Laptop Care

Humidity

I am sorry, but there is just not much you can do here.  Humidity can cause as much damage to components as heat.  Humidity can lead to corrosion, which itself can lead to shorts, causing components to die.  Thankfully in Kenya, if you are not in Nyanza/Western or along the Coast, then humidity should not be so bad.  If you are in one of those two areas, you just deal with it.  The best thing that you can do is simply keep the computer zippered in a neoprene case when not in use.

Physical Shock and Vibrations

You are going to be traveling, a lot, as a volunteer.  Shock and travel in general can cause damage mostly to the computer hard drive.  If you have one of those Solid State Disks (SSDs), mostly on those new netbooks, then you are in luck, as they do not receive shock damage.  However, if you have a good old fashion spinning platter hard drive, then you need to worry about shock.  What you do:

  • Do not move the laptop aggressively when it is on or in standby.  A powered on hard drive is far more susceptible to damage than a powered off hard drive.  I prefer to also not travel with a laptop in standby.  Shut the computer down if you are not going to use it for more than fifteen minutes.  Give it a break, it deserves it.
  • When traveling, pack that laptop tight.  Keep it in its neoprene case, which will help buffer some lesser vibrations.  Pack it in shirts, or use underwear to create a protective layer.
  • If you are going to be traveling on a bus, try your best to keep the laptop with you at your seat in your carryon.  Don’t pack the poor thing under the carriage or on the roof where it will get jostled and squashed.

Electrical Surge

These suckers are real buggers, and can even be one-hit laptop killers if not careful.  The fact of the matter is that Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) loves to surge their lines (most likely unintentionally, but who knows).  Your laptop power supply is most likely already rated for 220/240V direct current, so all you need to have to plug your system into an outlet is an outlet socket (plug) adapter.  For Kenya this means going from an American three-prong grounded plug to a large, square-pin, British, “earthed,” (British English for, “grounded,”) plug.  You can get these adapters everywhere in Kenya, don’t worry.  Once you are into the grid however, you take your fate in your hands. And there isn’t really much you can do:

  • Make sure you plug into a surge protecting, “extension,” (Kenyan English for, “powerstrip”). Extensions can be found everywhere, and many of them are actually built using Universal sockets, so any plug can go into them without needing an adapter.
  • You do NOT need to worry about low voltage situations however, as your laptop battery will automatically kick in if the system is not getting enough juice.
  • Try your hardest to never plug into an unprotected outlet, and don’t think that just because your plug adapter also has a 13A fuse in it, it’s surge-protected, because it’s not.

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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