13 Mistakes That Shorten Your Laptop’s Life
A laptop is a big investment, so you want to keep it in good shape for as long as possible. Start by avoiding these no-nos that tech experts see all too often.
Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.
Make your laptop last
When your laptop starts taking what seems like forever to start up—but then its battery plummets immediately—you probably just throw up your hands in frustration, thinking that that’s just the way of the technology world. But there are actually plenty of ways you can make your machine last longer—by avoiding these common laptop practices that can cause it to die before its time. And watch out for these ways you’re shortening the life of your cell phone, too.
You take “lap”top literally
Just because it’s called a laptop doesn’t mean you should set it on your lap. In fact, putting it there too often could cut the computer’s lifespan short. “The processor is the brain of the computer, and it gets really, really hot, and it needs to vent this heat somewhere,” explains Aaron Schoeffler, director of operations for Computer Repair Doctor. “Oftentimes, the fan is located on the bottom of the laptop, where there’s a little ventilation.” But if that vent is covered by your pants or a blanket, your laptop could overheat, or dust might start to settle inside. Canned air can sometimes move the dust around enough to bring the laptop back to tip-top shape, but it could also end up with internal damage that requires professional help.
You never turn it off
It’s easy to just shut your laptop lid at the end of the night so that it boots up in just a couple seconds the next morning but leaving it on all the time means you aren’t getting the updates your computer needs. Systems need to “patches” to fix vulnerabilities or improve the software. “Most of those patches don’t take effect unless you restart your computer,” says Trey Eiland managing partner at computer support service 5Q Partners. He recommends shutting it down at least once a week, though more is even better. Find out exactly how often you should be shutting down your computer (and why).
You don’t have a surge protector
There’s a reason you’ve been told to unplug electronics during a storm. “If you’re plugged in and lightning hits around your house and you get a surge, that laptop is going to be fried,” says Eiland. Relying on unplugging it isn’t the safest choice—a power surge could take you off guard, your battery might need juice before the storm passes, or you might not be home to unplug it. Eiland recommends investing in a surge protector if you don’t already have one. Try these 11 other tricks that make your laptop battery last longer than ever.
You pick your laptop up by the screen
It’s easy to grab an open laptop by the top, where the screen is, but it can mean bad news for your computer. There are metal screws attached to your laptop’s plastic case, and yanking on those screws can loosen them. “Naturally, metal is slightly stronger…and moving it around causes stress on the plastic,” says Schoeffler. “If it bends too much, it will eventually snap or get loose to the point where it starts to deteriorate. Be kind to your laptop by scooping it up from the bottom instead.
You pop your laptop loose into a bag
When you have to carry your laptop around, make sure you tuck it in the laptop slot if your bag has one, or slip it into a padded case before putting it in your bag, suggests Eiland. That way, if you drop your bag or plop it on the floor, there will be something softening the blow for the computer inside. Don’t miss these other 15 computer mistakes you need to stop making.
You stuck with the hard drive it came with
Unless you have a new model, your laptop probably has what’s called a hard disk drive (HDD)—it’s what causes that whirring noise when you boot it up. Unfortunately, that HDD can’t spin fast enough to keep up with demands after a while, which is why tech experts recommend upgrading to a solid state drive (SSD). “When you take booting up a computer and it takes one to two minutes to taking five to ten seconds, it’s a pretty big difference,” says Schoeffler. Ask your local computer pros if they can install one for you—it’s a worthwhile investment.
Too many programs launch when you boot your computer up
If your Windows laptop has been running way too slowly, try hitting Ctrl + Shift + Esc to bring up Task Manager, suggests Schoeffler. Go to the Start-up tab to find a list of all the apps that open when you boot your laptop up and how much impact they have on the startup time. Right-click on any programs that you don’t use every day and click “Disable”. “It doesn’t mean it won’t run, it just means you have to manually start it,” says Schoeffler. Next time you restart, you should notice that things are ready to go faster than ever. Do you know what really happens when you ignore security warnings on your computer?
You never compress your data
Over time, the files on your laptop can become fragmented, meaning files that should be next to each other aren’t. If you have a Windows laptop, “defragging” your computer is a way of compressing and putting those files back together so that your computer doesn’t have to work so hard. “Basically, it organizes your data on your hard drive in a way that’s more efficient for the laptop,” says Eiland. “You can see the data being organized and the gaps being closed.” A defragmentation tool should already be built into your computer, so just type “defrag” in the search bar and it should pop up.
You never bothered to install antivirus
Hopefully, this goes without saying, but antivirus software is essential for keeping bugs out of your system. “If you do get malware or a virus on your laptop, it can run hot at that point and can break your whole laptop,” says Eiland. Most should install updates automatically, but make sure you pick a trusted brand the first time around. Be extra careful if you’ve seen these online scams you need to be aware of.
You always have a million tabs open
For the most part, your laptop can probably handle your habit of keeping a ton of tabs open at once. But if it isn’t well ventilated, making it work hard to keep all those pages going could cause extra stress. “The more your processor is having to work, the more heat it’s going to generate, and ultimately that does shorten the lifespan,” says Eiland.
You haven’t tried resetting your computer
If your laptop is running painfully slowly, don’t lose hope and buy a new one just yet. This isn’t the same as a simple restart—resetting your Windows laptop reinstalls the operating system. “There’s no better way from a software perspective to get back to that fresh, crisp experience again than starting fresh,” says Schoeffler. On Windows 10, go to Settings > Update & security > Recovery > Reset this PC. You’ll have two choices: Keep your files or remove everything, so unless you’re prepared to lose all your documents and photos, you’ll want to select the first option before letting the reset do its magic. Schoeffler recommends reinstalling every other year or so.
You aren’t delicate enough
Especially if you have an HDD, you’ll want to be careful when carrying your laptop around. “If you have something spinning really fast and you’re jostling it around, you have a high chance of causing some kind of damage,” says Schoeffler. Damage to the hard drive is one of the most expensive repairs, he says, so be mindful when you’re carrying it around—and it should go without saying that you should try not to drop your laptop too. SSDs aren’t as delicate, which is an added bonus to upgrading.
You don’t recognize suspicious links
Hopefully, your alarm bells go off when a pop-up claims you just won $1 million, but it can be harder to catch scammers who are posing as your friends. Hackers can spoof one of your friend’s Facebook profiles or email addresses, then send you a link. You might not question it at first, but that link could be downloading malware or gathering data from your computer. If something seems amiss—it’s just not how your friend talks or you’ve been re-friended by a Facebook friend—Schoeffler recommends reaching out to the person to confirm that it’s legit before you click. And watch out for these 12 red flags that someone is spying on your computer.