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Always Cover Your Laptop Camera—And 12 More Secrets Your Computer Wants You to Know

Although it’s called a laptop, it’s not actual­ly a good idea to use it on your lap.

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Covering webcam on laptopPhoto: Shutterstock

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.

Here’s what can happen once a hacker has access to your email.

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Wikipedia website on Internet browserPhoto: Sharaf Maksumov/Shutterstock

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.

Don’t miss these other tricks to make your computer run faster.

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Close-up of hands on laptopPhoto: Shutterstock

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.

These are the phone battery myths you have to stop believing.

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Power stripPhoto: Shutterstock

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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Businessman stressed out about slow computerPhoto: Shutterstock

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.

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Virus on computerPhoto: Shutterstock

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.”

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Cleaning computer keyboardPhoto: Shutterstock

Stick to regular cleaning

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.

Find out how often you need to back up your computer.

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Man in bed with laptopPhoto: Shutterstock

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.

Discover the other mistakes that shorten your laptop’s life.

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Man on laptop while drinking coffeePhoto: Shutterstock

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.

Here’s a five-step plan to rescue a laptop after a liquid spill.

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External hard drivePhoto: Shutterstock

Spring-clean your computer

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

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USB portPhoto: Shutterstock

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 laptopPhoto: Shutterstock

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’s how often you should restart your phone.

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Man at department store buying laptopPhoto: Shutterstock

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.

Here are the biggest iPhone mistakes, according to Apple experts.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada