Caring for Your Laptop

7:38:00 PM |

While your laptop is designed and tested to hold up to a lot of use, common sense should tell you that you should not misuse your machine. As a result of some hard lessons students have learned in the past few years, we offer you the following advice, emphasizing the top three items:
DON'T:
  • Have liquids, especially sweet, sticky drinks like soda, nearby when using your laptop. Spills can cause serious damage to the machine and can be costly to repair.
  • Crush your laptop by stuffing too many books around it inside your backpack.
  • Pile heavy objects on top of it.
  • Drop, jar, or bump your laptop.
  • Pick up or hold your laptop by the screen, or scratch, twist, hit, or push the surface of the display.
  • Leave a pen or pencil on your laptop when you close it. Doing so will break the screen.
  • Disassemble or attempt to repair your laptop yourself.
  • Leave the laptop's base resting directly on your body (your legs or torso) for an extended period of time. It can get hot!
  • Use your laptop in or near water.
  • Use or store your laptop at temperatures above 95� F or below 41� F. Which means don't leave it in your car.
  • Place your laptop closer than five inches from any electrical appliance that generates a strong magnetic field, such as a television, refrigerator, etc.
  • Touch the lens on the CD-ROM tray or the surface of the compact disk.
DO:
  • Condition your battery. (Please see the "Conditioning and Charging the Battery, and Increasing Battery Life" section of this document for more information.)
  • Replace the plastic bezel when you exchange drives.
  • Use a soft cotton cloth, such as a handkerchief, moistened with non-alkaline detergent to clean your computer. The Campus Computer Store recommends -- and sells -- Kensington's "Screen Guardian" cleaner for this purpose. Since different types of the "Screen Guardian" cleaner are available, make sure that you purchase the small spray bottle cleaner that is made especially for laptop computers, and anti-glare and polarized computer screens.

  • Use a carrying case that provides good protection for your laptop, such as the backpack you received with it.

  • Register your laptop with IBM in case it is lost or stolen, and also to receive upgrade notices.
Physically Securing the Machine
Always remember to use the security cable that you received with your laptop! This is especially important whenever you need to leave your machine for a few moments, whether you're looking for a book in the library, asking a question at the VCC Help Desk, getting your lunch in one of the dining halls, or leaving your dorm room.
You may want to seriously consider using some of the following tips and tricks to make your machines more secure:
  • Always secure your laptop in your dorm room by using the security cable.
  • It may sound like common sense, but keep your laptop with you as much as possible, and never leave it unattended and unsecured. For example, let's say you need to run into the Union Bookstore to buy a book; you know you'll only be in there a minute. Think you can just leave your backpack -- with your laptop in it -- on the open shelves inside the door? Well, think again! Sure, it may be tempting to leave your laptop and backpack unattended, especially if you know you'll only be gone for a short period of time, but the truth is that the potential for someone to walk off with your laptop is high. So keep your machine with you, whenever you can. And whenever you go into the Union Bookstore, take advantage of their free lockable storage to secure your laptop and other belongings until you've finished your shopping.
  • Protect your data by requiring the use of a password.
  • Consider using a Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) password, which you can add for additional security; it won't prevent the actual theft of your machine, but it will protect the data on it. However, please note that you should exercise extreme caution when setting any of these passwords, as setting and then forgetting them can have serious consequences, as explained below.
    • The Power-on Password prevents unauthorized users from starting up the ThinkPad. You must enter the correct power-on password prior to starting an operating system. Rensselaer Computer Repair (RCR) or an IBM repair facility can reset this password if you forget it.
    • The Supervisor Password protects the system information stored in the BIOS in such a way that a user can change the computer's configuration only after entering the correct supervisor password. Important note: If you forget the supervisor password, RCR or an IBM repair facility will have to replace the system motherboard. This expensive repair is not covered under the IBM warranty or by insurance.
    • The Hard-disk Passwords (master and user) protect the information stored on your hard disk in that you can only access the information on a hard disk after entering the correct hard-disk password. Important note: If you forget the hard-disk password, RCR or an IBM repair facility will have to replace the hard disk, and you will be unable to recover the information from the hard disk. This expensive repair is not covered under the IBM warranty or by insurance.
Conditioning and Charging the Battery and Increasing Battery Life
Your laptop is equipped with a Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) battery, and, while it has been programmed to save power whenever and however possible, you'll have to initially condition your battery, as well as recharge it from time to time. Use the following tips to obtain the best condition for your battery and extend its rundown time.
Conditioning the Battery
If your battery is brand new, and you are using it for the first time, it may not be charged to full capacity. To obtain maximum battery performance, cycle the battery three times. To do this, plug your laptop into a standard electrical outlet to fully charge the machine, then run the laptop off the battery until it is fully discharged. (This procedure is also recommended if you have stored the battery for a few months.)
Tips for Charging the Battery
  • Do not charge the battery until it is completely out of power. (Check the small green battery-shaped icon on the right-hand side of your laptop's taskbar to check your machine's current battery capacity.) Partial charge or discharge may cause a degradation of your laptop's performance.
  • Once you have started charging the battery pack, do not use it until it is fully charged.
Increasing the Life of Your Battery
You can also use the following "power management" techniques to help extend the life of your battery:
  • Suspend mode (Fn+F4) - Although your laptop appears to be powered down when it's in suspend mode, the machine's memory contents are actually kept active at very low power. You can bring your machine out of suspend mode by pressing any key. Your laptop can remain in suspend mode for about three days before the battery is drained.
  • Hibernation mode (Fn + F12) - This mode uses no power until you restart your laptop; the machine stores its active memory to the hard disk and then turns off the ThinkPad. Entering a single keystroke should bring it back up, without the need to reboot. Your laptop can remain in hibernation mode indefinitely..
Another Helpful Security-Related Tip
As long as we're talking about viruses, here's a simple step you can take to make sure that you don't open a certain type of file, such as one that may contain a virus: show the filename extensions on your laptop!
To do this, first double-click on the My Computer or Windows Explorer icon on your machine's desktop, and select a disk (for example, your C: hard drive). Pull down the View menu and select Folder Options� In the separate View Options window that appears, left-click on the View tab, and select the Show all files option (if it isn't selected already). Finally, ensure that a checkmark does not appear to the left of the "Hide file extensions for known file types" option.
As we mentioned before, taking this precaution is really important when you don't want to open a certain type of file, especially to avoid spreading a virus. A good example is with the Anna Kournikova virus that has affected campus in the past; if you don't show filename extensions on your machine, the virus file appears as a simple .JPEG file, and you don't see that the file really has the .VBS extension.
So, do yourself a favor and take a minute to show the complete file extensions on your laptop!
Accessing Software Patches and Drivers
Following the steps below will close many security vulnerabilities on your machine as well as add functionality and correct any software defects.
Windows XP recognizes when you are on line and searches for downloads from the Windows Update Web site. Each time updates are available, an icon appears in the notification area on the task bar at the bottom of the screen (near the clock). You will also receive pop-up reminders that "New updates are ready to download". In some cases, you will need to restart the computer after installing the updates, so do this procedure when restarting will not cause interruption.
  • When the reminder pops up, click as instructed, or else click on the appropriate icon on the taskbar.
  • Click on Start Download.
  • After a short wait, a window will pop up saying, "New updates are ready to install."
  • Click as instructed to bring up the Install window.
  • In the Install window, click on Install. Wait while the installation takes place.
  • When the installation is complete, click OK.
You may also use the following URLs to access various software update patches and drivers:
Microsoft Officehttp://office.microsoft.com/ProductUpdates/default.aspx
  
Visual Studiohttp://msdn.microsoft.com/vstudio/downloads/vsnetupdates.asp
And, since many machine security vulnerabilities occur via Web browsers, Internet Explorer users should consider accessing security updates at the following URL:
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/download/default.asp