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5 Common Mistakes That Are Guaranteed to Break Your Laptop

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You hopefully aren’t wondering how to destroy a laptop so that you can actively ruin your machine. But it’s a good idea to know the most common sources of laptop damage so you can keep yours running properly as long as possible.

Because we carry laptops around, compared to desktop computers that stay still, they’re more prone to accidents and hardware failure. Luck is part of the equation, but let’s look at how you can break a laptop over time with a few common mistakes. If you abuse your laptop in these ways, it could fail early before you even realize what you’re doing.

1. How to Kill a Laptop With Excess Heat

Processors are more power-efficient than ever, and the average temperature of a PC has dropped over time. However, laptops still generate a lot of heat to the point where many machines become warm to the touch when stressed.

A fan (or another source of cooling) must expel this internal heat, and it’s your responsibility to keep the fan vent clear. If it’s obstructed, the heat inside your laptop has nowhere to go. Instead, it will get stuck around your laptop’s critical components. Eventually, your machine will reach a dangerous temperature and overheat.

Some laptops react to this and will shut down automatically. But others will suffer through the heat as they slowly bake to death.

Furniture, carpets, and blankets are all surfaces that can wreak havoc on a laptop. Wherever you place your laptop, make sure the vent has a clear path to do its job. Even a pile of books that’s too close to your laptop can cause problems if the air exhaust is blocked.

This isn’t the only source of heat buildup. Over time, dust can build up inside your machine and clog up the fan and internal airways. If you’ve had your computer for years, it’s worth cleaning your laptop to remove this debris inside.

Be proactive and pay attention to your laptop’s fan volume. If it sounds like a jet engine when your computer is not involved in a demanding task (like gaming or video encoding), consider it a cry for help and take steps to fix your overheating laptop.

2. How to Ruin Your Laptop’s Disk Drive

Most laptops now include a solid-state drive (SSD) or other flash storage. Since SSDs don’t have internal moving parts, they’re more resilient to motion. However, many older and cheaper laptops still have a mechanical hard disk drive (HDD). These can take physical damage if they’re rattled too much.

This vulnerability of a spinning hard drive is due to its use of moving parts. HDDs have a read/write head that must move to interact with the disk, which spins. These parts have their own inertia, so if you move your laptop while they are active, they’ll try to move along their original direction. This can cause contact between internal hard disk components, which in turn could cost you your data.

You can reduce the risk of HDD failure by only adjusting your laptop gently and not moving it when running a program that frequently accesses the hard drive. Treat your laptop gently, with no quick movements. Even if your computer has an SSD, you should know the signs of SSD failure to detect problems early.

3. How to Damage Your Laptop by Mishandling It

If you’re wondering how to break a good laptop quickly, try picking up your laptop by the screen. Holding it by any corner, especially loosely with one hand, is a bad idea. Even premium laptops can sometimes succumb to this seemingly innocent abuse.

When a laptop is closed, the best way to pick it up is by grabbing the front or rear of the device. It’s smart to pick it up with both hands for security. When your laptop is open, you should still pick it up with both hands (one on each side).

Do not pick up a laptop by the display. If your laptop still has an optical drive for discs, don’t hold it solely by that side either. When possible, you should also keep the laptop on a firm, level surface whenever possible. This will prevent it from getting bent out of shape.

Some laptops will take abuse in stride, but others can run into issues before long. In particular, picking up a laptop by the display puts a lot of stress on the hinges. They aren’t meant to handle that. Doing so can damage the hinges or surrounding materials, causing the hinge to break or the screen to stop working.

4. How to Destroy a Laptop by Mangling the Cords

If you want to kill your computer (or at least your ability to use it normally), treat its cables like junk. Wrap them around everything in sight, twist them at weird angles, and wait for something to break. It’ll happen sooner than you imagine.

You’d think power cords could handle lots of twisting and bending, but they often can’t. Laptops are primarily mobile devices, after all, so there’s good reason to make their cords thin, light, and easy to move.

A common form of this issue occurs when someone wraps the cord over some other object to keep it bundled. Sometimes that object has sharp edges, which cut into the cord. And this isn’t just for obvious blunders like knives; a hard plastic edge is all it takes. In some cases, power adapters will even damage the cable if you wrap the cord around the brick.

Avoid this problem by bundling a cord over itself. Most cords come packaged this way when you receive them, and some include a little piece of Velcro you can use to keep the cord together. If your cable doesn’t have Velcro, you can buy some yourself for cheap or use an adjustable zip tie. As a fallback, know how to roll a cable in a way that won’t damage it.

You should also make sure you don’t put too much strain on your computer cables. Avoid letting the AC adapter hang in midair; this will put stress on the plug that goes into your laptop. Over time, this will weaken the plug and could even damage the socket, preventing you from charging your computer. Having a bit of slack in your cables is important.

Spending some time cleaning up cable clutter will go a long way in keeping your laptop running for a long time.

5. How to Kill a Laptop With Improper Transportation

Person putting Chromebook into a bag

As we’ve looked at above, laptops don’t take kindly to shakes or other jarring. Despite what movies might have you think, you can’t properly use them on the back of a motorcycle, or while running away from guys with machine guns, or in the back of a car while missiles are fired at you.

A lot of people buy a laptop bag to take the edge off everyday bumps and bangs. That’s a great first step, but you need to make sure the bag actually provides protection. Cheap laptop bags might include a compartment that is laptop-sized, but usually lacks protection.

Others have padding on the sides of the bag, but completely neglect to protect the top or bottom. Of course, the bottom is what hits the floor when you drop a bag you’re holding.

An alternative is to place your laptop in a padded sleeve. This can protect your laptop from jolts while also keeping objects in your bag from scratching the machine’s exterior. Just make sure the sleeve is padded. A cheap sleeve, like a lousy bag, is likely too thin to offer real protection.

Check out the best anti-theft laptop backpacks for some good options.

Have You Ever Destroyed a Laptop?

In summary, it’s important to keep an eye on the small details. Otherwise, your laptop could die a slow death through damage to the hinges, hard drive, exterior, or other components. Even seemingly minor actions, like dropped food crumbs getting underneath the keyboard, can cause serious problems over time.

You’ll read stories of people dropping their laptop in a pool, spilling a drink on it, or knocking it off a fourth-story balcony. Such tragedies do happen. But dramatic accidents are not how most damage occurs. Laptops often fail due to a combination of small mistakes, some of which may have no consequences at first.

While we’ve focused on major laptop damage here, don’t forget that it’s important to take care of your laptop’s battery over time, too.