Posted on April 10, 2013 by Hathem B.Here are five reasons why you need to own a Nexus 7.
Posted on March 26, 2013 by Hathem B.Because laptops have to be portable, some of the functional flexibilities of desktops were lost in the transition to portability. Nevertheless, passable alternatives have been developed to bring laptops closer to the desktop experience.
Posted on December 6, 2012 by Hathem B.Laptops can’t give you that 99.9% feeling of security unless you take extra measures to ensure their protection from thieves. Here are tips to get you started.
Posted on December 5, 2012 by Hathem B.
Nothing lasts forever, so the saying goes. Not even diamonds, given a few million years or so. Everything – from the tiniest grain to the tallest mountain – eventually breaks down, starting from the subatomic level, right up to changes visible to the naked eye.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, when one day, your computer suddenly conks out on you. In fact, according to an article in Consumer Reports Magazine dated August 2011, computers are among the most damage-prone devices.
The Portable Disadvantage
This is especially true for laptops, whose portable nature contributes greatly to the damage they incur. After all, the longer something is away from a relatively safe point (the home) and out in the world, the higher its chances of encountering something evil.
Another disadvantage created by the portability of laptops is that their components have to be designed with very rigid specifications to accommodate as much lightness and compactness as possible. Because of this, few components are manufactured as individual parts. Instead, these parts are built with the other components of the laptop in mind so that each may work with every other part seamlessly.
More seamlessly, that is, than the components of most desktops, which are produced with a “one-size-fits-all” approach. In other words, laptop hardware are physically and systematically constructed to only work optimally with other specific parts, while desktop hardware are designed to work with as many other components as possible.
What this ultimately means is that laptop hardware replacements are largely sacrificed since seperate parts are mostly unavailable for a casual upgrade.
The curtailed upgrade flexibility of laptops only serves to worsen the plight of consumers with broken laptops.
With desktops, users can usually pinpoint (after much troubleshooting) exactly which component is faulty, and proceed to have that computer part replaced. Even if their desktops were bought as pre-built machines from manufacturing companies, component swaps are still possible, since stifling portability designs don’t have to be considered. The pricing and compatibility of these components will be at the (usually overpriced) discretion of the manufacturers, though; but that’s a subject for another article.
Back to the topic at hand: When laptop components break down, the only possible recourse for most consumers is to have their laptops repaired (expensive), or to buy a new computer altogether (also expensive). For the select few who have the appropriate technical know-how, tinkering with their laptops is also an option, but the risks are greater than with desktops, especially for CPUs and GPUs.
- Repair or Replace It? – The Consumer Reports Magazine article republished online
- What Is the Major Difference Between Desktop and Laptop Motherboards? – Says a bit about what differentiates desktop and laptop parts
Initial Diagnoses and Self-Repairs
It pays to have at least a rudimentary idea of exactly what is wrong with your laptop; so before you send yours out for professional repairs or have it replaced, see if the problem isn’t something you can deal with.
Many of the following problems can be easily fixed:
- Virus attacks
- Fragmented files
- Low hard drive storage space
- Unexploited pagefile adjustment feature
- Blocked airways
- Insufficient RAM
The most commonly reported indicator of a failing laptop is its slowing speed. In many instances, virus attacks are the culprits; in which case, installing an antivirus program can help out a lot. Many great antivirus software are available for free, such as Avira, Avast! (the exclamation mark is part of its official name), and AVG.
The catch with these free programs is that they only protect against viruses. Protection from other types of malware isn’t available from the get-go; you will have to purchase these programs’ full versions.
That said, as long as you’re reasonably careful with your computer usage (i.e. you don’t open emails from unknown senders and you don’t casually browse through “red flag” sites like torrent distributors and pornographic material providers, etc.), viruses should be the only thing you need to watch out for, if at all.
Still, it is true that prevention is always better than cure. If you follow that adage, a full-functioning anti-malware program is probably what you’re looking for. In that case, since you’ll be spending money anyway, you might as well go for the trusted names in computer protection like Norton and McAfee.
Another common reason for the poor performance of laptops is that their hard drives aren’t exactly well maintained. Unlike other inner hardware (and barring overclocks), the hard drive is one laptop part you actually have a good degree of control over. As long as you know which menus to go to, you can manipulate certain aspects of your storage device; aspects which could actually assist you in avoiding performance lags.
Most hard drive sluggishness can be solved by defragmentation, which means piecing together files that were split apart (or fragmented) to maximize disk space. It takes hard drives longer to access fragmented files because they have to stitch the files’ parts back together before computer users can use these files. Hence, regular defragmentation maintenance is essential, especially when fragmentation reaches a 15% rate.
Defragging is easy for Windows users since the OS has a reliable defrag program built in. For users of other OSes, you could download free but equally dependable defrag software like Defraggler and Auslogics Disk Defrag.
An overabundance of files on hard drives is also a frequent cause of laptop slowdowns, which becomes particularly problematic if hard drives reach 90% capacity. The logic is simple: The more stuff your hard drive carries, the more time it will need to sift through them to find what you’re looking for.
While most of the files are probably important ones (in which case it’s up to users to decide whether they want to uninstall programs and/or delete personal files), sometimes the problem can be attributed to temp files. These are files that are created and temporarily used by programs to aid in their installations.
Most temp files are immediately deleted upon completion of the installation process. However, some are left behind for purposes like software update assistance or seamless Internet integration every time their parent programs are fired up.
If you want, you can delete these temp files without much worry. They are, after all (and as their name suggests), merely of temporary significance, and are only put there by their parent programs for user convenience. In any case, most programs just reinstall these temp files when needed, after which you can manually delete them again as you see fit.
To access the Temp folder in Windows, open the Run program from the Start button menu (or press the Windows key + “R” on your keyboard) and type in “%temp%” without the quotation marks. Once you gain access to the Temp folder, delete as necessary. Sometimes, a few files will be undeletable, in which case you may just leave them be (or use a program like Unlocker, as long as you’re comfortable tinkering with software).
Another way to delete temp files is to initiate Disk Cleanup by clicking on the Start button, going to Accessories, and then System Tools. From there, click on Disk Cleanup, and choose which hard drive or partition you want to (and pardon me for stating the obvious) clean up.
Many times – and especially if they’re doing this for the first time – deleting temp files can relieve users of gigabytes of flotsam data.
Going the other way, rather than freeing up space from your hard drive, you may also use that space up, but for a good trade-off. That is, if you feel that you can spare enough storage space, you may choose to use some to act as RAM substitutes.
You can do this through pagefile adjustments. Pagefiles are those areas of a hard drive used by the computer to temporarily store data when its RAM can’t handle the workload. The more space you allocate for pagefile purposes, the freer your RAM will be, and the faster you can get things done.
To adjust your hard drive’s pagefile settings, right-click on your Computer icon, click on Properties, then go to Advanced, Settings, and Performance. Finally, go inside another Advanced menu, choose Virtual Memory, and click on Change. You may then adjust accordingly from there.
Of course, the reason for laptop slowdowns could simply be blocked airways due to accumulated dust in the fans. When enough dust gathers in a laptop’s airways, the airflow tends to become stifled, making the laptop heat up more.
Remedying this is a simple matter of clearing laptop vents with a can of compressed air, which can be bought at a hardware store. Use the can’s long nozzle to spray air at dust trapped inside the laptop. Make sure to do this at an angle so that the dust will be blown outward instead of in.
Unless your laptop is older than half a decade (in which case you really should think about replacing it), it should have a port that allows you to access its RAM bay for easy replacement. You might want to consider this option when the above tips haven’t increased your laptop’s speed to your desired level. After all, buying additional RAM sticks is definitely cheaper than buying a new laptop altogether.
Laptop replacement parts are notoriously more expensive than their desktop counterparts, though. If you want to go for more affordable deals, try looking for RAM on sites like LaptopAid.com and Amazon; or eBay and Craigslist if you think you have the business savvy to weed out the bad sellers from the good.
- Can’t Stand the Slowness? – Lists the most common reasons for PC slowdowns
The Professional Repair Route
While simple DIY tips can certainly solve a lot of problems, there is always the likelihood that your laptop is just plain broken. If this is the case – and since most everything inevitably boils down to expenses – the question now becomes: Which would be the more financially viable solution?
At first thought, having your laptop repaired certainly seems cheaper. However, you have to ask yourself the following if you’re considering just that:
1. Is your laptop two years old at the most?
2. Is it still under warranty?
3. Do you still have the installation discs of your laptop’s drivers and programs?
4. Are you willing to go without using your computer for as long as it needs to be repaired?
5. Do you already have a good repair shop in mind?
If you answered yes to every one, repairs are the definitely the way to go. In all probability though, your answers will fall somewhere in the gray areas, in which case:
1. If your laptop is around 3-4 years old, make sure that its specs are still respectable compared to current laptops.
2. If your laptop’s warranty expired not too long ago, ask the retailer if you can have an extension, or at the very least be allowed to pay a smaller fee than usual. If neither are possible, check whether the total cost of repairs is reasonable vis-à-vis the specs of a new laptop with the same cost.
3. If you’ve lost your installation discs, see if you can find replacements online (many manufacturers offer them as free downloads if they’re old enough); or else ask for physical disc replacements from said manufacturers if possible.
4. If you need to have access to a computer while your laptop is being repaired, see if there are any Internet cafes or libraries you can go to. You can also use someone else’s computer if he/she doesn’t mind.
5. If you’re at a loss as to where exactly you should have your laptop repaired, read on.
Top Brands, Top Service
When opting for outsourced repairs, there are two ways to go about it: With the laptop’s original manufacturer, or with other businesses that specialize in repairs. Both have their own sets of pros and cons.
Almost every individual part in your Dell laptop (as an example) is manufactured by a company other than Dell. Its hard drive could be a Samsung product, its RAM could have been made by Kingston, its CPU by Intel, and its GPU by NVIDIA. Therefore, when sending your Dell product over to Dell itself for repairs, what usually happens is that the defective laptop parts in question will be sent over to their respective makers.
Nevertheless, these are all big-name companies, meaning that you’re practically guaranteed to get the best service possible. Moreover, despite the scattered nature of the repairs process, everything ultimately comes back to Dell (the company’s name is on your laptop after all), so centralized quality control is assured.
The flipside is that, since you’re supposedly getting quality “brand-name” service, the cost will be at a premium as well.
Practicality, With Caution
You could also go with lesser known (though not necessarily less competent) companies for your repair needs. If you do, you’ll find that total costs will be significantly cheaper than with big-name companies. However, the danger lies in mistakenly choosing one which doesn’t really have your best interests in mind.
There’s really no easy way to sniff out the bad ones from the good; but a great rule of thumb is that the more the locals rave about a particular repair company (i.e. the testimony of your cousin from three states away doesn’t count), the more that said company’s praises are well-deserved. It also helps if, while talking business with them, they focus on asking what works best for you so that they can work around your schedule and specifications as much as possible. Finally, certifications of good business ethics and quality servicemen don’t hurt.
- Ailing Laptop: Repair or Replace? – Gives useful pointers if you choose to have your laptop repaired
If All Else Fails
The last option should be outright computer replacement, and only if you’re faced with the following conditions:
1. You have had your laptop with you for at least five years already. (In fact, as long as you have the budget, this reason should be all you need, lest you want to use a very outdated machine.)
2. The cost of repairs is close to (or outweighs) the price of a new PC; and with higher specs to boot.
3. You’ve lost the installation disc of the drivers necessary to run your laptop, and you can’t acquire a replacement anywhere else. Even if you have your laptop fixed, it’ll all be for nought if its laptop components do not have the drivers to make them run efficiently with other components and with installed software.
4. You need access to a laptop 24/7, and a personal computer (in the strictest sense of the term) is the only way to go about it.
5. Official laptop manufacturers charge too much for repairs or are too difficult to get in touch with and you are unsure of the reputation and quality control of local computer repair shops.
- My Computer’s Broken – Presents useful questions to ask yourself regarding your PC’s state
The Bottom Line
As mentioned earlier, the deciding factor is and always will be the overall cost; but that’s putting it rather simply. To be more specific, it’s in figuring out how much of the pros outweigh how much of the cons (or vice versa) in terms of your laptop’s hardware specs, the level of damage it incurred, the specs and price of recent laptops for comparison’s sake, and various other factors mentioned in the article; and taken all together, how much of those factors will figure into the budget you’re willing to dole out and how they’ll affect your everyday life.
- Top 10 Computer Hardware Fixes and Upgrades – More DIY tips
- 5 Sites to Learn How to Repair Your Own Computer – Lists more tutorial websites for those choosing the DIY option
- Pros and Cons of Repairing Your Computer – More things to consider when making your decision
- Whether to Repair Your Laptop, or Buy a New Computer? That Is the Question – Pointers from the perspective of a computer repairman
The following are highly recommended repair companies, some of which offer services beyond their home cities:
- We Care Computers (West Hartford, CT)
- Computer Courage (Berkeley, CA)
- Laptop Repair (Burbank, CA)
- PC-Fix (remote assistance, based in AL)
If you’re looking to do the repairs yourself, you may want to check these sites out for laptop replacement parts:
This post was posted in Research Articles
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