Laptop Care


Heat is a laptop’s number one enemy, and in fact, the enemy of most all electronic devices.  Heat causes things to melt, causes things to fry, causes things to in general, die.  Therefore, most electronic devices are designed to get heat away from critical components.  It’s called managing a device’s heat flow.  Your laptop uses two main methods to disperse heat: fans/ventilation and heat sinks.

Heat sinks are metal apparatus inside your laptop that sit on or near critical components that get notoriously hot (mainly the CPU), and they absorb excess heat and store it in a specific location.  Fans then blow, “cool,”  from an intake on the computer case across the heat sink and then blow the hot hair out a vent in the case.

Many things can go wrong here.  The most common mishap is that you unknowingly block a vent or intake on your laptop, or it becomes clogged. This causes the fans to just blow hot air around the system, completely failing in the job to keep the components cool.  It also does not help that the climate here is hot as is.  Even if your intakes and vents are clear, the air will still not be as cool as it should be.

Fans can also stop working.  They can get clogged by dust and hair and lint.  Or the motors can simply stop from age or imperfect manufacture.  When this occurs your computer will really need help, because no air will be moving at all.

Some laptops are designed to simply disperse heat in a fan-less manner, such as the MacBook Air.  However, this method of dispersion requires the ambient air around the laptop to be relatively cool compared to the inside, again, a difficult thing to achieve in the Kenyan climate.

Here are some things you can do to try and prevent heat from being a big old nuisance:

  • Always use your laptop on a hard, flat, non-cloth surface.  Guess what, this means no laps.  Laps are one of the worst things for a laptop, as your flesh will conform to the laptop shape and most likely cover the vents and your trousers will subsequently clog the fans with lint and dust. Instead, use a piece of cardboard, or even a thicker magazine or book (I use a NatGeo) between your computer and your lap.
  • Blow air into the intakes and vents when the computer is not on to attempt to dislodge any stuck particles.
  • Keep your computer in the neoprene case when not in use, and keep it zippered.  This prevents dust particles in the air from making their way into the computer.
  • Shorten your computer sessions and give plenty of time between sessions to allow components to just cool naturally.

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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