Student Life

Ten tips to maintain your computer part III

It’s time to upgrade!

Before the Christmas break, we tackled some tips on how to maintain your computer, and we prefaced the dreaded section that deals with becoming a “computer mechanic”. So let’s stop dawdling and paddle on through!

  1. Upgrade your RAM
    Random access memory isn’t just name of that hip new Daft Punk album, it’s also essentially the heart of the computer. More RAM means more things can get done simultaneously and, to a certain extent, at a faster speed. In standard desktop PCs RAM is fairly easy to replace, and there are hundreds of image guides and YouTube videos floating around to show you just how to do it. The truth is, it boils down to just putting a long green chip in a slot and clamping it down. There is hardly any way to get it wrong. Laptops and Macs are a bit more complex. Laptop RAM is generally smaller, a bit more expensive, and requires that you replace a couple of tiny screwdrivers. Under your laptop you’ll usually find a few spots that are screwed shut (in some cases, just one). Macs tend to be a bit harder to service, usually requiring a few tools to crack open, and have a fairly limited supply of hardware to replace their usual lineups. But it CAN be done!

  2. Change your motherboard and processor (PC desktops only)
    So things aren’t running so hot: your computer is older than your nearly completed Bachelor’s degree (or worse, older than your nearly completed Master’s), and you think it might be time to give the old computer a good makeover. Motherboards and processors are essentially the brain of the computer, and this pair usually make up the bulk of the price of a new computer. If you’re not looking to go top of the line, though, models from a season or so ago can be fairly inexpensive. Shopping around for deals on Amazon, Newegg Canada or NCIX is a great way to keep an eye out and give your computer a makeover for a few hundred dollars. The process itself does require a bit of finesse and skill, but if you follow the instructions patiently, you’ll have a new brain for your evil Windows robot.

  3. Start over from scratch
    When push comes to shove, sometimes it’s okay to just let go, bury the hatchet and give your computer a proper burial. Laptops are expensive to service in-depth, and sometimes it just isn’t worth footing the bill to keep your desktop PC on life-support. But if you’re already this far down the line, you may want to consider starting from scratch. If you’re broke, and just trying to get something that can throw some text down, keep an eye out for clearances at local electronic shops, or on the sites listed in tip number two. Clearance items will drop as low as 50 per cent of their original cost, and nothing says “hell yeah!” like paying $300 for what is basically a new laptop. Desktop PC users, rejoice too: PC Part Picker will help you build the best computer you can with the budget you’ve got, if you’re willing to get your toolbox out and spend a few hours plugging things into one another. Mac users, you haven’t been forgotten (much): Apple is ALWAYS giving discounts to students, often up to 20 per cent off of their laptops and desktop computers. Take advantage of this, seriously!

  4. Be patient
    There’s no other way to put it. Taking good care of a computer does require a little bit of TLC. Computers are tools (for now anyways), and problems are usually solved by being patient and methodical. If you keep your cool when servicing your or your friends’ computers, you can get through things faster and often learn a thing or two about how to do it better next time.

Computers are hard work sometimes, but ultimately, taking good care of it while it’s still healthy will keep it alive a lot longer than just pushing the poor thing for years on end without any regard for its well-being. Until the machine overlords rise up and take over the earth, we’re lucky that we can get away with it.


Student Life

Tips to maintain your computer: Part 2

The nitty-gritty of getting a computer back to its optimal state

So last week we talked a lot about little software tips to make your life easier, and keeping your computer running like the day you bought it. Sometimes, those simple tricks aren’t enough and you really need to get your hands dirty (in some cases literally) to get your computer’s life back on track.

  1. It’s time to clean up.
    Computers have a lot of fans inside them: fans that suck in air, and fans that blow it out. The reality of all things air-related is that dust gets around, and computers are notorious for spawning entire families of small dust bunnies. Now you may think to yourself “How is this relevant, Jocelyn?” Well, in truth, dust isn’t conductive, but it’s surprisingly good at retaining heat. Computers have measures in place to slow down when a certain core temperature is reached in order to avoid damaging their components. While boxed computers have it a bit easier, Macs and laptops are particularly vulnerable to accumulating dust considering their very compressed nature. With a few screwdrivers and a bit of compressed air, you can clean up your computer’s innards and keep its temperature running as smooth as always. Not sure what things are looking like in your computer? Go pick up Speccy, a useful little tool that will give you statistics about your computer’s temperature readouts and let you know if you’re running high or critical. This process is a bit more complicated on Macs and you might need to hit your local Apple store or Apple certified professional to open up the computer and do the maintenance. Unfortunately, because of the design choice on Macs, it’s (almost) impossible to get easy access to your computer’s innards when using an Apple computer.

  2. The dreaded factory reset
    Operating systems aren’t perfect, and in fact they’re generally not so great at longevity. If all the above steps still aren’t helping you out, then maybe it’s time to do the dreaded factory restore. Macs and newer versions of Windows usually have an easy way to restore everything to fresh in no time flat. Obviously, if you’re going to undertake this step it can’t be stressed enough that you need to back up your important data because you are going to lose everything. So make use of that Google drive, OneDrive, iCloud and other cloud storage accounts to keep your stuff from getting wiped out. If that isn’t enough space, consider getting a little backup drive. These are usually set up to automatically back up your data at set intervals and keep your data from getting killed from hardware failure, or a stint of forgetfulness when doing a factory restore.

  3. Check your hardware (PC Only)
    Maintenance isn’t just about prevention; some of it also boils down to detecting issues that might be occurring in your hardware. It’s common for certain parts of a computer to eventually go bad. Often the fixes required are cheap and don’t require much work, much less in fact than the go-to choice of just buying a new computer altogether. There are LOADS of available tools for running hardware diagnostics. Apple users have a convenient tool called the Apple Hardware Test Tool, which will run you through things fairly painlessly. PC users might have a bit of harder time, but with a little bit of reading and a USB stick that’s at least 2GB, you can use a handy tool called UBCD (Ultimate Boot CD), which will allow you to run a plethora of hardware tests on every piece of hardware you own, and let you know if things are going wrong. This requires a bit of know-how, but it’s nothing a bit of Google-fu won’t fix.

Next week, check online where we’ll cover ever nittier and grittier ways to tune up your computer. Stay tuned!

Exit mobile version