Why You Should Never Place Your Laptop on Your Lap

...And more secrets that will extend the life of your computer.

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Man in bed with laptop
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Computer Tips the Pros Want You to Know

Keep your laptop off your lap

Although it’s called a laptop, it’s not actual­ly a good idea to use it on your lap, pillow or any soft surface that can block airflow. Your computer needs that flow to prevent damaging heat from building up inside the case.

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computer tips - Covering webcam on laptop
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That tape isn’t for nothing

Are you among the six in 10 laptop users who cover their webcams? It’s not paranoia: hackers in Canada and the United States have been charged with recording people via malware. A piece of tape over your camera can prevent them from spying. This is one of the best computer tips users can practice, and it’s inexpensive too.

Here are more secrets to steal from people who never get hacked.

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computer tips - Wikipedia website on Internet browser
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The fewer tabs, the better

If you have multiple tabs open, you may be slowing down your browser by using too much RAM (the hardware inside your machine that stores and retrieves information). The maximum number of tabs you should have open is nine.

Discover more mistakes that shorten your laptop’s life.

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computer tips - Close-up of hands on laptop
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Shut down your laptop every night

“Even while it’s asleep, it’s still using the battery,” says Ami Moyal, co-founder of the Gadget Guides, a computer training service for seniors in Toronto. Batteries can live for a limited number of charge cycles. If it’s always in use, your battery will degrade faster over time.

Find out how Connected Canadians is helping seniors get tech-savvy.

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Power strip
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Avoid damage

Safeguard your tech by investing in a surge-protecting power strip, and replace it after any major elec­trical event (such as a thunderstorm that causes a power outage).

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Computer tips - turning on computer
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Don’t do too much too fast

If booting up your computer is like wading through molasses, “you might have too many programs trying to run at start-up,” says Vuso Moyana, an owner at Seniors Tech Services in Toronto.

Find out what ChatGPT could mean for you.

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Virus on computer
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There’s such a thing as too much protection

“You only need one antivirus program,” says Moyana. “I often see clients with two or three running at the same time, which uses a huge amount of resources.”

Make sure you avoid these common password mistakes.

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Cleaning computer keyboard
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Stick to regular cleaning

Here’s one of the most important computer tips, and something users may be unaware of: The top killer of a desktop or laptop is overheating caused by debris inside the hardware. Every three to six months, use a can of compressed air to blow dust out of your laptop’s vents, or use a vacuum hose against your desktop tower’s vent.

These clever cleaning hacks take the hassle out of housekeeping.

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Man on laptop while drinking coffee
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Spilled coffee? Don’t panic

Just act quickly. “Your computer could short-circuit, so you should immediately unplug the cable and push the power button to turn it off,” Moyana says. Remove the battery, mop up the liquid and turn the laptop upside down to drain for 24 hours. Then get a professional assessment.

Read more on how to save your laptop after a spill.

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External hard drive
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Spring-clean your computer

Move files to an external drive. Aim to have at least 15 to 20 percent capacity left on your hard drive, Moyana says; once you’ve used over 90 percent, your computer will start to slow noticeably.

Here’s how to organize your digital clutter.

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USB port
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Extend the life of your battery

Use these simple tweaks: dim the energy-sucking screen, switch off the wi-fi and Bluetooth when you don’t need them and turn off peripherals like USB sticks and webcams.

Beware of the things you should never do when using public wi-fi.

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Closing laptop
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The simplest fix actually works

Turning your computer off and on again really can fix many problems. The process sweeps the current state of your software clean, clearing away any errant code.

Here are three times you should never accept cookies on a site.

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Man at department store buying laptop
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Don’t stress over warranties

Sales staff may push extended warranties, but are they worth it? Often, the cost of a repair is about equal to the cost of the plan. In the first year, you may even be doubling up on coverage—some big-box retailers refer you to the manufacturer for a warranty claim, even though you’ve paid for three years of the store’s plan.

Now that you’ve got these computer tips under your belt, find out why you need to stop commenting on those viral Facebook memes.

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada

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