all your devices when they leave?
Turning on your router’s Guest Network feature might be just what the doctor ordered. If your router has this feature, consider using it to provide temporary Internet access for your visitors. It can be turned on and off at will, which is nice when you have visiting kids who shouldn’t be on the Internet after bedtime.
You can shut it off for them while you still stay connected.
3. Built-in Firewall
Your router may feature a built-in firewall that you might not even know it had. This can be a great tool for allowing or denying traffic originating from the Internet, preventing it from reaching your computer. You can also use it to control what traffic leaves your network as well.
Check out our guide on Why You Need a Firewall and also read Best Practices for Firewall Configuration for information on how to set it up. When you're ready to test it to see if it works, check out How to Test a Firewall.
4. Enhanced Parental Controls
Many newer routers now offer advanced parental controls such as content filtering DNS. Routers like the Netgear Nighthawk R7000 have integrated with content filtering providers such as OpenDNS to offer malware, phishing, and adult content filtering.
5. Time-Based Access Restrictions
When you go to bed you make sure you lock all your doors to your residence, don’t you? What about your Internet connection? Many people leave it connected all day and all night. What if you could automatically have your Internet connection shut off every night to prevent hackers from connecting to your internal network via the Internet or prevent your kids from late-night browsing activities?
Most routers now offer time-based access restrictions that basically sever your network connection at whatever time you choose so that no Internet-based shenanigans can take place in the wee hours of the morning when everyone in your house should be sleeping.
6. VPN at the Router
If you haven’t heard of Personal VPN services and how they can help secure your data, check out our article: Why You Need a Personal VPN. Some routers let you set this feature up at the router-level which allows you secure all the devices on your network without the hassle of having to configure each device to use the VPN.
Set it up at the router level and all network traffic going in and out of your network will be protected from prying eyes by encryption.
by Andy O'Donnell for lifewire
It’s a bad idea to fill a Windows system drive completely full, and this could cause a variety of problems. But just how much empty space do you really need?
Why You Need Empty Space.
You need some available space for a variety of reasons. If your drive fills up, you won’t be able to save new files to the drive or download anything, including Windows Updates. Programs often need to create cache files, so they may crash or experience other errors. If you open a large number of programs and need extra memory, the Windows paging file will need to grow—but it won’t be able to grow and programs may crash or not open.
For example, when we filled a Windows 10 PC’s drive completely full and attempted to run its included troubleshooters, we just saw a message saying “A problem is preventing the troubleshooter from starting”. Windows provides no further detail, but freeing up space allowed the troubleshooters to start. These tools can’t function without some free space, and other programs may also break for no apparent reason unless you realize your system drive is full and free up some space.
However, there’s no firm percentage or number of gigabytes of free space you need to maintain. Microsoft does not disclose a specific amount of free space you should keep.
There are a few rules of thumb going around online, but they aren’t necessarily applicable today. Let’s talk about why.
The 15% Rule of Thumb for Mechanical Hard Drives
You’ll commonly see a recommendation that you should leave 15% to 20% of a drive empty. That’s because, traditionally, you needed at least 15% free space on a drive so Windows could defragment it.
If you don’t have 15% free space, Windows won’t be able to properly defragment the drive. Windows will only partially defragment the drive, and it will grow increasingly fragmented over time. However, this just applies to mechanical hard drives that need defragmentation, and not the solid-state drives generally found in more modern PCs.
The 25% Rule of Thumb for SSDs Is Probably Too Conservative
Solid-state drives traditionally needed a large chunk of available free space, too. They slow down over time as they’re filled up. In 2012, Anandtech recommended leaving 25% of a solid state drive empty to avoid a decrease in performance based on their testing.
However, modern solid state drives are “overprovisioned”. This overprovisioning actually means the solid state drive has more memory than it exposes to you. So, even if you fill a solid state drive near full, there’s still a bunch of spare memory on the drive to help maintain performance. That 25% figure is likely too conservative on a modern solid-state drive, although it depends on how overprisioned the drive is. You can afford to use more of the drive and fill it up with more data.
The Answer: It Depends
There’s no specific number or percentage that fits every Windows PC. All Microsoft will tell you is that you need 20 GB of space before you install a 64-bit Windows 10 system on a modern PC. After that, you’re on your own.
The rules of thumb can help. If you have a mechanical hard drive, leaving at least 15% of it empty can reduce fragmentation in newly created files and make it easier for Windows to properly defragment the drive, which is something modern versions of Windows do automatically in the background. If you don’t leave enough empty space, Windows won’t be able to move files around to defragment them and the contents of the drive will become fragmented and slower to access over time. If you have an SSD, this doesn’t apply.
If you have an SSD, leaving at least 25% of the SSD empty will ensure you have excellent performance. On modern SSDs with overprovisioning, this is probably much too conservative, and even 10% could be an okay number. It really depends on the SSD.
If you need to temporarily fill your drives up and only have 5% of disk space to spare, that’s not a problem. Things will just slow down over time, so you’ll probably want to free up some space when you can.
Your PC’s hard drive could fail tomorrow, or a software bug could erase your files, so backups are critical. But you don’t need to back up all the files on your PC. That would just waste space and make your backups take longer to complete.
The All-Important Rule of Backups.
The most important rule of backups is that any important data should exist in two or more physical locations at once. You cannot create a backup and delete the original. If you do, it’s no longer really a backup. You still have just one copy of your data—you just moved it to a different place.
You might think this is obvious, but you’d be surprised how often we’ve been approached by readers that lost their data after their “backup” drive died.
How to Back Up Your Files.
There are many ways to back up your data, from backing up to an external drive to uploading copies of your data to a remote server over the Internet. You can use the tools integrated into Windows or download a third-party backup tool. Choose the best backup solution that works for you—we discuss some of our favorites here.
Back Up Your Files, Not Your Full System.
There are two types of backups you can create. Most common backup tools will back up a list of files and folders you specify. This allows you to back up just the files and folders you need. Your backups won’t be any larger than they need to be, and they’ll complete quickly.
However, it’s also possible to create full system image backups of your computer’s hard drive using built-in or third-party tools. These will back up everything, from your Windows system directory and installed program files to your personal data. These backups will be much larger and take much longer to create.
For most people, we recommend you stick with just backing up your files and folders. System image backups sound nice, but there are some big catches. For example, you can’t easily restore a system image on another computer, as a Windows installation will generally only run properly on its original system. You’re better off just starting from a fresh Windows installation and reinstalling your programs.
System image backups have their place, but avoid them unless you’re sure you need them. They’re not the best general purpose backup solution.
Files You Should Back Up
The most important thing is to back up your personal files. On a modern Windows PC, you’ll generally find these under C:\Windows\USERNAME, where USERNAME is your user account name.
By default, this directory contains your user account’s data folders. These include the Documents folder where your documents are saved to by default, the Pictures folder that likely contains any family photos you have, the Downloads folder where files are downloaded, the Music folder where your music files are probably stored, and the Videos folder where videos are stored. If you use iTunes for your music, iTunes stores its music library in your music folder by default. It even includes your Desktop folder, where many people store files.
It also includes other important folders, like OneDrive, Dropbox, and Google Drive, where offline copies of your cloud files are stored if you use these services.
There’s also an AppData folder here, but you won’t see it unless you’re showing hidden files and folders. This is where programs store the settings and data specific to your user account. You may be able to use this data to restore an individual program’s settings if you ever need to recover from a backup.
With that in mind, we recommend you back up your entire user account directory, including the hidden AppData folder. This ensures you have all your personal files and settings, and you don’t have to spend much time thinking about it. If multiple people use the same PC and have their own files, back up each user account’s folder.
You may choose to exclude certain folders from the backup if you don’t want them present. For example, if you store a bunch of downloaded videos in the Videos folder and you don’t mind redownloading them in the future, exclude it from the backup. If you have a many gigabytes of virtual machines that take a large amount of space and you wouldn’t mind setting them up from scratch again, exclude the virtual machine folder. But, if those virtual machines are important and it would take you a good amount of time to configure them again, you probably want to back them up.
You’ll notice that we’re using a lot of words like “by default”, “likely”, and “probably” when saying where your files are stored. That’s because Windows lets you store your files in any location you like. If you moved them, only you know where all your files are stored.
For example, it’s easy to move a folder like Music, Videos, Downloads, Pictures, or Documents to another location on your PC. These files may be stored on another drive, for example. Or you may not use the default folders at all and simply dump files in a folder elsewhere on your PC’s hard drive. If you store your files in non-standard locations like this, it’s crucial you identify the folders containing your important files and add them to the backup.
Your browser’s bookmarks and other settings are located somewhere in the AppData folder, so backing up your entire user folder will save these files as well. However, you may want to use your browser’s sync feature and sync its settings with a Google, Firefox, or Microsoft account. This will save you from having to dig through your AppData folder.
If you use a desktop email client, you may also want to back up your emails. This isn’t necessary if you use the modern IMAP protocol for your email, as the master copies of your emails are still stored on the remote server. However, if you’ve downloaded emails via the POP3 protocol, it’s crucial you back up your emails as they may only be stored on your PC.
The good news is that your emails are likely stored in your user account’s AppData folder, so they’ll be automatically backed up if you back up your entire user folder. You may still want to check the location of your email files just to ensure they’re backed up, however. Here’s how to find the location where Outlook stores your emails.
Any other personal data and settings that aren’t located in your user account folder should be backed up, if you care about it. For example, you may want to back up application settings that are located in the C:\ProgramData folder for some applications.
PC games in particular have files all over the place. Many games synchronize their save files online using Steam Cloud or a similar service, so they won’t need backups. Many store their save games in your Documents or AppData folders, while others dump their save games in C:\ProgramData or another location, like somewhere in your Steam folder. The PCGamingWiki website has a good database of games with information about whether they synchronize their save games or not and exactly where their save files are located on your PC.
Ensure whatever data you care about—whether it’s your family photos, settings for a mission-critical application, or save games for that RPG you’ve been playing for 100 hours—is backed up.
Files You Shouldn’t Back Up
There’s never a reason to back up your Windows directory or Program Files folder. Leave these folders alone.
The Windows directory contains Windows system files, and they aren’t portable between different PC hardware. Windows will set up these files when it’s installed on a new PC, so you don’t need them.
The Program Files folder contains files for your installed applications. You usually can’t just copy these folders over. You’ll have to reinstall most applications from scratch, so there’s generally no point in backing up this folder.
A handful of programs can be simply moved between PCs. For example, you can back up your Steam or Battle.net directories and copy them over to a new PC, saving the big download of these games. However, even these folders aren’t critical to back up. They can make setting up a new PC faster and save some of download time, but they aren’t full of critical files you can never get back. You can always just reinstall your programs, so they aren’t the priority if you’re limited on space.
Back Up Regularly.
Once you’ve started backing up your files, you should continue creating regular backups. Back up your files daily, if possible. This will be a fast process if you back up regularly, as your backup tool will just back up the few personal files that have changed.
Automating your backups helps ensure those backups get performed regularly. That’s one reason why online backup solutions are so good. They can be configured to automatically back up your PC every day when you aren’t using your computer, so you won’t even have to think about it.
Everyone loses data at some point in their lives. Your computer’s hard drive could fail tomorrow, ransomware could hold your files hostage, or a software bug could delete your important files. If you’re not regularly backing up your computer, you could lose those files forever.
Backups don’t have to be hard or confusing, though. You’ve probably heard about countless different backup methods, but which one is right for you? And what files do you really need to back up?
It’s All About Your Personal Data
Let’s start with the obvious: what do you need back up? Well, first and foremost, you need to back up your personal files.
You can always reinstall your operating system and redownload your programs if your hard drive fails, but your own personal data is irreplaceable.
Any personal documents, photos, home videos, and any other data on your computer should be backed up regularly. Those can never be replaced.
If you’ve spent hours painstakingly ripping audio CDs or video DVDs, you may want to back those files up, so you don’t have to do all that work over again.
Your operating system, programs, and other settings can also be backed up. You don’t have to back them up, necessarily, but it can make your life easier if your entire hard drive fails. If you’re the type of person that likes to play around with system files, edit the registry, and regularly update your hardware, having a full system backup may save you time when things go wrong.
The Many Ways to Back Up Your Files
There are many ways to back up your data, from using an external drive to backing up those files on a remote server over the Internet. Here are the strengths and weaknesses of each:
While backup programs like BackBlaze and cloud storage services like Dropbox are both online backups, they work in fundamentally different ways. Dropbox is designed to sync your files between PCs, while BackBlaze and similar services are designed to backup large amounts of files. BackBlaze will keep multiple copies of different versions of your files, so you can restore the file exactly as it was from many points in its history. And, while services like Dropbox are free for small amounts of space, BackBlaze’s low price is for as big a backup as you want. Depending on how much data you have, one could be cheaper than the other.
BackBlaze and Carbonite do have one big limitation you should keep in mind. If you delete a file on your computer, it will be deleted from your online backups after 30 days. You can’t go back and recover a deleted file or the previous version of a file after this 30 day period. So be careful when deleting those files if you might want them back!
One Backup Isn’t Enough: Use Multiple Methods
So which should you use? Ideally, you’d use at least two of them. Why? Because you want both offsite and onsite backups.
“Onsite” literally means backups stored at the same physical location as you. So, if you back up to an external hard drive and store that at home with your home PC, that’s an onsite backup.
Offsite backups are stored at a different location. So, if you back up to an online server, like BackBlaze or Dropbox, that’s an offsite backup.
Onsite backups are faster and easier, and should be your first line of defense against data loss. If you lose files, you can quickly restore them from an external drive. But you shouldn’t rely on onsite backups alone. If your home burns down or all the hardware in it is stolen by thieves, you’d lose all your files.
Offsite backups don’t have to be a server on the Internet, either, and you don’t have to pay a monthly subscription for one. You could back up your files to a hard drive and store it at your office, at a friend’s house, or in a bank vault, for example. It’d be a bit more inconvenient, but that’s technically an offsite backup.
Similarly, you could also store your files in Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive and performing regular backups to an external drive. Or you could use BackBlaze to back up online and Windows File History to create a local backup. There are a lot of ways to use these services in tandem, and it’s up to you how to do it. Just make sure you have a solid backup strategy, with onsite and offsite backups, so you have a wide safety net against ever losing your files.
All that may sound complicated, but the more you automate your backup system, the more frequently you’ll be able to back up and the greater the odds you’ll stick with it. That’s why you should use an automated tool instead of copying files to an external drive by hand.
You can just set it up once, and forget it.
That’s one reason we really like online services like BackBlaze. If it’s backing up to the internet, it can automatically do that every single day. If you have to plug in an external drive, you have to put in more effort, which means you’ll back up less often and you may eventually stop doing it. Keeping everything automatic is well worth the price.
If you don’t want to pay anything and want to primarily rely on local backups, consider using a file-syncing service like Dropbox, Google Drive, or Microsoft OneDrive to synchronize your important files online. That way, if you ever lose your local backup, you’ll at least have an online copy.
Ultimately, you just need to think about where your files are and ensure you have multiple copies at all times. Ideally, those copies should be in more than one physical location. As long as you’re actually thinking about what you’ll do if your computer dies, you should be way ahead of most people.
We may be living in the future, but sending large files over the web remains…complicated. Email is a terrible way to send files over 1GB, and using cloud-based services like Dropbox or Google Drive means filling limited space on a service, and you’ve got to manage permissions or accept that your link might be handed off to third parties.
Firefox Send, the latest experiment from Mozilla, attempts to solve this problem with one-time transfers of large files. Just click and drag any file up to 2GB using the web-based interface, in Firefox or Chrome. The file is encrypted, uploaded, and you’ll get a one-time link for sharing. Send the link to the person you want to share the file with. After the file is downloaded it will be deleted from Mozilla’s servers, meaning no one else can download it. It’s Snapchat, but for file sharing.
Firefox calls this an experiment, and it shows. In our tests this was occasionally a little flaky: some files took an unreasonably long time, and even ultimately failed. Others were speedy and worked just fine. Still, it’s an interesting idea and worth checking out.
Uploading and Sharing a File With Firefox Send
Getting started is simple: just open up Firefox or Chrome, ensuring your browser is up to date. Then head to send.firefox.com.
You can click the blue box to select a file, or you can drag a file to your browser window from your computer’s file manager.
Once you do this the site will locally verify and encrypt your file before uploading it to the Firefox Send servers.
Verifying and encrypting may take a while depending on your processor, and uploading might take a while depending on your internet connection and the file’s size. However long it takes, you’ll eventually get a link.
Share this with your friend. Remember: the file can only be downloaded once, so don’t bother sending the link to multiple people.
We had better luck with downloads working using Firefox, but Chrome should work as well.
Once the file has been downloaded once it cannot be downloaded again, freeing up space on Mozilla’s servers while also ensuring you data stays secure.
It’s not a perfect experiment, but it is an interesting one. Check out howtogeek list of file sharing services if you’d like to try out something else.
Decay and decomposition are part of nature. Weather, bugs, fungus, and microorganisms take their toll, chemical bonds break apart, and physical damage (drops, falls, cave-ins) can occur. Let's just call it entropy. As living things, we are always fighting against a state of disorder in the universe, and that goes for everything we create as well.
If you follow these tips, you'll already be a step ahead of entropy as it tries to break down and destroy your prized electronic devices. We may never be able to halt the decay process entirely, but we can at least slow it down so that future generations can have a better understanding of the gadgets that shaped the world we live in.
Remove Batteries of Every Kind
Alkaline batteries (upper-right photo) are the bane of every gadget collector. That's because they almost always leak a caustic substance, potassium hydroxide, when they completely discharge. It can happen even if a device is turned off, so if you're not using a toy or gadget for longer than a week, make sure you remove the batteries. Otherwise, the potassium hydroxide will cause corrosion and serious damage to their surrounding circuitry. It can also eat its way up a wire and into a completely different area of a circuit board.
Many devices with battery-backed RAM (to save settings, etc.) or internal clocks use small internal batteries (usually lithium), and sometimes they come soldered to the PC board. While lithium batteries do not leak as often as alkalines, they still represent a ticking chemical time bomb. Remove, clip off, or desolder those embedded batteries before they leak and destroy the surrounding circuitry.
The same thing goes for vintage laptops and portable computers, which typically used rechargable NiCd cells. Remove battery packs and isolate them in plastic bags before they inevitably leak. If necessary, safe the plastic battery pack casing so you can rebuild it with fresh cells in the future.
Mind the Plastics and Avoid UV Light
Plastics are physically durable in the short term, which has given them a reputation of being nearly indestructible. But the enemy of plastic durability lies within—most plastics are actually volatile compounds in a state of slow chemical breakdown. Different ratios of fire retardants, colorants, or hardeners added during the manufacturing process can accelerate or hinder this process.
As with the case of the Super NES seen here, a sure sign of plastic breakdown is discoloration. Plastics often discolor when exposed to UV light—or merely oxidation—over time. Both UV and oxygen drastically accelerate the chemical breakdown process.
Strong sources of UV include fluorescent light bulbs and the sun, so keep your prized gadgets in the dark and away from windows. Meanwhile, older discolored plastics can become brittle and pose a breaking hazard, so handle them gingerly. Early 1990's Macintosh computer cases in particular like to both discolor and break apart.
One potential remedy for discoloration is called Retrobright (see inset photo with solution applied), but prevention is just as important.
In the long term, our reliance on plastic goods represents a preservation nightmare that will surely haunt archivists for generations to come.
Remove or Replace Capacitors
Along with batteries, electrolytic capacitors represent the primary source of electronic circuit damage from failing components. Over time, almost all electrolytic capacitors fail, and that can manifest itself in a loud smoky pop with the capacitor literally bursting when powered up. Or the plague may be silent as they leak their electrolytes all over a PC board, damaging circuitry (or making shorts across traces) without making a peep. A sure sign of a failing capacitor is a canister bugled out top, as seen in the photo. Another sign is a tiny dried puddle of clear fluid sitting at its base on the circuit board.
If you have a prized electronic device over 20 years old and you want to use it again some day, consider preemptively removing its capacitors—or replacing them with fresh ones as soon as you can—before they leak and irreversibly damage surrounding circuitry.
Avoid Water, Humidity, and Heat
As a computer collector in the southern United States, humidity is my No. 1 enemy. It allows two terrible destructive forces to take hold: corrosion and mold. Mold is especially problematic, as it can ruin cloth, paper, label adhesives, leather, vinyl, leatherette, plastic, or rubber surfaces, including those seen on the plastic wire insulation of the NES AC adapter above.
Once mold gets established, it is very hard to control, because its rugged roots can lay dormant until the conditions are right—usually when the humidity is over 60 percent and the temperature is also over 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Then fruiting bodies grow (see tiny inset), and the mold ejects spores into the air that land on exposed surfaces, and the cycle starts again. The growth effect can be exponential if left unchecked, creating a human breathing hazard, and mold's digestive byproducts can potentially decay whatever they colonize.
Avoid this by keeping your prized electronics clean and dust-free in a cool, dry place. Keep them covered with archival paper products if possible. To control humidity, I use electric dehumidifiers that run 365 days a year, and I pair that with a HEPA air filter to reduce spores in the air and the dust that they can feed on (more on that in a minute).
While you're at it, avoid extremes of heat and cold in general. Expansion and contraction can cause materials such as plastic and metal to crack and warp or become brittle over time.
Seal Gaps Against Pests
Tiny critters love small, dark holes. This includes insects like crickets and roaches, web-weaving spiders, pungent millipedes, and small rodents such as mice. Once they're in there, things get nasty: they could create potentially dangerous electric shorts, chew on wires, or impede airflow with excrement, nests, or webs.
So as you store your electronics in a cool, dark, dry place, try to cover all potential points of pest entry with archival tape (if the surface is suitable and cleanable, such as polished stainless steel) or enclose the entire gadget in an archival safe paperboard box or paper bag so pests don't get inside. The paperboard box needs to stay dry or it will become a breeding ground for mold. Also, low humidity discourages the incursion of termites seeking cardboard boxes, which I have also had trouble with in the past.
I recommend against using plastic bags for sealing because they will eventually degrade and outgas chemicals that can react with your equipment (especially other plastics), and will do so much more quickly if kept in a hot environment. Plastic bags, created for temporary use, are horribly unstable.
Remove and Isolate Rubber Components
Plastics are unstable, as we've already learned, but rubber even more so. Generally, the softer the rubber, the quicker it will break down and decay. Some rubber components like the feet on the bottom of a metal case (seen above) will eventually get oozy and chemically melt even in a room temperature environment, but heat definitely accelerates the process. This ooze can then get on other nearby devices if stacked, and it is very hard to remove.
Another source of potential breakdown are rubber belts used in older cassette tape players, record players, VCRs, and disk drives. They eventually get brittle and break as well. It's best to remove them for long-term storage, and then replace with freshly made rubber belts when you want to use them again.
Minimize and Control Dust
We've already talked about mold, and another problem that goes hand-in-hand with invasive fungus is dust. Dust, which is usually an organic byproduct from human skin or fabrics, provides nutrients for mold, fungi, and bacteria that, once established, may excrete waste byproducts that could damage circuitry or plastics. Dust also increases the raw surface area for mold spores to settle onto and take hold.
Beyond problems with mold, dust can also soak up moisture from the air like a sponge and concentrate it on a specific area, increasing the likelihood of rust or corrosion. So disassemble your gadgets and give them a good cleaning regularly, and try to control free-floating dust in the air with an ambient HEPA air filter (seen here), which can also reduce the concentration of mold spores. Also, dust regularly to keep exposed surfaces as clean as possible.
All these steps may seem drastic, but everything breaks down eventually. If you follow these rules, you'll be sure to give your prized vintage electronics a much longer lifespan.
Whenever antivirus software is mentioned, someone always seems to chime up and say they don’t need an antivirus because they’re “careful”, and “common sense is all you need”. This isn’t true. No matter how smart think you are, you can still benefit from an antivirus on Windows.
The idea that antivirus software is only necessary for irresponsible Windows users is a myth, and a dangerous one to spread. In an age where zero-day vulnerabilities are found and sold to organized crime with alarming frequency, even the most careful of users are vulnerable.
Being Smart Only Helps So Much
Many people think that you can only get malware by downloading suspicious files, running unpatched software, visiting sketchy websites, and doing other irresponsible things like having the Java plug-in enabled in your web browser. But while this is certainly the most common way to pick up malware, it is not the only way malware can spread.
howtogeek have previously written about “zero-day” exploits—vulnerabilities that the bad guys find first. Ones we don’t know about, which we can’t protect ourselves from. At events like Pwn2Own and Pwnium, contestants are challenged to compromise fully patched software like Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Adobe Flash, and more for a financial reward. These browsers and plug-ins inevitably fall as the contestants use unpatched security flaws to crack their security.
These flaws are corrected as soon as they’re found, but new ones inevitably pop up.
In other words, your computer could be infected just from you visiting a website. Even legitimate websites you trust can be compromised—through advertisers or some other vulnarability—and this happens with alarming frequency these days.
Antivirus Is Your Final Layer of Protection
An antivirus is your final layer of protection. If a website uses a security flaw in your browser or a plug-in like Flash to compromise your computer, it will often attempt to install malware—keyloggers, Trojans, rootkits, and all sorts of other bad things. These days, malware is the domain of organized crime looking to gather financial information and harness your computer for botnets.
If a zero-day in a piece of software you use does give the bad guys an opportunity to get malware onto your system, an antivirus is your last layer of defense. It may not protect you against the zero-day flaw, but it will likely catch and quarantine that malware before it can do any damage. It shouldn’t be your only layer of protection (browsing carefully is still important), but it absolutely needs to be one of your layers of protection. And there’s no good reason not to run an antivirus on Windows.
Why Wouldn’t You Run an Antivirus?
Some people believe that antivirus software is heavy and slows down your computer. This is certainly true for some antivirus programs. Older Norton and McAfee antivirus software suites were infamous for slowing down your computer more than actual viruses would. Even some modern antivirus programs are full of notifications and inducements to keep paying for a subscription and buy more expensive security suites, just as adware annoys you with requests to buy products.
However, things have gotten a lot better. Computers have become so fast that antivirus software doesn’t weigh them down like it used to. Furthermore, the antivirus we recommend on Windows--Microsoft’s built-in Windows Defender—is far lighter on resources, and doesn’t contain any of the extra junkware, ads, or paid upgrades other antivirus suites do. It doesn’t try to sell you anything at all—it just does its job. We also recommend installing Malwarebytes alongside Windows Defender for extra protection when browsing—it’s lightweight and hassle-free just like Defender is.
(Windows Defender is not included on Windows 7—but you can download it as Microsoft Security Essentials.)
Most importantly, since Windows Defender doesn’t need hack-y workarounds to hook itself into your system (since it’s made by Microsoft as part of the system), it’s actually safer than other antivirus programs on the market. Win-win.
As such, there’s no reason not to use Windows Defender—unless you just want to brag online that you’re too smart for an antivirus
You Should Still Be Careful
An antivirus is only a single layer of security. No antivirus program is perfect, as all the antivirus tests show nothing catches all malware all of the time. if you don’t exercise caution, you may become infected by malware even if you’re using an antivirus (Of course, performing scans with other antivirus programs may help find malware your antivirus suite can’t find.)
Be careful about the files you download and run, keep your software updated, uninstall vulnerable software like Java, and more—but don’t drop your antivirus defenses completely just because you’re being careful. A zero-day in your browser, a plugin like Flash, or Windows itself could open the door to infection, and an antivirus is your last layer of protection.
Malware isn’t what it used to be—much of it is created by organized crime to capture financial information and other sensitive data. Antivirus software helps you stay ahead of the bad guys by a little bit more, and it’s worth using.
Of course, this advice only applies to Windows. Linux computers don’t need antivirus software, and the reported threat of Android malware has been overblown as long as you play it safe. Windows is still the wild west in many ways, and even Macs have recently been brought to their knees — by Java security flaws, of course.
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