Keeping your laptop working well

If you’ve owned a laptop for a few months, there are a few simple things you can do to give it the best chance of a long and trouble-free life, while also protecting your information from loss. Here we look at a few simple tips that won’t take much time or money.


Your computer stores information on a hard drive, which contains mechanical components all of which will eventually fail. It’s hard to predict exactly when, which is why it’s important to keep a backup copy of any important work or personal information on another device.

If you’re using your laptop for any “mission critical” work tasks, you should be backing up at least once a day – ask us to recommend a solution if you don’t have one already. But for most personal users, a weekly backup routine is probably more realistic.

The simplest way to do it is to plug in a portable hard drive and use Mint’s built-in backup tool to copy the necessary files over. Then make sure it’s stored somewhere away from your laptop, so that if one gets stolen or damaged the other is likely to survive. This will make it much easier to get up-and-running again when (not if!) you lose your data.

Check disc health

Modern hard drives have a self-monitoring system which is designed to warn you if they’re developing a fault. You can’t rely on it to predict every problem, which is why backups are always needed, but it’s still worth looking for any problems that may be developing.

In the Mint menu, go to accessories and then disks. You should see some details about your hard disk and a line that says something like “Assessment: Disk is OK” and even how warm it is in there – any different message is meant to warn you that it’s time to replace your disk.

If you want to look at more detailed stats, click the “gear” icon in the top-right of the window and choose “SMART Data and Self-Tests” – interpretation is beyond the scope of this article but you can find more information here or use a search engine of your choice.

Check free space

One of the most common reasons for computers to stop working unexpectedly is that the hard disk has run out of space. To see how much you’ve got left, go to System Tools in the menu then choose System Monitor and look in the File Systems tab.

If there’s less than about 10GiB available, you’ll need to make room by either deleting unwanted files or moving large files onto another storage medium. If you don’t know what’s taking up the space, the Disk Usage Analyser (also in System Tools) will draw you a nice pie chart!

If you really want to keep everything that’s on that disk right there on your laptop, it’s time to think about getting a bigger disk and transferring your system onto it – let us know if you’re not confident enough to do this yourself.

Physical care

An important aspect of green computing is taking proportionate steps to prolong the working life of equipment. Even the most well-made of computers can succumb to simple hazards like dust and moisture so you should take reasonable steps to keep it clean and dry.

For example, if you put your laptop in a rucksack that’s not waterproof, or also contains food and drink, place it inside a plastic bag first. If you’re using it on a textile surface like a carpet or a duvet, place something hard like a tray or large book underneath the laptop so that the air inlets on the base aren’t directly sucking in all the fluff.

Small bits of dirt can be a big problem for laptops. Biscuit crumbs can get under the keys and stop them working properly; fluff and dust can clog up the air circulation that keeps the system cool, which can lead to the fan having to work harder, wasting more energy and causing more noise. You can clean laptops if you don’t mind taking them apart, or get it done professionally, but prevention is better than cure.

Do you need help?

We hope that these tips will enable you to keep your computer and your data safe from breakdown and loss however if things do go wrong, or you want to check before you do something you’re unsure about, please ask. We would rather help you to keep using a healthy computer than fixing a broken one, but we can do repairs and attempt data recovery if needed.

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