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Computer Care: Tips to take good care of your laptop
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The convenience of a laptop is obvious, and due to its small stature, it's also easy to upgrade and even clean.

If you're like me, you eat over your keyboard. With this habit, ultimately you'll find food remnants under your space bar. I thought my "M" key was nonfunctional recently until I decided to gently extricate it. I found crumbs galore and proceeded to clean the entire board with a can of compressed air.

Attach the little nozzle that is taped to the can and go at it. If you tilt the can, some propellant may escape. If that happens, just be sure the keyboard is dry before you power it up.

Because the laptop's LCD screen isn't glass like a CRT monitor, you can't use harsh cleaners on it. Simply use a damp paper towel, being sure the power is turned off before you clean it.

Many laptop users don't realize their device will overheat if not allowed to properly breathe. If it gets hot enough, a laptop will shut itself down. In bed for example, placing a laptop on a soft, comforter will literally smother it. The blanket will cover the vents on the bottom or rear of the computer, effectively overheating it.

Cooling pads allow laptops to breathe. Some have fans in them that suck the hot air away. They plug into a wall socket or a USB port on your computer.

Alternately, use a book or magazine to place under the laptop, anything more rigid than a soft bed.
A laptop, being what it is, offers options desktops don't. Closing the lid, you have the choice of either turning the computer off or putting it to sleep. I have mine take a nap. This way if I am taking a short break, when I reopen the lid, it goes back to what I was working on before I closed it. Keep in mind it uses more battery power in that mode.

If you lose your wireless connection with a laptop, first check to see if you inadvertently pushed the switch off. My HP is of poor design and I do it often. Some laptops use a keypad combo like FN + F8, so it is harder to turn wireless off.

Next check your modem. Whether DSL or cable, make sure the front panel lights are doing what they should. If some are off or blinking, reset it to ensure you have a signal from your Internet service provider.

You can of course phone them and wait on hold for 45 minutes for an agent with an attitude, but this is what they will eventually tell you to do. Unplug the power from your modem, then unplug the router if you have one. Wait about half a minute and then plug the modem back in. Wait for the blinking lights to settle down, about another half minute. Only then plug the router back in, should you have one. Now refresh your browser (Internet Explorer or Firefox) and try to connect to the Internet. You may have to do this each time the system hiccups.

If you still can't connect and you don't have lights on your modem, then you most likely don't have a signal and will have to play the waiting game. It's not your fault this time. It's your ISP.

With a laptop, it's an easy task to add more storage space or memory. Flip the laptop over and you'll see two doors or panels that are screwed in. The battery cover is there too, but it won't have screws.
One of those compartments houses your hard drive, the other your RAM, or memory. If you remove the screws with a small Phillips screwdriver, you'll see both.

The RAM is held in place with clips that when pushed apart will release the modules. When you replace them, make sure they snap into place. See what capacity they are and replace them with larger capacity modules. Good sources for memory are www.crucial.com or www.memory.com.

A word of warning when working with printed circuits: Be aware of electrostatic discharge as it can ruin you RAM and your day. Your replacement parts will come in anti-static bags. Make sure you ground yourself by touching something metal before you open the bags.

The hard drive will have a ribbon to pull up on. Notice how it removes so you can replace it. The contacts on the drive mesh with contacts in the device. It's that simple. Now go order a larger one. Try www.newegg.com or www.tigerdirect.com.

Caveat emptor. Because everything is smaller in a laptop, parts are more expensive. The gigabyte of RAM you buy for it will cost more than it did for your desktop. But if you're brave, you can at least install it on your own.

Arthur Glazer is freelance writer and computer technician whose column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com.

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