Can computers live forever?
February 27, 2008 4:47 PM   Subscribe

Computer maintenance 101: Just bought a Thinkpad T61. How do i make it go forever?

Just bought my first laptop and don't know anything about computers.

Protecting the software:
- Mozy + Ad-Aware + Anti-virus + external hard drive. What am i missing?

Protecting the hardware:
- sleeve enough or do i need a "laptop bag?"
- I travel with it multiple times a day to coffeshops and other liquid/dirt heavy places. Best way to clean spills/smudges on the screen, etc. in case the inevitable happens?
posted by doppleradar to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If you want it to last forever then make the account you are using a limited user. Use that limited account as your daily account. Create an administrator account for installing/upgrading software and making system changes. Never stay logged in as administrator unless you have to. Now youre instantly invulnerable to 99.9% of all malware and viruses.
posted by damn dirty ape at 5:29 PM on February 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

How do i make it go forever?

Turn it on, uninstall most of the crap that's on it, reboot, and then don't touch it. Seriously.

My Windows Server 2k3 system has almost a year of continuous uptime now, but only because I got it set up just right, and I DON'T TOUCH IT.

Practically, here would be some good baseline rules:

1. Buy the extended warranty from the manufacturer. Laptops are almost the only time these pay. You want it. Hit Lenovo's website and buy three years.
2. Don't set drinks near your laptop. A drink near a laptop has some statistical chance of ending up on the laptop, so the fewer you have near it, the fewer you can have in it.
3. I carry mine in a backpack with a built-in laptop sleeve that keeps the system right next to my back. Works for me.
4. Don't loan it to anyone for any reason. Nobody has the same respect for your stuff that you do. Laptops don't hold up well to lending.
5. Don't install something that looks like it might be fun to use. Crapware will mess up your Windows install more than anything else, including viruses if you're reasonably protected. I'll only install a program if I'm sure I'll use it, and I've Googled it and found that it doesn't do nasty things to my PC down the road.
posted by SlyBevel at 5:31 PM on February 27, 2008

If you travel with it several times a day, you'll probably want a bag, not just a sleeve.

Definitely get the extended warranty, and plan for things to start breaking once it expires. Laptops don't "go forever" -- they are consumables.

Back up religiously.
posted by jjg at 5:35 PM on February 27, 2008

Things fall apart. Fans and batteries will go bad--it's only a matter of time. Hard drives fail. Displays and optical drives last longer, but not forever. In fact, anything with moving parts will wear out, and plenty of other components besides. The good news is that, as laptops go, Thinkpads are pretty durable and user-serviceable, and replacement parts are readily available.
posted by box at 5:38 PM on February 27, 2008

uninstall most of the crap that's on it,
Careful with this though -- the ThinkPads don't have much crap pre-loaded, to be honest, and a lot of what's there is good: the Access IBM stuff is activated with the blue function keys, and is handy for tasks like quickly turning the wifi on and off (on my X31 -- yours might have a switch for that). Apart from that, everything SlyBevel said.
posted by bonaldi at 5:46 PM on February 27, 2008

Buy at least one spare laptop to ghoul for parts, download the service manual and back everything up. 2nd'ing Mozy. Only thing I can think of to add to your software is Crap Cleaner, for tying up loose registry ends and the occasional lost temp file.

As far as a case, I'm going to pimp Pelican, particularly the 1080, if it fits the T61 - It won't fit my T40, unfortunately, or I'd have one myself - Their cases in general are top notch, however. Search around for the best price.
posted by Orb2069 at 6:01 PM on February 27, 2008

Best answer: This machine will get aged out when the operating system becomes too heavy. Eventually you'll want to run Linux (or something else) that you can customize and pare down just to what you use. THEN it'll remain usable forever.
posted by rhizome at 6:22 PM on February 27, 2008

I just bought a T61 myself. I think the Clean Install Guides at the Lenovo forum will come in very handy when I do reinstall everything in a couple of weeks (would have done it when I first got it last week but needed to use it ASAP). Even though Lenovo isn't too bad in terms of installing tons of bloatware, you may not need all of the ThinkVantage applications. They use up a lot of system resources, resources that could be put to better use.

Oh, and do you know about the neat little Thinkpad features like the Thinklight? Hit Fn + Pageup. Nifty, eh?
posted by roomwithaview at 6:30 PM on February 27, 2008

If you want to do things the right way, partition the drive into a Windows + applications partition, and a data (documents, music, etc.) partition. Install Windows and all your essential applications. Remove all the crap. Move "My Documents" and all your other personal files to the 2nd partition. Get Acronis True Image Home, and use it to burn a recovery CD/DVD of the Windows + applications partition. That way, if anything becomes fubar, you can restore your operating system and all your applications to pristine shape in minutes, without touching your personal data.
posted by limon at 6:31 PM on February 27, 2008

Best answer: is a nice place to find t61-specific info.

Get the warranty unless you baby everything you own.

The thinkpad has a Rescue and Recovery function so you can make backups (but you should use mozy too) and basically image your hard drive. Use it once you get the thing dialed in with your favorite programs and settings. Restore to that backup when the computer gets messed up -- all your data/files will be on mozy so you won't lose them. Just make sure you get a successful backup to mozy immediately before restoring...
posted by powpow at 7:35 PM on February 27, 2008

Best answer: Buy at least one spare laptop to ghoul for parts, download the service manual

This doesn't go well with the OP's "Just bought my first laptop and don't know anything about computers." The Thinkpads do come apart nicely, but if you're not handy with computers, don't go taking your laptop apart!

The Thinkpads are also well built and durable. I think you made a good choice. We run a whole line of Thinkpads around here.

A few bits of advice:

- You frequent coffeeshops. It's practically inevitable that someone's going to spill liquid in your computer. If this happens, turn it off immediately, flip it over to 'drain,' and pull out the battery as an extra precaution. ("Off" isn't entirely off.) This happened to a friend last week, actually. I happened to be right there, and we just forced the machine off (hold down the power button), flipped 'er over, pulled out the battery, and came back about ten minutes later to look at the damage. I opened it up, and found that nothing got wet. The keyboard is designed to catch most liquid, so it all drained out. We just had to clean the keyboard.

- You clean windows with paper towels and Windex. You do not clean computer monitors this way. Go to Staples or CompUSA or Best Buy and buy some screen-cleaning stuff, a microfiber cloth and some spray. (Which I'm convinced is just purified water, but it works.) Never spray liquids directly into your monitor, of course. And don't push hard on the screen. But spray a little cleaner onto the microfiber cloth and you'll keep a beautiful screen. It cost me maybe $7 and has lasted several of us a couple years so far.

Computer screens have anti-glare coatings. Glass cleaner will take it off. Don't ever, ever use anything not specifically designed for computer monitors.

- Get a can of that canned air. Once a week or so, I use it for cleaning. (This may be overkill... I'm a neat freak.) Hold it upright (or else it's freeze spray and frankly dangerous), and use short, powerful blasts of air. You can get all the crumbs out of your keyboard, and also keep the side ports clean. You can also blast out the fan, which builds up dust over time. Do this before cleaning your screen, because your screen will get dirty in the process.

- The Thinkpad's got a strange surface on its top... When it starts to look really nasty from your fingerprints, the screen-cleaning stuff can work.... I've actually had good luck with ArmorAll, although it makes it shiny for about an hour.

- Find the ThinkVantage Software Update thing and run it periodically... It'll pull down updated drivers and the like.

- Read up on battery life. It's bad for the battery to run it plugged in but with the battery all the time. You can do some stuff to mitigate this, like not keeping it plugged in all the time, and tweaking the battery software settings to maximize life, not runtime.
posted by fogster at 7:36 PM on February 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

"Off" isn't entirely off. -- I was referring to power: turning the machine "off" doesn't kill all voltage inside. Remove the battery as an added precaution.

some screen-cleaning stuff, a microfiber cloth and some spray. -- The comma should be a colon: the screen-cleaning stuff is cloth and spray.

posted by fogster at 7:39 PM on February 27, 2008

Writing from a new T61 right now. Out of the box, it has one of the cleanest installs of "extra stuff" I've seen in a long time.

Therefore, I'm seconding roomwithaview - the ThinkVantage stuff and the driver set for BlueTooth all actually works. This is the first laptop I've used where BlueTooth just works. So if I were you, I wouldn't be ripping too much stuff off of it.

The ThinkVantage menu even has a "Rejuvenate your System" option that looks friendly yet ominous at the same time, but should be able to be used right to refresh to o/s.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 7:57 PM on February 27, 2008

Be careful with the canned air and fans; you don't want to spin up computer fans to high speeds or you can burn them out.
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:47 AM on February 28, 2008

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