Computers are, by design, very rugged and dependable pieces of equipment. However, like other machines, they age. Several basic procedures, when performed on a regular basis, can prevent premature failures. This lesson discusses how to keep computer hardware running smoothly and reliably.
After this lesson, you will be able to:
Estimated lesson time: 15 minutes
- Extend the useful life of computer hardware.
- Avoid major problems caused by unexpected downtime.
For the most part, computer equipment is very reliable and lasts a long time. However, as with any piece of equipment, dirt and other airborne contaminants will greatly accelerate the deterioration caused by normal use. Therefore, the best preventive maintenance is to keep the equipment clean.
The first step is to be sure that the computer is installed in a computer-friendly environment. This means that it should be in a dust-free (relatively speaking), smoke-free, and humidity-controlled (within a range of 50 to 70 percent relative humidity) location. For the most part, a normal office environment will qualify as computer-friendly. However, a normal office environment is not the only place that we find computers. Many computers are located on a warehouse floor, in a shop, or grouped together with a large industrial piece of equipment. In the event that the location of a computer is not as desirable as it should be, the frequency of preventive maintenance (cleaning) should be accelerated. In these instances, consideration should be given to establishing a computer-friendly zone around the computer, for instance, installing it into a cabinet and providing a source of clean fresh air. The following table describes what a computer technician should include in a basic cleaning kit.
|Lint-free chamois cloth||A cloth is useful for cleaning the outside surfaces.|
|Cleaning solution||Simple soap and water should be followed by a clear water rinse. Standard household cleaning solution (not extra strength) can also be used. The solution should be applied to the lint-free cloth and then applied to the computer surface. Do not use aerosol sprays. These generally use solvents as a propellant. Solvents can damage the plastic as well as the electrical components of a computer.|
|Foam swabs||Use these with cleaning solutions to clean small parts such as the wheels inside a mouse. (Cotton swabs are not recommended, because the cotton fibers can come off and be a contaminant themselves.)|
|Antistatic spray||An antistatic spray or solution should follow any cleaning. A solution composed of 10 parts water to 1 part common household fabric softener will do.|
|Small paintbrush and/or small hand-held vacuum cleaner||Used to remove dust from around the computer and inside its cabinet. The vacuum can be used to remove dust from the keyboard and other input devices.|
|Can of air||For removing dust from the power supply fan or from inside a computer. These can be purchased from any computer supplier; they are made especially for removing dust from electronic equipment.|
Never use liquids to clean inside a computer. Never apply liquids directly to the surface of a computer. Never use solvent-based cleanser or aerosols.
The proper placement or location of a computer relative to its environment is important for ease of maintenance and long life. Let's sum up good practices for placement of computer equipment. A computer should be:
For the most part, the MTBF (mean time between failures) of a computer and its peripheral devices is quite long. By following the general cleaning and safety measures just described, you can extend this time. This section describes several components and their special maintenance requirements.
Monitors require very little maintenance. To keep a monitor in peak condition:
Hard disk drives are another type of device that requires very little intervention to keep running. Mechanical failure of hard drives is rare, and when it does occur the solution is generally replacement. The most common problem with hard drives is corrupted sectors. Often they can be repaired with tools such as ScanDisk (part of the Windows 95 and 98 system tools) or one of the many after-market utility software packages available. Here are a few suggestions for preventing problems with hard drives:
Floppy disk drives are highly susceptible to failure. This is due mostly to the fact that they are exposed to the environment (through the disk slot) and are prone to mechanical damage from inserting and removing the disk. When they fail, the best solution is usually to replace them because they are inexpensive and simple to install. Here are a few tips to increase the life of floppy drives and disks:
Clean the read/write heads. Special head-cleaning diskettes and solutions such as isopropyl alcohol and methanol that do not leave a residue when they dry are available. Cotton swabs are not recommended because of the fibers they shed. Use cellular foam swabs or a lint-free cloth.
Keeping a keyboard and mouse clean is key to prolonging their lives. Never place drinks (coffee, soda, tea, and so on) around a keyboard; spilling liquids is a common cause of keyboard failures. Here are a few tips to increase the life of a keyboard and mouse:
Printers are more mechanical than other peripherals and therefore require more attention. Because they use paper, ink, or carbon, printers generate pollutants that can build up and cause problems. Always check the manufacturer's recommendations for cleaning. Here are a few steps for cleaning the most popular types of printers:
There are no universal preventive maintenance schedules that work on every computer. Each schedule must be individualized to meet the needs of the work environment. Use the following suggestions as maintenance guidelines:
The following points summarize the main elements of this lesson: