Forget showing up to class naked — a college student’s worst nightmare is a computer crashing in the middle of an assignment. As durable and powerful computers are, they can fail on occasion — often at the worst possible time. Best case scenario, you waste a few hours getting your computer running and relocating documents. Worst case scenario, you lose your entire digital life, from your study abroad photos to your gym playlist to your midterm essays.
Don’t risk the worst case scenario. Take these five painless and simple precautionary measures.
1. Back Everything Up
Back up your hard drive and make copies of important files regularly. Save school assignments, pictures, and other important files to the Cloud so you can access these files on another computer should yours crash. Those who are hesitant to use the Cloud or want a second backup option can also invest in an external hard drive. Save files you don’t need to access regularly on the external hard drive to clear up space on your computer. On a weekly or monthly basis, copy your latest files to the external hard drive.
You can also print out hard copies of important documents and store them in a safe space. While this won’t work for images and music, it’s great for school assignments.
2. Install an Anti-Virus Program
Viruses can destroy a computer before you even realize your hard drive is infected. Too often, people install an anti-virus program but forget to use it or assume it’s running correctly. Be proactive with your anti-virus program by updating your definitions and running system checks on a regular basis. A trusted and reputable anti-virus system that includes anti-spyware is worth the investment.
3. Prevent Overheating
Keep a close eye on the heat generated from your laptop, as overheating can damage your hardware. If you use your laptop on a couch or bed, you might be obstructing the fans, which can cause it to overheat. Keep your computer on a desk and make sure the fans and vents aren’t obstructed. If your computer starts heating up, you may be running too many programs at once. Close a few and see if that helps. When in doubt, save everything and restart your computer.
4. Don’t Ignore Warning Signs
Has your computer’s speed significantly slowed down? Does it take twice as long to boot up? Have applications shut down randomly? Don’t assume these are one-time hiccups. It may be a sign your computer has serious issues brewing. Make an appointment with a computer repair business, such as the Genius Bar or Best Buy’s Geek Squad. These professionals can help you troubleshoot the issue and possibly save you from a future crash.
5. Give Your Computer Some TLC
Computers need love, too. At the end of each semester, clean up your hard drive. Delete or save old files to an external hard drive, uninstall programs and applications you no longer use, and upgrade to the latest versions of the programs you do use. If you’re running low on memory, you can upgrade your RAM. Beyond digitally cleaning your computer, physically clean it as well. Dust, as well as food crumbs, can quickly build up over the course of a busy semester. A can of compressed air will typically do the trick.
What should you do if your computer crashes before you have time to incorporate these safety measures? First, take a deep breath and don’t assume the worst has happened. You may be able to recover some or all of your files. Second, don’t investigate the problem yourself if you aren’t well versed in computer hardware – you could make things worse. Leave it to the professionals and call a computer repair shop. They can help you determine what data is recoverable.
We rely on our computers for school and our personal life. By regularly backing up your files and keeping your computer running efficiently, you can avoid the devastation of lost data and instead focus on scoring an A on your English paper.