Consumer Reports: 4 Ways to Protect Laptops

Last Updated Mar 11, 2011 2:37 PM EST

As a parent who works from home, it's essential that I have a computer that works every time I turn it on. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, one way to minimize any potential problems is to buy a very reliable machine. It turns out that adjusting how we handle our laptops can also minimize some common issues and the need to call the Geek Squad.

Here are some usage tips from Consumer Reports' Dean Gallea that should help keep your computer humming along:

1. Keep it Level
The beauty of a laptop is that it's mobile. But if you haphazardly transport your computer from room to room -- and carry it notebook style while it's on -- you risk damaging the hard drive.

Gallea's tip: Make sure you keep your laptop perfectly level while you tote it around so that nothing interferes with the spinning mechanism of the hard drive.

2. Respect Your Computer's Need for Sleep
Wondering if you have to be as careful with your laptop while it's in sleep mode? You don't. You can pick it up, carry it on its side, and not worry too much. The one catch, however, is that you must wait until your computer is completely quiet and the hard drive has stopped spinning.

3. Buy a Protective Cover
If you travel with your laptop, Gallea recommends investing in a protective sleeve or bag that's checkpoint friendly. As you know, airport security requires everyone to place their computers in a bin on the x-ray conveyor belt. All that jostling around can cause some wear and tear over time. If you buy a thin protective sleeve -- think BuiltNY Sleeve -- you won't even have to remove it at security and you'll get some added protection without any hassle.

If you commute with your laptop, think about a backpack or other bag with a snug pocket just for your computer. Again, this adds a little protection again the bumps that could knock something out of whack inside your machine.

4. Keep Kids Away

It's no secret that children are common laptop destroyers. So even though I'm no advocate of buying kids expensive toys, I think it may be time for me and other parents who depend on their home computers for income to take Gallea's suggestion and buy our little ones machines of their own to poke and prod. With notebooks going for less $300, I think I'll just consider this an unofficial business expense.

Any other usage advice you follow to keep your laptop from breaking down?

Stacey Bradford is the author of The Wall Street Journal Financial Guidebook for New Parents.
Laptop Keyboard image courtesy of Flickr, CC 2.0.
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