Dos and don'ts: How to treat your PC right
By Jay Dougherty Jul 27, 2006, 14:04 GMT
Washington - Computers can be our best friends - or our worst enemies. Treat your computer right, and it'll likely give you years of enjoyment and productivity. Treat it wrong, and you'll pay in hours lost to troubleshooting and frustration.
Treating your PC right means knowing some basic operational rules and guidelines. Amazingly, most of us acquire a computer and begin using it without ever being told what to do - or what not to do. Never fear. Here are some guidelines that will get you started.
-- Hands off that on/off switch
First, don't make a habit of turning off your computer using the on/off switch. The latest Windows operating systems have a Shutdown command for a reason: Shutting down your PC through the operating system allows it to close all open applications and files and keep disk fragmentation in check. Also, using the Shutdown command is important to ensure that any unsaved data is written to disk rather than being lost or scrambled the next time you turn on your computer.
Look at the hard drive of anyone who shuts down the computer by using the on/off switch, and you'll see hundreds or thousands of 'tmp' - short for 'temporary' - files clogging up the system. Those files would have been deleted if the operating system had been shut down properly. They don't hurt anything, but they do take up space.
So what should you do when your operating system freezes and you can't shut the computer down the normal way? First, try pressing and holding down the Ctrl-Alt-Del keys simultaneously. Doing so should bring up a dialog box that contains a Shutdown button. Use that.
If Ctrl-Alt-Del still doesn't work, you may be left with no option but to use the on/off button. Don't worry. Serious damage is unlikely to result if you resort to this method once in a while. Just be sure to save your work often, since you'll lose any changes you've made to a file since the last save if you're forced to use an emergency shutdown.
--- Pause after shutdown
If you turn your computer off, wait at least a minute before turning it back on. The pause allows your computer's memory to discharge fully. It also permits disk drives and fans to come to a standstill instead of being abruptly jolted back into action.
The same advice applies to some peripherals connected to your computer. Cable and DSL modems should not be turned off and on quickly if you're troubleshooting. Their memory must fully discharge in order to clear all settings.
--- Turn it off before connecting
Be sure to turn your computer off before connecting new hardware that is not designed to be 'plug-and-play.' Any device that connects to the older parallel, serial, or PS/2 connections on your PC will typically not be plug-and-play. Plugging in a PS/2 mouse while your computer is running, for instance, won't necessarily cause your computer to freeze or result in damage, but the device usually won't work until you restart your computer.
USB and FireWire devices, on the other hand, are often designed to be plugged in while the computer is running. So long as you have first installed any device drivers supplied with your USB device, you should have no problems.
--- Drive safely
Any removable drive in your PC - such as a CD-ROM, DVD, compact flash reader, or floppy disk - will include a light on the front panel. That light lets you know when data is being written to or read from the media inside.
While the light is on, never forcefully remove the media. If you do, it's likely that the data that was being written to or read from the media will not be usable. In a worst case scenario, the rest of the data that's on the media could become corrupt or the media could be unusable.
Many CD or DVD drives have a button that you press in order to eject the media. The button is in part a safety feature; if you press it while data is being written to a disk, the operation will finish before you get the disk. But other types of drives allow manual ejection. It's these that you must be especially careful with.
--- Use no force
Nothing that you insert into your PC - whether it's a disk or a cable - should require unusual force to get it in place. USB, FireWire, PS/2, and all other cables are designed to be inserted into their respective sockets in a particular orientation. The same is true of nonvolatile memory cards such as CompactFlash and Secure Digital (SD) cards, as well as PCMCIA cards. Take the time to learn how cables, cards, and disks are inserted properly, and what it feels like when they are.
If you attempt to insert a USB or other cable upside-down, you'll meet resistance. Don't ignore the feedback. PS/2 cables - often used for keyboards and mice - are particularly tricky to insert properly. Look at the pins in end of the PS/2 cord, and make sure that they're aligned properly with the PS/2 port.
--- Lose the food
Make a habit of eating and drinking around your computer, and sooner or later you'll have a mishap. Keyboards don't like crumbs, and they absolutely hate liquid. In fact, any liquid spilled into a keyboard will usually result in the death of the board itself, as electrical shorting will result.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur