IT Insider - Computer Maintenance

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IT Insider - Computer Maintenance

Posted: 07/07/2016 3:17pm

IT Insider w Bud Bennet

Imagine that it’s 6:00 PM on a Friday night and you’ve just sat down in front of your computer. For weeks it has been shutting down for no reason at all. Today was the last straw; it has powered up but displayed on the screen are the words, “OPERATING SYSTEM NOT FOUND”. Suddenly you’ve come to the realization that your weekend is now going to be considerably more expensive in addition to spending valuable time restoring your data from a backup. How could you have avoided this situation?

Many people consider computers to be nothing more than maintenance free appliances, but they’re wrong. All computers require periodic maintenance just like your vehicle does. What people don’t know is what this periodic maintenance should consist of. Unfortunately, many computers don’t come with an instruction manual, or if they do, it usually isn’t very helpful. Neglecting regular periodic computer maintenance can result in a variety of issues. Those issues can be anything ranging from hard drive failures, overheating components, shortened component lifespan and overall poor system performance.

HEAT

The most dangerous enemy to computer hardware is heat generated by that hardware or high ambient temperatures. Heat can work to destroy components by shortening their lifespan. Many modern computers will throttle their performance back or automatically and forcefully shut themselves down if they are running too hot. Even mobile phones produce warnings if they’re overheating.

To ensure that your computer isn’t affected by heat, perform the following regular maintenance steps:

DO
Ensure that your computer is cleaned out of all dirt, hair, lint, pet fur, dust and other debris on a regular basis. This is recommended at least once a year (once every six months if you are a smoker and you smoke inside). Cleaning a machine properly can be done using a can of compressed air or by using a small air compressor.
Why?
Dirt, lint, hair and other foreign debris can act as an insulator, inhibiting effective heat transfer from the components. This can reduce their functionality and prevent components from being properly cooled.

DO
Once a year, ensure that all of the fans inside of the computer spin freely and do not make any abnormal noises under normal operation. If any sort of effort is required to turn a fan rotor, or the fan is noisy when it is spinning, it should be replaced immediately. Fans are an inexpensive, easy to replace wear and tear item (unless the computer is a laptop, in which case a faulty fan should be replaced by a qualified service technician). Note that some computers are fanless, like tablets, mobile phones and other low power devices.
Why?
Fans are crucial to ensuring there is good supply of cool, fresh airflow through the computer. The more air that flows through a computer, the more hot air is removed from the machine.

DO
If you have a desktop, check the temperature of your power supply with your hand. If you have a laptop, check the temperature of your AC power brick. Either one should be cool or warm to the touch. It should never be so hot that you can barely keep your hand on it. (It is normal for laptop power supplies to get hot during battery charging. They should only be lukewarm when the battery is already fully charged.)
Why?
A very hot power supply may indicate that it is underpowered for the job it is doing or the fan has seized up and needs replacing. An overheating power supply can also cause a complete system failure. An extremely hot laptop power brick (with a fully charged battery) can be indicative of an imminent failure.


WEAR AND TEAR
As computers age, they become prone to failure. To best illustrate rates of failure over time, July 7 16 Image 1consider the image to the right, called a “Bathtub Curve”. Engineers at HP noticed there is a direct correlation between time and the rate of hardware failures.

To guard against the unexpected cost of a “Bathtub Curve” failure, perform the following steps:

DO
Replace your hard drives at least once every 6 years or once every 40,000 hours of power on operation, whichever comes first. (40,000 hours is about 4.5 years of 24/7 operation.)
Why?
While a hard drive may last longer than that, this is more of a preventative measure to ensure that a surprise hard drive failure won’t ruin your weekend. There are many imaging and disk copying utilities on the market that can clone one drive to another.

DO
Replace your SSD (Solid state disks) when more than 500 Terabytes of data has been written to them, at the first signs of sectors being reallocated (See: http://www.howtogeek.com/134735/how-to-see-if-your-hard-drive-is-dying/ ) or after 10 years of regular 24/7 operation.
Why?
SSD’s have a limited write lifespan. While it is probably most likely you’ll never write that much data to your SSD’s, it is important that you have a good idea what the “odometer” on your SSD looks like. Mileage on a vehicle indicates wear and tear just as well as the amount of writes on an SSD. Replacing the SSD after 10 years is more of a preventative measure to ensure that a failed component doesn’t make the drive inaccessible.

DO
Insulate your system against failures by placing your operating system on an SSD and data on hard drives.
Why?
Placing the OS on a high performance disk and data on a lower performance disk will improve the performance of the machine and will work better to isolate data from an operating system corruption.