Computers are fragile devices and often seem to screw themselves up, but user error is a big problem. There may be things out there that you did not know are potential dangers, and that ignorance could destroy your system.
Don't worry, we've rounded up some of the top computer accidents that can have catastrophic consequences. The great thing is that they are all easy to prevent provided you act and follow the advice.
1. Disconnect during a thunderstorm
Everyone should invest in surge protection. They are an inexpensive and useful way to protect your electrical equipment from voltage spikes. Put simply, a sudden and drastic change in the power being sent to your devices can damage the components inside. As the name suggests, surge protection will block or short-circuit any impending amount of voltage.
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However, they are not foolproof. While they can usually successfully protect you from using high power electrical appliances within the same system or from a power outage, they are not as good during a thunderstorm. If lightning strikes near a power line or your home, electrical pressure can increase by a million volts. If your computer is connected, a surge protector cannot handle this.
The likelihood of it actually happening is relatively small, but nonexistent. This is not something you want to take chances with, especially given the cost of replacing the damaged equipment. Therefore, the cheapest and safest way to protect yourself during a thunderstorm is to switch off the device and disconnect it from the mains. It is not enough just to shut down the device – you also have to unplug it.
2. Don't download anything shady
Viruses are plentiful for Windows as it is the most widely used desktop operating system. Malicious users know that they are more likely to be hit on Windows, which is why they spend their time looking for and exploiting vulnerabilities in the system. If you are not careful what you are downloading, perhaps from an untrustworthy website or advert, you could quickly find that your system is infected.
One type of virus is a keylogger that records every keystroke you enter. This will then be sent back to whoever distributed it, giving them a full overview of everything you entered. This goes beyond Facebook status – we're talking about the content of emails, passwords, security replies … you enter it, you have it. The damage can be massive and you may not even know it is occurring.
As a result, not only is it extremely important that you are careful with your downloads, but you also need protection to fight viruses. In addition to using antivirus software, you should also consider monitoring your network to make sure nothing is being broadcast outside and using tools specifically designed to combat keyloggers.
3. Don't let your laptop overheat in a confined space
Some laptops can get hot in the best of times, let alone in the tightest of spaces. In theory, a thermal shutdown circuit should shut everything down if the system gets dangerously hot, but that can never be relied on. When you're done with your laptop, put it to sleep and leave it in a closed place (like a laptop bag). It may be time to reconsider.
Putting a system to sleep doesn't mean it is relying on you alone to wake itself up. For example, a system wakes up when a scheduled task needs to be performed. The same can happen with the Wake-On-LAN protocol. You might consider turning things like this off to prevent your system from waking up while you sleep, but that will ruin the point if you actually use them.
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Instead, it is advisable to shut down your laptop completely if you leave it in a place where it cannot be properly ventilated. There have been horror stories of components melting from the heat. If you're not installing a sprinkler directly over the laptop, just turn it off completely.
If you are using a desktop computer, giving it room to breathe is equally important. Although the components inside are not as crammed as they are in a laptop, you still need to give the case air to breathe in order for the fans to successfully flow air in and out of the case. That means you don't keep the desktop in a closet or against a wall; Ideally, keep it off the floor to reduce dust.
4. Do not drop your hard drive
Hard drives are sensitive devices. Unlike solid-state drives with static components, hard drives are mechanical devices whose head hovers over a rotating platter to read and write data. Although the platter is coated with a non-electrostatic lubricant that protects it from minor collisions, severe impacts can scratch and damage the platter.
If the turntable is damaged in any way, there is a great risk of data loss. This is where your data is stored and if it gets corrupted the head cannot access it. When you consider that dust landing on the turntable can potentially cause damage, which is why you should never open your drive in a special clean room, imagine what would happen if the head collided with it.
Hence, you need to be extremely careful not to drop a hard drive, especially if it is an external hard drive that is constantly moving. It might sound obvious, but while something like a smartphone can survive a fall, the odds on a hard drive are less likely. It is always important to make sure that you have a backup of your data and this is just one more reason to show why.
5. Avoid aggressive disk cleaners
We all want our systems to run smoothly. It's satisfying to make a change that makes your computer a bit faster or to clean up your hard drive to free up a lot of space. However, you need to be careful when using disk cleanup tools because if you use them too aggressively you can end up doing more harm than good.
It's not uncommon to hear from people breaking their registry because they don't understand what it means. The registry stores settings on a system-wide basis, and using a poorly designed registry cleaner can delete things you really need and render programs or the operating system unusable.
Overzealous cleaning can destroy Windows, so be sure to read what not to do. This includes deleting your recovery partition, deleting system files, and deleting important drivers. Having a clean system is great, but make sure you know the limits before you start hacking.
Help avoid an accident
A power surge, a dropped hard drive, an overly cleaned computer … all of these and more are accidents just waiting to happen, but hopefully by now you know what steps to take to prevent them.
Look out for warning signs that your computer is about to crash. Boot errors, corrupted files, and loud fans are sure signs that something is going on.
7 warning signs that your computer is crashing (and what to do)
Computer crashes can occur without warning. Look out for these warning signs and follow these tips on what to do.
About the author
(711 published articles)
Joe was born with a keyboard in hand and immediately started writing about technology. He has a BA (Hons) in Business and is now a full-time freelancer who enjoys making technology easy for everyone.
Posted by Joe Keeley
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