We all want our computers to last forever, but if yours seem to die before its time, your habits could be to blame. Here's some behavior that you should avoid.
Nothing lasts forever—especially tech—but your computer can last you quite a few years if you treat it well. If your laptop tends to break down earlier than you feel it should, there's a chance you're helping it along to an early demise with some especially bad habits. Here are some of the worst things you can do to a PC without even realizing you're doing anything wrong.
Disregarding Overheating Problems
Heat is your computer's mortal enemy. If your computer gets too hot, the processor may slow down, throttling itself to keep temperatures reasonable, or even shutting down completely. Running at high temperatures for extended periods can also reduce the lifespan of your processor, fans, and battery—not to mention make your computer loud and sizzling to touch.
For desktop computers, the solution is pretty simple: make sure your case has adequate airflow, with enough vents and fans to keep cool air moving through the components. Keep it out of tight cabinets and other spaces that trap heat. You probably want to clean out the dust once in a while with an electric duster (more on that below).
Laptops, on the other hand, require a bit more care. Their portability leads to a lot of bad habits, like putting it on a blanket or other plush surface. This blocks airflow under the laptop, and potentially through the laptop (if the blanket covers the fan vents).
When possible, use your laptop on a flat surface (where the rubber feet usually raise it up off a desk), or at least make sure your lap is free of blankets and other things that can block airflow. Lap desks are a good way to ensure things stay cool.
Other than that, the same rules apply to laptops as desktops: Don't leave it in hot places (like a car on a sunny day) and blow out the dust once in a while. If you’re overclocking, take extra care to watch those voltages and temps. It's also always a good idea to monitor CPU temperature just in case.
Letting Dirt, Dust, and Liquids Run Wild
All computers accumulate some dust over time, heating up the components and making those fans work harder. While cleaning it regularly can help, you also want to prevent stuff from getting into your computer in the first place.
For example, cigarette smoke and pet fur will exacerbate those problems, and putting your desktop PC on the floor will ensure more of that dust, hair, and debris will get sucked into the intake. And if you have carpet on your floor, you’re probably blocking the power supply’s intake fan. Keep your computer on a desk or other riser, if at all possible, and make sure there are filters on your intake fans.
Secondly, don’t eat or drink near your PC, or at least take some care when you do. Getting crumbs in your keyboard is not only disgusting, but it can damage the switches or make certain keys harder to press. And I’m sure you’ve heard enough horror stories about people spilling coffee on their laptops, which can straight up destroy it.
Even well-intentioned moves, like cleaning your screen with Windex, can introduce liquid where it shouldn’t be (also, Windex is too harsh for your monitor). Spray your gentle screen cleaner on a microfiber cloth, not on the screen, and don’t go crazy—a little goes a long way.
Handling Your Laptop Carelessly
While desktops have the luxury of sitting comfortably in your office, laptops are subject to all sorts of abuse. And the more you abuse it, the more likely you are to damage something.
I've seen people pick up laptops by its display, open the hinge from one side with way too much force, and toss their PC onto the couch from the other side of the room. (Sure, a couch is rather soft, but one day, you're going to miss, and you'll be sorry.) I've even seen people use closed laptops as a coaster for their drink! This kind of treatment could leave you with a worn-out laptop hinge or a crack in the casing.
But if your laptop has a traditional spinning hard drive instead of an SSD, tossing or shaking the computer—especially if the drive is active at the time—can cause its head to dislocate or touch the surface of the disk. It isn't common, but if that happens, you're going to have a bad day, especially if you haven't backed up your data.
Your laptop is an expensive piece of property, so it's important that you treat it as such.
Mismanaging Your Old Battery
ust because your laptop's battery starts with "eight hours of battery life" doesn't mean it'll stay that way forever. Batteries degrade over time—you may get eight hours on a full charge when you first buy it, but after a few years, that may degrade to six or seven hours.
There's no escaping this decline, but you may be degrading it faster than necessary if you always run your laptop down to 0%. Follow our tips for better battery management, and check out the battery health report in Windows to keep track of your battery's charge history.
To prolong your battery's long-term health, it's best to perform shallow discharges, and recharge it frequently. Don't over-stress about this—if you're on a plane and need to work, an occasional discharge won't kill your battery—but over time, it's best to err on the side of charging regularly than running it down to empty.
You should, however, stress out if your battery is swollen. If your battery is bulging so much that it’s pushing against the case of your laptop, creating a gap between the panels, you need to stop using your computer now and (safely) replace the battery, lest you encounter an explosive failure. (Here's more on that.)
When you replace the battery, don’t buy a cheap knockoff from eBay; buy it from the manufacturer or a respected third-party store. Low-quality batteries will, at best, not hold a charge very well, and at worst, can be dangerous. The same goes for third-party chargers—just stick to the manufacturer’s official offering or, in the case of laptops that charge over USB-C, a certified USB-PD charger.
Disregarding Electrical Safety
Your PC draws a sizable amount of power, and it's susceptible to damage from power surges—small, temporary increases in voltage coming through the power line. These can happen after power outages, from turning on another high-power device in your home, or because of an unreliable power grid in your city.
The power supply inside your PC includes some basic surge protection, but you'll get longer-lasting protection from a dedicated surge protector. Note that this is different from a power strip, which provides multiple outlets without the protection from surges.
Be sure to replace it every three to five years, since that protection wears out over time—if yours is old, there's a good chance it's offering zero protection. Keep in mind that surge protectors won't protect against high-voltage spikes (like lightning), but it can protect you from smaller surges and extend the life of your PC.
If you have a few more dollars to spend, you might even want to get an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). This device contains a battery backup that prevents your PC from losing data during a sudden power outage.
Laptops require a bit more care due to their portability. While a desktop's power cable sits stationary for years at a time, your laptop cable goes with you everywhere, subject to kinking, hard yanks out of the wall, and other mishandling. This can not only make the cable unreliable, it can pose a fire hazard, so always pull the charger out of the wall from the plug, not the cable.
Stressing the Cables and Ports
While damaging a USB port or cable isn’t as dangerous as mishandling the power adapter, it can still cause avoidable damage to your computer. This may seem obvious, but don’t force cables into ports if they aren’t sliding in properly (I once knew someone who forced a USB cable into a FireWire port and broke both).
Similarly, if you leave something plugged in, take care not to bend it. If you have a flash drive in your laptop’s USB port, using your laptop cross-legged may bend the flash drive, damaging either the drive, the port, or both. And with USB ports at such a premium on today’s laptops, you definitely don’t want to ruin one of them.
The same goes for your cables. If you constantly make sharp bends back and forth, you’re more likely to break the connection inside, which can render the cable finicky or useless. Keep them away from hungry children and pets who might chew through the plastic, and when you coil them up, avoid wrapping them too tightly. Thankfully, a damaged cable is cheap to replace compared to your PC, but why waste money when you don’t have to?
Wasting Time on Unnecessary Maintenance
Back in the days of Windows XP, when hardware was limited and computers were slow, PC maintenance may have made a difference. But these days, deleting unused and temporary files is unlikely to give you a noticeable speed boost. Many "PC Cleaning" utilities are scams meant to scare you into buying their product—and the free, less scammy ones are still unnecessary most of the time.
Furthermore, certain types of "maintenance" may actually be harmful. Registry cleaners provide almost no benefit, but if they delete a registry entry you need, they can actually cause problems. Similarly, these new "privacy" apps that claim to stop Windows 10 from "spying" on you can break certain features without you knowing why. The internet is full of people confused about why something stopped working, only to find that it's the fault of one of these tools. You're better off going to Windows 10's settings, learning what they do, and tweaking them yourself.
If you want to clean up your hard drive, use Windows' built-in Disk Cleanup utility and delete any movies, music, and other files you aren't using. And if your computer is running unbearably slow, try removing startup programs or refreshing your PC—if that doesn't work, it's probably time to upgrade your hardware.
Browsing the Web Unprotected
Contrary to popular belief, "common sense," while very valuable, should not be your only malware protection. Even legitimate sites can become infected with malware, passing those problems on to you, so browsing carefully won't always save you. Instead, you need to use antivirus on your computer.
Thankfully, Microsoft's built-in Windows Defender feature has gotten quite good, after a few years of sub-par ratings. Just leave it on and let it do its job. If you want extra protection, a managed Antivirus/Malware like Emsisoft, Bitdefender, and Webroot will do the work
The free version is good if you just want to run an occasional scan, but the paid version includes always-running anti-exploit features that block potentially harmful sites before they make it to your screen. When used in conjunction with a traditional antivirus like Windows Defender, you'll be pretty well set on protection.
On top of that, other basic security practices still apply: keep your software up to date (both Windows and the programs you use), use a good password manager (instead of using the same password on every site), and learn how to spot phishing scams. Don’t pirate software (which often contains malware) and keep your home Wi-Fi secure with a WPA2 password.
It may seem trivial, but a bad piece of malware or ransomware can cause you a world of hurt.
Thanks: Zoran Milic, PCMAG.
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What's the difference between Windows 10 / 11 Home and Pro? When you're building or buying a PC.
Microsoft has offered a Pro version of Windows since the XP days, bringing with it additional features for power users that Home doesn’t offer. While many of the extra features of Windows 10 Pro are clearly designed for business use, like group policy management and domain binding, there are other features that an enthusiast might not be able to live without. Here's a breakdown of the most useful features that you get with Windows 10 Pro, as well as free alternatives, when applicable.
With Windows 10 Home, you're still able to start Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) sessions, but you can't remotely control your PC from another device on your network natively. Fortunately, there are many free options like TigerVNC and TeamViewer that offer the same functionality and even some additional features that RDP doesn’t offer. You could also try RDP Wrapper as a free alternative.
If you’re concerned about security and want to protect your data from intruders, Bitlocker provides full disk encryption so you can keep your data safe from hackers. The latest iteration of Bitlocker also allows for the encryption of individual files for more flexibility than the all-or-nothing approach of previous versions. Again, other software can accomplish similar encryption, but it's not built into the OS. Be sure to get an SSD (or HDD even) that supports the necessary hardware acceleration for Bitlocker if you don't want to lose performance.
Trusted Boot protects your PC from rootkits and works in conjunction with Secure Boot to help keep your system malware free and in your control by checking every component of the startup process before loading it. While it may provide peace of mind to any user, it’s another feature aimed at businesses where security is a top priority.
Normally, we'd just say don't run any suspicious files, but some people are curious. Does that anonymous download that claims to fix performance actually work? Or is it malware masquerading as a useful program? You could install a virtualization solution and run the program in a sandbox so it won't actually cause harm, or if you have Windows Pro you get that feature as part of the OS.
Hyper-V is a Windows-only hypervisor used for running virtual machines on CPUs that support virtualization. If you plan on running VMs, this feature might be worth the cost of Pro, but if virtualization is all you need, there are free products like Virtualbox that offer more features and work with multiple operating systems. While Hyper-V is included with your Windows 10 Pro license, it needs to be downloaded and installed separately.
Memory Limits and Business Features
Aside from the above features, there are some other differences between the two versions of Windows. Windows 10 Home supports a maximum of 128GB of RAM, while Pro supports a whopping 2TB.
The Managed Services angle
Other features like group policy management, Assigned Access, and the ability to join a domain are unlikely to be very useful outside of the workplace. Assigned Access allows an admin to lock down Windows and allow access to only one app under a specified user account. Group Policy meanwhile allows you to restrict access to any number of Windows features and configure any setting within the operating system. While this is great from an admin perspective and a good way to set a co-worker's wallpaper to something fun remotely, it’s very useful if you will use Managed Services environment from an IT company.
Windows Update for Business allows an admin to control and force when a system is updated and defer updates that may cause incompatibilities with legacy software or impact the business in some other way.
FYI: Windows 11 Home Will Require a Microsoft Account For Initial Setup
When you first install Windows 11 Home, you’ll be asked to sign in with a Microsoft account during the initial setup process. The installation won’t proceed unless you’re connected to the internet and you link a Microsoft account with Windows 11. Presumably, you’ll also have the option to create a new Microsoft account in case you don’t already have one.
Unlike with Windows 10 Home, you won’t be able to get around this requirement by disconnecting from the Internet before running the setup on your computer.
Microsoft makes more money if you use a Microsoft account. That account is your passport to buying apps in the Microsoft store, purchasing Microsoft 365 subscriptions, subscribing to cloud services such as OneDrive, and much more. Also, Microsoft gains valuable information by tracking your behavior across various Microsoft services.
Of course, this policy isn’t ideal for some people because having your every activity and purchase tracked and linked to a single account has deep privacy implications. Thankfully, it looks like Microsoft will be providing a few ways to get around this requirement.
You’ll still be able to create a local user account after getting through the initial install process with a Microsoft account.
Storage may be more affordable these days, but that doesn’t mean it’s unlimited. With games now taking up hundreds of gigabytes, Windows updates needing significantly more space than they used to, and photos that use 22 Megapixel per photo, you may find your drive filling up more often. Emptying your recycle bin is one of the quickest ways to free up space. But it doesn't end there. Fortunately, we have a few quick tricks to help you clear clutter for whatever you need.
Uninstall unnecessary apps and bloatware
This also may seem like a simple idea, but Windows comes with a bunch of applications and features that may be useless to you. Go into the App Settings window, and you'll be able to remove applications quickly through the menu there.
Third party tools like Revo Uninstaller can help in this task, and make it a 3-click affair. These tools can also delete any leftover files after using Window's solutions ensuring that everything is cleaned up.
Going to Settings > System > Storage, will offer you a chance to see how much space is being taken up by Temporary files or Downloads. Clicking on Temporary Files allows you to get a more granular understanding of the storage usage, and you can select the checkboxes, that apply when you press the “Remove files” button.
One extra way to take control of your space is to use Windows built-in Disk Cleanup utility. Disk Cleanup is part of the Windows Administrative Tools folder in your Start Menu, or you can just search for it within the menu.
Upon launch, choose the drive to clean up and the application will show all the items you can clean up, from temporary files to thumbnails, and system files like previous Windows installations (and Windows.old folders) and files needed for updates. Select what you want to delete, and hit “OK” to finish the task.
More recent versions of Windows 10 have an automated disk cleanup utility known as Storage Sense. Find it in the System Settings > Storage.
Setting up Storage Sense allows Windows to automatically delete temporary files as well as items in your downloads and Recycle Bin after a set period.
Default Save Locations
Windows sets the default save locations for documents, videos, pictures, downloads and other items to a folder on the drive Windows is installed on. Those who use a lean drive for the operating system, but other drives for games and files, will want to change this setting to free up space on the main drive.
Clicking the “Change where new content is saved” button will allow you to do that. This page will allow you to change the default save locations and even install locations for new files and apps.
OneDrive "Files On-Demand"
Those of you relying on OneDrive can also use a handy feature known as Files On-Demand. While the cloud drive account is handy for saving files in a centralized location, OneDrive also lets you use files in an online-only format, downloading the item when you need it, and deleting the local file when space is low.
To turn this feature on, go to your OneDrive settings, and check the box under Files On-Demand. Then when you see your OneDrive files, they will be presented in three different statuses: blue cloud files are only available online, items with a green checkmark in a white circle are locally stored files that will revert to the cloud when you run short on space, and files with a white checkmark in a green circle are locally stored, which won’t get reverted to the cloud.
If you have shared your PC with someone who no longer uses the device, you can delete their account along with the files and folders associated with them. This is done through the Account Settings.
Click on the Family & Other Users item on the sidebar, then select the account that is no longer in use. From there, click the Remove button which will trigger an extra dialogue about deleting the account and data. Once you decide to delete the account, you’ll be freeing up the space used by that user on your drive.
Hibernation is an energy efficient alternative to putting your computer to sleep. It writes your current system state to the drive, and allows you to turn off the PC and return to that state when you turn it back on. It also takes up several gigabytes of space. In order to disable it, open a command prompt as a administrator and type in the following:
powercfg /hibernate off
This will help save you plenty of storage, though Hibernate will be disabled. If you want to re-enable Hibernate, just open a command prompt as a administrator again and type enter the following: powercfg /hibernate on
Beyond Windows Tools
If these tips are too simple and aren't getting the job done, then it will be wise to get a disk analysis tool. There are a few options like WinDirStat or Space Sniffer which analyze a drive, and provide a visualization of what folders and files are taking up the most space.
These visualizations can better demonstrate how much space an application, program or game is using, and you can find large folders or files in specific locations that are sometimes hidden or hard to find.
This is a great way to find and delete temporary files from specific applications, or user data that's no longer necessary. For example, within the Windows AppData folder are caches and temporary files for browsers, messengers and game clients, which might be ripe for deletion. Other folders, can include temporary installers for AMDs or Nvidia's driver package installers.
If you need ideas of places where you might be able to regain some storage space, here's a few:
Sometimes Windows has a significant number of old and unnecessary files within its System folder. Using tools like DriverStore Explorer can help clear up cached and outdated drivers.
There is also a lot of space reserved for Windows Component Store Files (in \Windows\WinSxS), used in customizing and updating Windows, and system recovery operations. If you're desperate to clear some space, enter this in a command prompt:
dism.exe /Online /Cleanup-Image /StartComponentCleanup /ResetBase
This action will remove outdated files as well as verify and repair the latest system files. Performing this will impact your ability to roll back after an update though, but it can save significant amounts of space.
Finding and Deleting Duplicate Files
Clearing out file duplicates is a great way to free up space, but it isn't always the easiest process. Fortunately, there are a few third-party tools that can make the job easier.
CCleaner includes a duplicate file finder tool, as does Total Commander. Some applications specialize in finding and deleting duplicate files including CloneSpy, Wise Duplicate Finder, Duplicate Cleaner and DupScout.