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Zen and the art of laptop maintenance

Eric Geier | Aug. 8, 2012
Keep a motorcycle in good condition, and it will last longer and serve you better. The same goes for computers--especially laptops, which suffer a lot of wear and tear during travel and daily use.

Keep a motorcycle in good condition, and it will last longer and serve you better. The same goes for computers--especially laptops, which suffer a lot of wear and tear during travel and daily use. To keep your laptop looking shiny and running well as long as possible, you should clean the chassis and perform some basic maintenance periodically. In this guide, you'll discover how to clean your laptop, keep the components tight and secure, evaluate the battery, and tidy up the operating system and hard drive to help increase performance.

Cleaning the Exterior, Screen, and Keyboard

Every three months or so, you should clean off the dirt, dust, fingerprints, residue, food particles, and other detritus that your laptop has accumulated during its travels. Concentrate on the outer case, the LCD screen, the keyboard (and touchpad, if one exists), the ports, and the cooling vents.

First, gather your cleaning supplies. Ideally you want a lint-free cloth (no rough or lint-harboring materials such as paper towels or washcloths), a can of compressed air, and a cleaning solution. If you have a few bucks to spare, you can buy cleaning solutions specially formulated for tech products and LCD screens at most electronics and general-merchandise stores. To save some cash, you can homebrew your own cleaning solution by mixing distilled water and white vinegar, fifty-fifty. Instead of distilled water you could use tap or bottled water, but some people say that it can leave mineral spots (though I haven't had a problem with it).

If you've just knocked a full coffee cup or soda can onto your laptop, refer to our guide to cleaning a spill on a laptop for the emergency steps you should take.

A few words of caution before you start: Never use harsh chemicals such as bleach or even a general household cleaner on your laptop, as that could damage the case finish or LCD screen. Never spray any cleaning solution directly onto the laptop, either; instead, dampen a cloth with the cleaning solution and gently apply it to the case. Also, never use a can of compressed air after shaking it, and never hold it in any position other than upright when spraying, or else the chemicals in the can could burst out and cause damage. Finally, shut down the laptop and remove the battery from the bottom before cleaning.

For best results, start by spraying the compressed air to clean out the ports, vents, keyboard, and other cracks; dirt, grime, and food particles tend to be easier to dislodge when dry. Again, when blowing the air, keep the can straight and upright. For best results, sit down at a table and carefully hold your laptop while slowly turning it around. That way you should blow air at the laptop surface or into cracks and openings at an angle so that the particles blow out instead of into your laptop.

 

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