Updated by Ben Stegner on 06/08/2017
Have you ever had a laptop that disintegrated way before its time? These machines are complex systems packed with fast hardware, yet also find themselves in constant use. This means that your laptop is often in danger. Accidents happen. Hardware fails. According to third-party warranty provider Squaretrader, about one in three laptops will bite the dust within three years.
Luck is part of the equation, but there are also specific actions that can send your laptop to an early grave, or at least result in a costly repair. If you abuse your laptop in these five ways, it’s a ticking time bomb.
1. Turn Your Laptop Into an Oven
Laptops generate a lot of heat. Processors are more power-efficient than ever, and the average temperature of a PC has dropped over time. But a laptop will still become warm to the touch if stressed.
A fan must expel this internal heat, and it’s your responsibility to keep the fan vent clear. If it’s obstructed, the heat has nowhere to go. Instead, it hangs out with your laptop’s critical components, and your laptop overheats. Some laptops react to this, and sometimes will shut down automatically. But others are real troopers and won’t complain one bit while they are slowly baked to death.
Furniture, carpets, and blankets are all surfaces that can wreak havoc. A pile of books that’s too close to your laptop can cause problems as well. Pay attention to your laptop’s fan volume. If it sounds like a jet engine, and your computer is not involved in a demanding task (like gaming or video encoding), consider it a cry for help.
2. Shaken Laptop Syndrome
Many laptops on the shelf today include a solid-state drive (SSD). Since SSDs don’t have internal moving parts, they’re more resilient to motion. However, a good number of laptops still have a mechanical hard disk drive — which can take damage if it’s rattled too much.
This problem with a mechanical hard drive is due to its use of moving parts. A read/write head that must move to interact with the disk, which spins. These parts have their own inertia, so if you move your laptop while they are active, they’ll try to move along their original direction. This can cause contact between internal hard disk components, which in turn could cost your data.
You can reduce the risk by only adjusting your laptop gently and not moving it when running a program that frequently accesses the hard drive. Treat your laptop like a baby — no quick movements. Instead use a gentle, soft touch. And make sure that you know the signs of SSD failure, too.
3. Use Your Display as a Handle
If you hate your laptop, start picking it up by its display and throwing it in a bag. Any corner, or the optical drive (if it has one) will work great too. It’s a good way to make it crack like an egg. Even premium laptops can sometimes succumb to this seemingly innocent abuse.
When a laptop is closed, the best way to pick it up is by grabbing the front or rear of the device. When your laptop is open, you should pick it up with both hands — one on each side. Do not pick up a laptop by the display, or by the side of the chassis with the optical drive (if applicable), or by one corner. You should also keep the laptop on a firm, level surface whenever possible. This will prevent it from getting bent out of shape.
It makes me nervous when people pick up laptop computers by the screen…
— Wally B (@Wallyography) May 30, 2017
Some laptops will take abuse in stride, but others will run into issues. Picking up a laptop by the display, for example, puts a lot of stress on the hinges. This can damage the hinges or surrounding materials, causing your screen to stop working.
4. Mangle the Cords
If you want to make your computer life harder, start mutilating its cables. Wrap them around everything in sight, twist them at weird angles, and wait for something to break. It’ll happen sooner than you imagine. You’d think power cords could handle lots of twisting and bending, but they often can’t. Laptops are primarily mobile devices, after all, so there’s reason to make their cords thin, light, and easy to move.
A common form of this issue occurs when a person wraps the cord over some other object to keep it bundled. Sometimes that object has sharp edges which cut into the cord. And this isn’t just for obvious blunders like knives — a hard plastic edge is all it takes. Some power adapters will do the trick if you wrap the power cable around them.
My laptop's power cord is so damaged, I have to spend 5+ minutes angling it just right every time I want to charge my laptop.
— 20 moths (@realnotmin) September 3, 2015
Avoid this problem by bundling a cord over itself. Most cords come packaged this way when you receive them, and some include a little piece of Velcro you can use to keep the cord together. If your cable doesn’t Velcro, you can buy some yourself for cheap or use an adjustable zip-tie.
Another cable issue you should watch out for is putting too much strain on them. Don’t let the AC adapter hang in mid-air and put stress on the plug that goes into your laptop. Over time, this will weaken the plug and could even damage the socket, preventing you from charging your computer. A bit of slack in your cables is important.
5. Give Your Laptop the Jitters
Laptops don’t take kindly to shakes. Or stirs. Or jarring in any way, really. Despite what movies might have you think, you can’t use them on the back of a motorcycle, or while running away from guys with machine guns, or in the back of a car while missiles are fired at you. (You’ll have to trust me on this.)
Most users buy a laptop bag to take the edge off sharp bumps. That’s a great first step, but you need to make sure the bag actually provides protection. Cheap laptop bags only include a compartment that is laptop-sized but lacks protection. Others will pad the sides of the bag but completely neglect to pad the top or bottom. And of course, the bottom is what hits the floor if you drop a bag you’re holding!
An alternative is to place your laptop in a padded sleeve. This can protect your laptop from bumps and jolts while also keeping objects in your bag from scratching the laptop’s exterior. Just make sure the sleeve is padded. A cheap sleeve, like a cheap bag, may be too thin to offer real protection.
Have You Ever Destroyed a Laptop?
In summary — sweat the small stuff. Otherwise, your laptop could die a slow death.
You’ll read stories of people dropping their laptop in a pool, or spilling a drink on it, or knocking it off a fourth-story balcony. Such things do happen. But dramatic accidents are not how most damage occurs — though we could add junking up the underside of your keyboard with food crumbs to the list.
Laptops often bust due to a combination of small actions, some of which may have no consequences at first. Over time, however, the damage caused by constant overheating and mishandling your laptop will surely send it to an early grave. If you’d like to kill your laptop, you can do it gently.
Does all this sound like too much to handle? The good news is that you might not need a laptop anymore anyway.
Have you ever ruined a laptop by one of these methods or another? Let us know how long you’ve had your current laptop, and the stupidest thing you’ve ever done with it, down in the comments?
Image Credit: alphaspirit via Shutterstock.com