It’s the start of a new year, which means it’s time to kick-start those resolutions, whether that be to exercise more or get organized. You may want to add taking better care of that old laptop to your list of 2022 goals, too. Unless you’re planning on splurging for a shiny, new laptop some time soon, it’s likely your older laptop needs some TLC. There’s a lot you can do to stretch the lifespan of your existing system.
We’ll show you how to extend the life of your current laptop so that you don’t have to buy a new one. Pro tip: If people won’t touch your laptop unless they’re wearing PPE, it’s probably time to clean it. Put a sheet of cling wrap between your fingers and the keyboard if you need to touch someone else’s scummy laptop and don’t want to waste disposable protective gloves.
The longevity horizon of a laptop is analogous to the longevity of a human: It partly comes down to responsible behavior, partly genetics and partly just dumb luck. There’s no guarantee that anything you do can save it from dying young or failing to keep up with increasingly demanding tasks. And there’s no guarantee that if you treat it like crap it won’t last far longer than expected — in 10 years you might find yourself cursing it. “Fail already you slow POS so I can justify buying a replacement!” That’s the argument I have daily with my seven-year-old iPad.
It baffles me, for instance, that my friend’s seven-plus-year-old Lenovo Yoga 2 13 still functions, and actually functions well. It’s filthy, it’s been knocked off precarious perches by flying cats, it sits baking in hot sunlight, endures summers with 90% humidity indoors, and its operating system hasn’t been updated in… I don’t think ever. She still hasn’t filled up the 128GB drive. Recently she asked if she should upgrade to Windows 11 (from Windows 8.1). After picking my chin up off the floor, I pointed out that she probably couldn’t; even if it meets the requirements, it would likely be even slower than it is now.
I kept on using it, thinking the trackpad was just going bad, until it popped out completely and I realized the battery beneath it had swollen. Ah, the joys of the early ultrathin models! (This is a 2013 Samsung ATIV Book 9.) Yet, in the interim, I’ve gone through at least two laptops, one with a battery that swelled and another with a wiring and broken plastic issue that rendered the display unusable. They exited this world in close to pristine aesthetic condition. And she had to return her work Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 13-inch after a year of working from home thanks to connectivity failures, though it already looked pretty beaten up.
Data backup is on my long, long list of “do as I say, not as I do” advice. But the longer you hold onto a laptop, the more irreplaceable files and information you’ll accumulate on it. And the greater the chance it’ll crumble into e-waste. So before you touch your laptop to address any issues — including cleaning — you should back it up. The unwritten rule is this: If you don’t back up your laptop, it will experience a catastrophic failure. But if you do, then nothing will happen. Because that’s the way the universe works.
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