Tips and tricks to get more out of your laptop

Most people have a laptop, or possibly a hybrid (tablet/notebook convertible) these days. If you’re one of them, and you’re out and about computing on the move, here are some tips to bear in mind to get the most from your notebook.

Safer on a VPN: Got a VPN – a virtual private network? Use it, especially when you're at a public Wi-Fi hotspot. It's safer than relying on your firewall and the benignity of strangers. If you don't have a VPN, here are some recommendations for free VPN clients.

Get off the grid sometimes: Kill your Wi-Fi radio antenna when you're not using it to save battery power. Also, kill any other applications you aren't using. Every little bit helps!

Save juice on movie playback: Want to watch a movie on the plane? If you have a laptop with an optical drive, don’t use that to watch a DVD. Instead, get a digital copy of the flick on your hard drive if possible. Playback on the hard disk will use less power than the DVD/Blu-ray drive, and will save on battery life.

Drop the devices: Again, if you want to save some battery, try to avoid having devices plugged into your USB ports – as they draw power. If you don’t need that USB stick or mouse plugged in, then take it out and save a little more juice.

Close the bloatware: When your laptop starts to get old and slow, consider swapping out your bloated OS. If you're only using your computer to access the Internet and check your email, a light version of Linux is all you really need.

Safer in a sleeve: A laptop sleeve can save your laptop from the dings and scratches it's bound to pick up jostling around in your bag. For the best protection, get one that's made specifically for your laptop model; the snugger the fit, the better the protection.

Not so bright: Reduce the screen brightness on your laptop to get 10 to 20 per cent more juice out of your battery – this makes a surprising difference. Browse Power Options (under Hardware in the Control Panel) for other ways to increase uptime.

Privacy protection: Want some privacy on the plane or train? Shield your laptop screen from prying eyes with a screen filter – a good one is the 3M Notebook Privacy Computer Filter (for around £50). It's transparent when seen from straight on, but turns the screen black when viewed from the sides.

Other ways to increase speed: A tip we’ve already mentioned – swapping out your OS for a lighter one – might be the most effective way to speed up an aging laptop, but there are other less involved ways to do this. For instance, a RAM boost is the easiest (but most expensive) way to bump your laptop's speed. Another way is to go into Control Panel, Programs, and raze absolutely everything you can live without. And don't forget to defrag your hard disk regularly.

For advice on making sure your laptop does well in the longevity stakes, see our tips to help ensure your laptop has a longer life.