Techies and computer enthusiasts are at an undeniable advantage when it comes to keeping their computers running smoothly. Not only do they know how to get the basics right, but they also stand a better chance of fixing a machine without assistance when it goes wrong.
However, you don’t need to be a computer expert in following some of the sensible practices that most techies follow as a matter of course. This article presents five of these and explains how you can learn from them.
Let’s get started:
Remove the “bloat.”
When you buy a new computer, it often comes will all kinds of pre-installed software that you probably don’t need at all. It’s fair to say that this problem is WAY more prevalent with computers running Microsoft Windows than on Apple Macs. (As an aside, some manufacturers of Android smartphones and tablets are also increasingly guilty of this practice of installing unnecessary software, commonly known as “bloatware.”)
There are various reasons for manufacturers doing this; Sometimes, they want to push novice users to use their own software when, in reality, they have a choice of all kinds of third-party products. Sometimes the manufacturers are working with a specific third-party to promote a specific product.
Either way, all this bloatware usually does is get in the way and slow a computer down. The solution is to uninstall everything you don’t need. It’s your computer, and it’s up to you what you have running on it.
Encrypt the hard drive
It usually comes as a big surprise to non-technical people that it’s laughably easy to access the data on a computer, regardless of whether there’s a complicated password set. All anyone needs to do is remove the hard drive and plug it into a caddy device or another computer, and everything’s right there.
The solution is to use full-disk encryption, so anyone who lays their hands on the hard drive will only see garbage if they don’t have the encryption key.
Apple Macs and Windows computers running a “Professional” version of Windows have full disk encryption instantly available, in the form of FileVault or BitLocker, respectively. Alternatively, you can use a third-party program like VeraCrypt to encrypt the hard drive. Once your drive is encrypted, you needn’t worry so much about your data’s security if your machine is ever lost or stolen.
Use a VPN service
Once used primarily to create a secure way for teleworkers to connect to their corporate systems, virtual private networks (VPNs) have evolved. They are now widely sold as subscription services to vastly improve your online privacy.
You can appear to be connecting to the Internet from anywhere in the world with a VPN on your Mac, Windows PC, or mobile device. This opens up access to TV and media services from all locations and stops sites blocking you due to where you are. VPNs also encrypt your traffic, so you’re not advertising all your activity to your internet service provider (ISP). Using a laptop, using a VPN also makes it far safer to use public Wi-Fi hotspots.
Techies who care about their privacy tend to use VPNs routinely – it’s well worth considering doing the same yourself.
Studies prove just how common it is for computer users not to back up their data every year. If you’re one of those people, inevitably, you’ll eventually live to regret it when you become the victim of a drive failure and lose some valuable files or photos.
Modern operating systems all come with easy-to-use backup procedures, which allow you to backup data to an external hard drive. There are also dozens of online backup services that allow you to store data in the cloud safely. An estimated 25% of people lose data each year – but this is easily avoided if you backup regularly.
Consider extending the warranty.
Hardware warranties for computers are often very minimal, especially for low-end machines. Commonly, a warranty may only last one year and require your computer to be “returned to base” – which means being without it until it’s fixed and returned.
While techies may not bother much about the warranty on a cheap PC or laptop, it often makes good sense to cough up for it with an expensive model. If you’ve spent a four-figure sum on a laptop, only for the screen or motherboard to fail when it’s 18 months old, you could end up with a huge repair bill. In an episode of The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon Cooper jokes that “AppleCare always pays for itself.” Plenty of tech enthusiasts would agree!
Following these tips won’t turn you into a technical expert overnight, but they will allow you to come closer to the trouble-free computing that more technical people get to enjoy.