Laptop Care

You are wondering if you should bring your laptop to Kenya for your Peace Corps (or other volunteer group) service.  You keep seeing all these bloggers, and you know Kenya is a relatively (by African standards) developed place.  Is it a good idea?

I say sure, why not, bringing a laptop can be one of the single greatest assets you have at your disposal here in Kenya.  It is part of your normal workflow back home, and letting yourself keep that workflow can help make you more productive mentally and in actuality, and is therefore a good thing to have (if you want to be productive).  However if you do want to bring your laptop, I have compiled some facts based on my own experience that will help you keep that laptop as healthy as is possible.  Kenya is a laptop-killing country, but unless you plan on living here, there is a good chance it will make it through your service a-okay.

What to Bring:

  • Your Laptop, of course.
  • A form-fitting, neoprene, zipper-closable case.
  • A spare battery for your laptop model.  I prefer name-brand batteries, but these tend to be more expensive, though less prone to shorting and catching fire.
  • A Kensington laptop lock.
  • A spare charger, if you can afford the extra weight.  It will most likely be left at home, but it’s great to have an extra.
  • A soft cloth that is the size of your keyboard, to be placed between screen and keyboard when the lid is closed.
  • An external hard drive, power-over-USB, 2.5″ form factor, with at least twice the amount of your laptop’s hard drive (e.g. if your laptop has a 120GB internal hard drive, you will want at least a 250GB external HD).
  • A small screwdriver that fits all those tiny screw-heads on the underside of your laptop.  Try the screwdriver out: if you cannot unscrew the screws, it does you no good.
  • Any and all CD’s that came with the laptop or were subsequently used to install other software on the computer.  This includes your Drivers CD, your Operating System CD (most likely Windows), and your favorite productivity applications like Microsoft Office, the Adobe Creative Suite, etc.
  • A flash disk or CD that contains the install files for other software that you may get from the Internet: Mozilla Firefox, Skype, VLC, Flash Player, Adobe Reader, etc.
  • Patience, and the knowledge that at some point, your laptop will most likely die, but that you will be prepared, and it will be ok!

Ok, with all of this in mind, let’s start talking about what can go wrong and how to avoid it as best as possible.

One response to “Laptop Care

  1. Noah Briggs

    Although your remarks are targeted towards the Kenyan expats and PCVs, 90% of your commentary is applicable regardless of where you are or what you are doing. Speaking as someone who has physically replaced a shat hard drive, plus a couple of drive reformats afterwards, everything you say is dead on. I back up regularly, plug into a power strip, and unplug during thunderstorms, and do regular sweeps to weed malware and excess crap from the drive.

    I remember one time many moons back you worked as a Best Buy? or computer repair geek, and you could tell when people were lying when they said, “I never used my laptop in bed”. The lint that clogged their vent tended to sing a different tune, as I recall.

    Time to invest in a Kensington lock.

    Your Coz

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