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Tips to help ensure your laptop has a longer life

In recent years, notebook prices have dropped considerably – but they're still expensive pieces of equipment. For most users, shopping for a new machine every year or two just isn't an option. It makes sense to wring as much life as possible from your current notebook, to get the best possible return on your investment – whether it's £250 or £2,500. Fortunately, if you follow our tips, you can significantly extend the life of your laptop.

Keep it cool

The hotter your notebook runs, the more likely it is to suffer some kind of component failure. And if you routinely plop down on a bed or couch with a pillow as your table, you may be blocking the machine's air vents – thereby causing it to run even hotter. Although there's not much you can do to cool a notebook from within, you can definitely tackle the problem from without. As we’ve mentioned, be careful where you’re using the machine.

You could also purchase a cooling pad, which draws heat away from the system (and your thighs) via two or more USB-powered fans. You can pick one up for as little as £15. As a bonus, your notebook's internal fans won't have to run as long or as often, so you'll be extending their lifespan. But don't neglect to give your fans direct attention: Use a can of compressed air to blast the dust from all your notebook's air vents once a month or so, to allow the fans to operate at peak efficiency.

Opt for an SSD

In any computer, the hard drive is an Achilles' heel, what with all those tiny platters, read/write heads, and other moving parts. A single knock or drop can put a drive out of commission. And of course, standard hard drives generate quite a bit of heat. The solution: Go for a solid-state drive, or SSD. Built with non-volatile flash memory, these drives have no moving parts, meaning they generate significantly less heat. They're also much less susceptible to shock, vibration, and extreme temperatures. Look for an SSD the next time you're shopping for a new notebook, or get proactive and swap one into your current machine. Prices have come down since the days when SSDs were prohibitively expensive (although larger models still cost quite a whack, so you’ll need to weigh up storage needs against the damage your wallet can take).

Carry it like an egg

And we don’t mean on a giant spoon. Okay, you know the drill: You finally make it to your hotel room after a hellish day of travel, trade shows, or whatever, and the first thing you do is pitch your laptop bag onto the bed – where it promptly bounces onto the floor. Uh-oh, was that a crack? To reduce the risk of klutz-caused damage, choose a bag that affords maximum protection. Targus, for example, offers a line of cases equipped with its Dome Protection System, combining padded sidewalls with air-protection technology to safeguard the notebook's screen, sides, and corners. There are plenty of other makes out there, of course – just pick something safe and secure.

When carrying your laptop sans bag, avoid stressing the case. Don't hold it by the corners; use the sides or middle of the laptop (you’re also less likely to drop it this way). We've seen plenty of cases crack after careless handling – eventually leading to damaged internal parts.

Baby your battery

One of life's certainties, up there with death and taxes, is that your battery will wear out over time. How much time depends on how well you care for it. Estimates have put a typical notebook battery at wearing down at around 500 charge/discharge cycles – between 18 months and three years of normal use. To get as close as possible to the latter number, remove the battery whenever your notebook is plugged into an outlet (such as when you're working at the office or the local coffee shop). If you leave it in, the AC power could cause the battery to overheat and overcharge – the most common cause of premature failure.

You should also store your notebook and its battery in cool, dry, well-ventilated locations, as hot environments can also diminish battery longevity (thanks to Russ Reynolds of Batteries Plus for the tips here).