How do I keep my new laptop new for as long as possible?
December 13, 2009 3:51 PM   Subscribe

How do I keep my new laptop new for as long as possible?

What tools and utilities should I run on to troubleshoot and minimize the risk of losing all my data yet again?

All I have though of so far is:
- scan for viruses using the antivirus software I have installed
- scan for viruses using another antivirus maker's free utility (something along the lines of Free Dr.Web)
- run Spybot Search and Destroy
- defragment

What am I missing?
posted by wet-raspberry to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Get a good backup system and use it.
posted by dfriedman at 3:58 PM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]

What is your operating system?

It sounds like you're a windows user so I'll just say: Any antivirus program + scan weekly with malwarebytes (spybot will not get everything). More important: don't install tons of programs that run in the background and keep your startup programs to an absolute minimum.
posted by tehloki at 4:00 PM on December 13, 2009

Backup your data! External hard drives are pretty cheap to begin with, and they will look far, far cheaper if your hard drive does crash and you lose all of your data. Is it worth risking it over $100?
posted by sah at 4:01 PM on December 13, 2009

On non-preview: I forgout about backups. Any laptop can be stolen, lost, or set on fire. Use dropbox (free version up to 2gb) to mirror your totally essential documents in the cloud for a pretty failsafe solution.
posted by tehloki at 4:01 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

I too came here to recommend data backups.
Mozy offers 2 GB free online backup. It is fairly simple to setup and use with their client.
posted by tresbizzare at 4:06 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, guys! I've gotten a pretty good hard drive that I'm currently using to back up my stuff. Unfortunately, I can't really back up my work files with an online service since I do graphical work and my files are way too heavy.
posted by wet-raspberry at 4:45 PM on December 13, 2009

If you have an external hard drive I'd recommend that you use software called SmartSync for backups. This assumes you're using Windows.
posted by dfriedman at 5:04 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Make sure Lappy's covered on your homeowner's or renter's insurance. On my policy, I think I pay an extra $10-15/month to cover all of my electronics. I dropped one of my laptops on another of my laptops while trying to transfer data from one to the other. Since my plan gives me full replacement value, it replaced both in full. It was really a lot less painless than it could have been. This plus data backup can have you pretty well covered as far as eventualities.

If you have any absolutely essential irreplaceable data, ask a trustworthy friend to back it up for you at his/her place. You can offer to do the same for that friend, and you'll both have pretty good off-site backup in case of fire or flood or something. A good way to do this might be to each keep a (some) thumb drive(s) at each other's places.
posted by The Potate at 5:38 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you have renter's insurance then make sure you get a full rider on it. Depending on the price/make, it will cost less than $30/year.
posted by special-k at 6:02 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Even if you do graphical work, an online backup might be worth looking into. I use JungleDisk with Amazon SSS; the charge is a few dollars per month for JungleDisk plus Amazon's fees. The latter were 15 cents/GB for upload and download, and 10 cents/GB for storage, when I signed up; they might have gone up a bit but if so, not much, based on my monthly statements. JungleDisk breaks down files into blocks and only transfers those that have changed, so even large files can be transferred quickly and efficiently if only a few parts have changed.

I have about 50 GB stored on Amazon's servers and I consider it money well spent to protect my valuable data.

It's also vital to have a bootable mirror of your hard drive. That way, if your laptop goes the way of all silicon, you can get a replacement and be up and running again in minutes. An ideal backup solution for someone whose livelihood depended on their data would involve regular (at least daily, if not more frequent) backups of essential data files to the cloud, or to a local HD, combined with frequent (at least weekly) mirrors to two drives, one of which is always kept offsite.

Beyond that: every computer wears out at some point, but you can take care to minimize the chance of damage. I usually use my laptops for 4 years before getting a new one, though sometimes I'm alternating between two. I am careful about putting them in padded cases before carrying them around, not eating next to them (and keeping coffee cups, etc., far away), avoiding sudden temperature changes, making sure cables are not somewhere they could yank the computer off its work surface should a klutz pass by (including myself). My 1999 PowerBook is still bootable, though it doesn't run any of the software that I now need for my work.
posted by brianogilvie at 6:25 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Don't forget about physical maintenance! Once a week use an air duster to get any stray bits out of the keyboard and other nooks and crannies, and use a screen wipe on the screen and keyboard. Also, resist the temptation to eat or drink near your laptop!
posted by radioamy at 7:05 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Heat is the #1 killer of laptops and desktops over a longer period of time. Get a laptop stand and get that thing off the desk. Better yet, get a good USB powered laptop cooling fan. I bought one on for $13 and when I'm done using my laptop after a few hours, it feels like it was never turned on. Heat will break down your componentry and wear down circuitry. Keep things cool and you'll get many more years from your machine.
posted by Detuned Radio at 10:33 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Separate your OS and applications from your data as much as possible. Ideally this would mean a separate physical drive, but since it's a laptop, you're probably looking at partitions. Keep one small partition for OS and programs, and the rest for data. Maybe make another partition to try Linux while you're at it? ;) Most programs give you the ability to export your settings to some sort of file. Then, when the inevitable slowness starts creeping up, simply reinstall the OS and all your software. If everything goes well, you will be right back where you started minus the slowness. If not, then you have all the data backed up somewhere else anyway, right?
posted by scose at 12:17 AM on December 14, 2009

"How do I keep my new laptop new for as long as possible?"

Put in sealed box, away from the sun, moon, water, and all dirt. Open in X years with white gloves in controlled environment. Push power button gently.

OK, seriously (and apologies for the snark).

Physically speaking, taking a laptop anywhere means you're exposing it to dust, dirt, and so on. Keep it inside as much as possible. Do a good dusting with an air duster every so often, keep food and drinks away, keep hands clean while using the laptop. Keep the computer at an angle that allows heat to dissipate. And so on.

And recognize that laptops, like all computers, eventually die.

MalwareBytes rocks - saved my computer from a reinstall. Adaware / Spybot / AVG didn't catch the problem that didn't cause explorer.exe to fail opening up...
posted by chrisinseoul at 12:54 AM on December 14, 2009

Regarding defragmenting: defragging speeds up disk reads, but it does nothing to increase hard drive life, on the contrary, it increases the wear on the hard drive, and thus reduces the lifespan of the disk. Also, the act of defragging actually increases the fragmentation of files as the filesystem gets full by creating awkward sized free space on the drive (which is fixed when you defrag again, but the point is that it would not get that fragmented if you had not been using a defragmenter in the first place).
posted by idiopath at 1:33 PM on December 14, 2009

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