My advice for anyone who uses a computer, condensed into six specific tips.
- Don’t leave a laptop plugged in to the charger all the time. This will kill the battery (or worse, it’ll cause the battery to start degenerating into hydrogen gas, puffing it up like a bag of microwave popcorn and bending your laptop around it). Instead, plug it in long enough to charge it to 100%, or keep it plugged in while you’re using it. Otherwise leave it unplugged.
- The easiest way to speed up a computer is to add more memory. Bring it up to 8 gigabytes if you don’t have that much yet. Cruclal.com has a good tool that’ll scan your computer to tell you what it currently has and what you can upgrade it to.
- The second easiest way to speed up a computer is to replace the hard drive with an SSD (solid-state drive). Laptops, especially, use slower hard drives and will get an even bigger boost of speed from upgrading to an SSD. Look at how much disk space you’re using right now to get an idea of how large (capacity-wise) you’ll need; for example, right now you can get a 240 gigabyte SSD for around $30 and a 1 terabyte SSD for around $140. Buy a USB adapter to connect the new SSD to your computer, use the free version of Macrium Reflect to clone your hard drive to the new SSD, then physically replace the hard drive with the SSD inside the computer. (This can be tricky, so get help if you haven’t done it before, but it’s not all that difficult.)
- Back up often. (a) The cheap way: use cloud storage (Apple iCloud, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox) and copy your important files to it every now and then. (b) The serious way: buy an external USB hard drive (for example, this one for $60); on macOS use the built-in Time Machine feature, on Windows get the free Veeam Agent software. Every now and then, connect the hard drive to make a backup, then disconnect it and keep it in a safe place. (c) The continuous way: subscribe to a cloud storage backup service like Backblaze, or buy a network storage unit for your home (like one from Synology), for automatic backups of your important files throughout the day.
- Protect yourself from malware (viruses and spyware), but don’t go overboard. In my opinion, “security suites” such as from Norton and McAfee are overkill; they’re overly complex, hard to understand, and will leave you unprotected if you don’t keep paying for a subscription. Instead, be smart. Don’t pirate software. Don’t open attachments or other files if you weren’t expecting them and don’t know where they came from. Don’t install software on your computer unless you’re sure you need it. Get the free version of Malwarebytes and run it every now and then to make sure your computer is clean.
- Keep up-to-date on updates for your operating system and applications. Check at least once a week for updates, and install any you find. This makes updates smaller and quicker to install (than if you put them off for weeks or months), and a system with current updates is easier to maintain.