If you have a new computer that came from a factory with no defects or design mistakes, then there is little to no maintenance necessary for about one year. The only maintenance that will be needed boils down to a few procedures such as blowing the dust from the inside. If you have a laptop, then it is recommended to also blow the ventilation holes with compressed air.
On laptops, the most important maintenance areas are the CPU thermal paste and the heat sink. Now, heat-sink plates are manufactured very small and close together, meaning that dust can easily clog any space between them.
Apple solved this problem by taking the inlet air from inside the laptop. The air flow goes from all the sides of the laptop to where it can go through the shells. This occurs in all the communication ports.
With new laptops you do not need to change the thermal paste for three years or so. And after three years we tend to get an upgrade anyway, so concerns about thermal paste are for those who buy used laptops.
What is thermal paste? This is a paste that is sometimes a silver color can be also a gold or white color that has thermal conductivity properties and fills small gaps between the processor and the heat-sink. It ultimately helps to transfer the heat from the processor to the heat-sink.
How can you identify whether the heat-sink paste needs to be replaced? Usually a laptop does not need it to be replaced for two years or so, depending mostly on its quality. Higher quality paste will serve longer. When it loses its properties it gets harder.
What happens with it in the long run? Basically, it dries up and becomes hard. Sometimes it even gets so hard that the heat-sink gets stuck to the processor. Indeed, this can cause some difficulties.
On some laptop models you can identify whether it is still good even without removing any heat-sinks. Simply take a screwdriver and try to push the paste a bit. If it behaves like toothpaste then it is good. If it is hard like plastic then you should get it out of there as soon as possible.
What can go wrong with dried-up thermal paste? Usually this will cause the processor to overheat, especially when you watch a video. Then it starts to lag and the fan will be forced to operate at full power.
There is another danger with dried-up thermal paste. If your laptop has an NVidia graphics card you need to ensure that it receives sufficient cooling. If not they tend to de-solder themselves from their pads and the laptop would not start at all.
On Windows machines ensuring that you have an antivirus is a good start. There are a bunch of them out there, but I prefer Avira. Sometimes I do not run an antivirus at all, and here is what I do. I do not use Internet Explorer, I do not browse sites with adult content, and I do not use mobile internet dongles. All my computers are connected to a router that prevents any intrusion from outside. How my computers are connected is shown below.
You can even have a router for your own computer, preventing any viruses from spreading through home network in case other computers get infected.
I am using the above configuration to connect to the internet and as a result I’ve ran the same Windows 7 installation for years. There were no virus infections and intruders from outside that scan computer ports can’t reach the computers that are behind a router.
This is what a typical router looks like.
And it has wired and wireless connections. You can use the blue port to connect to another router, while the black ports are for computers.
However, if a virus gets into your computer a good choice is to restore your operating system to a previous point, as I do not trust most antivirus programs.
Another big part of the maintenance should focus on power surge protection. There are a lot of faults that are a result of power surge damage or damage that has occurred because of a faulty power supply. This is especially important if you are living near an industrial place like a factory. There is a lot of noise in the power lines because industrial equipment such as welding robots create it. This kind of noise is also generated by computers themselves.
I used to work in a company that had an office upstairs and they did some welding downstairs. After some time my computer was damaged and my coworker also had his computer damaged. This was because of the power surge that came from downstairs when they did welding work. After this we opted to use a mains surge filter as shown below.
As a computer power supply works on a high frequency, so some of the harmonies go through the power lines and reach neighborhood computers. If there is interference with minimums and maximums, then the chances of damaging another power supply increases. So, as you can see, even other computers can be a source of power surges.
Switching power supplies is a main source of trouble. So how can you identify that the power supply is a switching type? Most of today’s power supplies are. Also, we can use an AM radio to see if it is a switching type. Place the radio next to the supply and set it to AM. If it has a crackling noise then this supply is a switching power supply.
Below an AM radio detects a switching laptop charger.
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