I still remember the first time I built my own computer. I ordered all of the parts online, spent hours reading guides and forum posts teaching myself everything I needed to know, and then spent days twiddling my thumbs in anticipation waiting for all the parts to arrive. What I wasn’t prepared for was my motherboard literally exploding when I plugged everything in. I learned an important lesson that day, and one I’ve never forgotten: hardware fails, often catastrophically.
One component in our computers is perhaps more vital than the rest, and that’s the hard drive. If there’s any one component that we rely on the most, it’s the storage of all our digital ‘stuff’—from pictures of important events and vacations, to work and school documents and even our music collections, our hard drives contain everything we truly consider valuable. Everything else is just a component that can be swapped out—after all, frying a video card might ruin your day but once you get it replaced you’re back in business.
So how does hardware fail? There’s a variety of causes, but thankfully many of them can be avoided. One common cause of failure is overheating. Anyone who’s ever kept their laptop actually on their lap knows how hot computer components can get. Every year, we get more exciting technology, from faster processors to longer battery life. But the one thing that doesn’t change is heat. While computers are designed to run hot, often burning hot, that doesn’t mean they’re not susceptible to overheating. Computers require ventilation, which is why older desktops and laptops are so noisy: their fans get clogged with dust and don’t perform at the same levels as when you bought them. Cleaning computers is tricky, but not impossible. The simplest measure is to make sure you keep all vents and exhausts clear and clean at all times. This means not leaving your laptop running on the couch where it’s vents will sink into the cushions. It also means making sure the vents are clear of dust—a can of compressed air is a great tool here.
Viruses are no laughing matter either. Some viruses will run in the background and do little to actually harm your data but may instead be snooping for credit card information or launching attacks from your network connection. Other viruses will eat your documents folder and spit out nothing but garbled data. Thankfully, companies like Norton produce solid and proven anti-virus software to protect your data. With cyberattacks on the rise, no computer is safe without a properly configured firewall and up-to-date virus protection running 24-7.
Water and electricity do not mix, which is why we never use the hairdryer in the tub—everyone knows that. What people might not realize is how damaging water can be to computer components. On your laptop, your motherboard is directly underneath your keyboard, with nothing protecting it. You’re literally one liquid spill away from turning your favorite toy into an expensive brick. In my house, I enforce strict rules to keep my computers safe: no food or drink is ever allowed near a computer. That means no more eating at the desk, and I’ll never rest even a glass of water on the same table as my laptop, not even for a second. My data and my computer are just too valuable, especially since even a drop of water getting inside a computer could short circuit the entire motherboard. Not a risk worth taking.
So you’ve cleared out some dust, installed a virus protection suite, and stopped eating at your desk. Think you’re safe? Don’t count on it. Even in optimal conditions, computer hardware is still prone to failure. That’s why cloud-based backup services like Norton Online Backup are so valuable—even if your computer dies, your data doesn’t have to go with it.