Two years ago, my computer got sick with a virus and died. All of a sudden there I was, a freelance writer with no laptop. Visions of dollars not being earned raced before my eyes (yes, I was panicking) and before I even knew what was happening, I was at the Apple store picking out a brand new laptop. At first, my new Mac was lightning quick (especially when compared with "dead"). Opening and closing programs was like watching fireflies blink on and off. Today, this picture looks somewhat different. I’m now learning what it means to care for a maturing laptop to ensure it will last as long as possible. I hope these maintenance tips will also help you extend the life of your laptop, desktop, or device!

These tips are written to apply to PCs and Macs, Android and iOS, alike. If you have a PC and also want your computer to run faster, you may enjoy this helpful KCL post.

1. Update your virus program regularly.

Macs don't typically have the same level of risk for viruses, bugs, spyware, and other online nastiness (typically termed "malware"), but this doesn't mean there isn't still some risk. Regardless of whether you use a PC or a Mac, an Android or iOS, be sure to take all precautions against the threat of online hackers.

  • What to do: Whether you’re running a paid or a free virus software program, be sure you update it at least once annually, and that you enable automatic update checking within the settings.

2. Keep your operating system and software programs up to date.

Another easy way to safeguard against malware is to ensure you are running the latest versions of your operating system (the basic software that runs behind the scenes) and your software programs (word processing, photo editing, spreadsheets, etc.).

  • What to do: Enable automatic update checking for your operating system and your software. Also, search online to find out the latest version of both, and double check that version against what you’re running so you can update if necessary.

3. Use the latest version of your Internet browser.

With each new version release, known bugs, weaknesses, and issues are resolved, that’s why it’s essential you use the latest version of your Internet browser. Also, certain browsers historically have been harder-hit by hackers (Internet Explorer being the most prominent of these).

  • What to do: Check your browser version against the latest version online and, if needed, update (this should be free).

4. Double check your computer/device's security and privacy settings.

Here, you will find options regarding passwords, firewall settings, permitting guest users, data encryption, social media and app privacy, and more.

  • What to do: Scan for any software or apps you do not recognize and revoke any permissions they may have. Be sure you have a password set up and that it is required upon rebooting your system (at a minimum) and ideally for any administrative-level changes. Set different security permissions (that are tighter) for guest users. Be sure your firewall is turned on.

5. If you’re able, set your energy saver settings to maximum.

Recently I had to change out my two-year-old computer's battery (for $125 + tax). This was because I had my settings too low to conserve energy wherever possible.

  • What to do: Review your settings for sleep mode, screensaver display, screen brightness, and other settings that may drain your computer or device battery unnecessarily.

6. Coil your power cord and treat your accessories with TLC.

I’ve found out the hard way that the power cord that comes with computers isn’t cheap. I’ve lost more than one power cord—both PC and Mac—over the years. Some I've lost due to simple misplacement. Others I've lost due to preventable mistreatment (this cost me $85 the last time I had to buy a new Mac power cord).

  • What to do: When you pack your computer and accessories up for travel or put them away for the evening, treat them with TLC. Coil your power cord in the direction it naturally wants to go—in a circular motion. This prevents tears and breaks in the outer casing.

7. Use a screen guard, vented desk and case cover.

Finally, the number one cause of most preventable device injuries is a simple failure to protect.

  • What to do: Using a screen guard prevents scratches and can aid in waterproofing. Installing a case cover shields a falling device from impact. Using a vented desk or lap desk prevents the delicate insides from frying in their own absorbed heat. Each of these helps may cost a bit up front, but can prevent a pricey repair or replacement later!