Computer Care: Tips for Better PC Performance and Longer Laptop Life

Maybe you got a shiny new laptop under the Christmas tree this year. Or perhaps you’re simply looking to get as much mileage as possible out of your current machine. Why not? Money doesn’t grow on trees. Whatever the case, by following some basic computer care/computer maintenance tips, we can all benefit from better PC performance and longer laptop life.

Drink to Being More Careful.
When it comes to your pricey computer, you can cry over spilled milk. It’s not so bad if the big spill is on your desktop keyboard (which you can replace for less than $20), but if we’re talking about your laptop keyboard, you could easily short out your motherboard with one, unfortunate move.

Keep Your Keyboard Clean.
Step 1: After you shut down your computer, turn your laptop or keyboard upside down and gently tap on the back to kick out crumbs and debris. Step 2: Keeping the keyboard upside down, use a can of compressed air (sold for a few bucks at office supply stores) to blow out anything left stuck between/under the keys. Gently tap the keyboard a few more times. Step 3: If you have a raised-key keyboard, attack those germs by swiping a Q-tip dipped in isopropyl alcohol around the rims of each key.

Keep the Screen Clean.
Spots and smudges on the computer screen are distracting, no doubt. To clean your laptop screen or computer monitor, first power off your laptop/monitor. Grab a dry, microfiber cloth (paper towels are too abrasive). Spritz some screen cleaner (sold at office supply stores) onto the cloth (not the screen) and wipe in a gentle, circular motion. Penny pinchers: You can make your own cleaning solution by pouring equal parts distilled water and white vinegar into a spray bottle.

To Dust Is a Must.
Dust build-up is problematic for laptops, given their compact design and small components. If your computer fan is running constantly, or your laptop feels hotter than it should, that might be a sign of dust build-up. What to do: First make sure your laptop is completely turned off. Turn your laptop over and remove the battery pack. Examine the bottom of the laptop for vents, grills or fans. You can use a can of compressed air to blow out dust in these areas. Better yet, say the PC repair guys, use a Shop-Vac set in reserve (with an attachment to concentrate air flow). Blow out these areas, including the battery compartment, to remove dusk particles. Even a small amount of dusk is a big deal for laptops.

Dump the Junk.
For optimal performance it’s just as important to keep the computer clean on the inside. An overload of files and outdated software can waste valuable hard drive space and slow your speed.

Windows users can get rid of old software as follows:

Click the Start button > then Control Panel > then choose Programs > followed by Programs and Features, where you’ll see a complete list of your software programs. Select what want to delete and click uninstall.

You can also shed unnecessary files on your hard disk and free up disk space by using Disk Cleanup on a regular basis. It removes temporary files, empties the Recycle Bin, and clears a variety of system files you no longer need. If you’re a Windows user:

Click the Start button. In the search box, type Disk Cleanup.
In the results list, click Disk Cleanup.
In the drives list, select the hard disk drive you want to clean up, and then click OK.
In the disk cleanup dialog box, select the check boxes for the file types you want to delete, and then click OK.
In the confirmation message that appears, click delete files.

Play it Safe with Antivirus Protection.
To keep your PC in tip-top shape, having a quality antivirus software installed is absolutely essential. Among the choices that consistently rank at the top: AVG Antivirus. Blocking viruses, spyware and other malware, AVG Antivirus can be downloaded free. For more extensive protection (including firewall and encryption protection), purchasing the full version of the software affords you greater peace of mind.

Tapping into the Tablet Versus Laptop Debate

Tablets are taking the market by storm. And according to industry forecasters including Canalys, “tablet domination is set to continue,” adding that global tablet shipments could surpass laptop and desktop shipments sometime in 2014.

Given all the momentum and the sex appeal tablets provide in terms of sleek design and grab-and-go convenience, perhaps you're among the throngs of consumers faced with the debate: which one is better, a laptop or tablet?

Where Laptops Run Laps Around Tablets:

Power. No question. Laptops dominate tablets in terms of power. Designed as mobile personal computers, laptops allow users to perform the same tasks of desktops but with lightweight, mobile portability.

Performance. With more potent processing hardware, laptops not only provide for a wider range of uses, but they also deliver faster performance and work well for multitasking.

Tablets are up to the task of Web browsing and media streaming, but for more complex assignments, laptops are where it's at. With low-powered processors, most tablets just can't keep pace with the computing abilities of laptops.

Storage. As you'd expect, laptops provide far more file storage capacity than tablets. To keep their size and costs down, tablets rely on new solid state storage. While that equates to fast access and low power usage, it also means a lot less capacity for file storage.

Most tablets offer between 16 GB to 64 GB of storage. By comparison, laptops might offer 10 times that. Laptops make it easy to add needed storage, too, whereas with tablets what you get it is what you get.

Compatibility. Laptops can also display/play just about any file, whereas tablets, including iPads, are more restrictive and may well require conversion prior to play.

How Tablets Make for a Top Choice:

Price. A standard laptop can easily run you $500. Though not always the case, tablets generally come with a smaller price tag.

Weight. Anyone who's had to lug around a laptop for an extended period of time can appreciate the portability of a tablet. Apple iPad Air, for example, weighs a mere one pound!

Coolness. Thanks to different processors and lower power requirements, tablets don't throw off the heat that laptops do…so cool, they don't require a fan, as do laptops. Not to mention they just look cool.

Battery Life. The relatively short battery life of laptops has always been a drain for those on the go. In contrast, you can get more than 10 hours of battery life on a tablet.

Apps Aplenty. While laptops revolve around software, tablets are all about apps. There are over 500,000 apps customized for tablets. Apps are also generally less expensive than PC software. And you'll find a lot of apps are free.

Now the big question? Who comes out the winner in the great laptop vs. tablet debate?

If you're among the many looking to downsize and lighten your load, you might hope that a tablet over a laptop would be the answer. In reality, laptops and tablets are better thought of as companions rather than dueling devices. As impressive as tablets are, and even with accessories such as tablet keyboards that deliver the laptop feel folks have been missing, they're not a straight replacement for laptops.

While good at many things, including Internet browsing, serving as e-readers and streaming entertainment off Netflix and other sources, the abilities of tablets are a simply a sampling of what laptops can do.



Tips for Those Keen on Green Computing

Incorporating fewer toxic materials, built to be more energy efficient and wrapped in less packaging, today’s computers aren’t just leaner, they’re greener. To the eco-conscious, how green a computer is might be as important as name brand, RAM, operating system and other components. Before spending your hard-earned green on a new computer, you might consider the following factors if you’re keen on green.

Go for gold (or silver or bronze).
EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) is a comprehensive global rating system for green computing. EPEAT evaluates laptops, desktops and computer monitors according to specific environmental criteria and offers Bronze, Silver and Gold ratings. All computers in the EPEAT rating system must meet 23 criteria.

Computers that meet the most “additional points” (based on 28 optional criteria) are rated greenest. Those shopping for a green computer should definitely pay a visit to EPEAT online.

Consider downsizing.
For green computing, notebooks or laptops make more sense than desktops. They require less material to make and less energy to run. Additionally, laptops likely contain less lead than desktops. Yes, laptops and notebooks generally have a higher price tag than desktops, but in the long run, they cost less given the power savings.

In fact laptops consume five times less energy than desktop PCs. Being so portable, they’re more convenient, too. But if you think nothing tops a desktop, consider a small-form-factor (SFF) desktop. Manufacturers include Apple, AOpen and Shuttle. Modest in size and designed with energy-efficient notebook components, SFFs tend to use less power than full-size towers. Check out these top five SFF picks.

You can also visit manufacturers’ websites to sort their greenest models. They should be free from brominated fire retardant (BMR), arsenic, lead and mercury, made with recycled or recyclable materials and include reduced packaging.

What about a monitor? You’ll likely want to buy a flat-panel LCD display. Of course, CRTs are available, but they not only require more desk space but also more power. LCDs use about one-third the power of CRTs.

Reach for Energy Star.
Definitely look for the EPA’s Energy Star label when shopping for a green computer. Having recently been updated (for the first time in 15 years), Energy Star requirements are more stringent than ever. Energy Star computers meet strict Typical Energy Consumption (TEC) requirements, including being able to save energy while in use and in sleep mode. Feel free to search the Energy Star website for energy-efficient computers (by brand or by model number).

Score with Multicore.
The makers of computer processors (e.g., Intel) have been hard at work to reduce power usage. For example, not only is the Intel Core 2 Duo desktop processor said to be 40 percent faster, but it’s also considered more than 40 percent more energy efficient than its single-core predecessor. Sipping not gulping power, so to speak, it consumes power very efficiently by powering up processor components, selectively, and only when necessary.

Power save.
Sure, powering up takes time, but consider this. Leaving your PC running actually consumes more energy than shutting down and rebooting. Not sold? At least put your computer in Power Save/Sleep Mode. It’s the next best thing, and it’s easy to do.

In Windows, click the Start menu, choose Control Panel, then click Power Options and select the power plan “Power Saver.” From this window, you’ll also see the option “change when the computer sleeps.” Use the pull-down menu option to select a sleep mode time trigger (e.g., 10 minutes, 15 minutes), so that when you’re away from your computer for that amount of time, sleep mode automatically kicks in.



EarthLink Web Hosting Plans Take Your Pick. Unwrap Many Possibilities.

As a professional looking to grow your business, one of the best investments you can make is in a company website. For some small business owners, creating a website is “something I’ll get to when I have time.”

With a new year on the horizon, there’s no better time to put your best foot forward with a website.

Now…where do you start? Say you opt for an EarthLink Web Hosting Plan. What are your options?

Let’s Unwrap the Possibilities of EarthLink Web Hosting Plans…

Are you pretty good at following directions and assembly? Don't mind tackling some details to save money? Then an EarthLink Do-It-Yourself Web Hosting Plan might be the perfect pick. Among the possibilities...

Do-It-Yourself Option #1: Website Plus
(for $9.97/month for the first 3 months, $19.95/month thereafter*)

With Website Plus, you can make your own website in minutes, no experience necessary. It’s a solid option if you’re a small business without a website, or you have a website but want a simple way to rebuild it and manage it yourself.

Essentials include an easy-to-use website builder with built-in business templates, WordPress blog, email marketing and social media tools, unlimited FTP (for managing large files), live chat, and more.

Do-It-Yourself Option #2: Business Website Plus
(for $17.47/month for the first 3 months, $34.95/month thereafter*)

For the small business owner who wants to easily build and manage a website and step up their online marketing. Business Website Plus includes all the features of the Website Plus plan -- and much more. Extras include over 60 professional directory listings, 200 professional email accounts, and a mobile website with click-to-map and click-to-call features.

Think you don't need a mobile website? Consider these stats from a recent Google study of smartphone usage:

  • 96% of smartphone users have researched a product or service on their device
  • 94% of smartphone users look for local information on their phone
  • 90% of smartphone users purchase, contact the business, or take another action after local research

All the more reason to consider the Do-It-Yourself Business Website Plus plan.

Do-It-Yourself Option #3: Ecommerce Website Plus
(for $42.47/month for the first 3 months, $84.95/month thereafter*)

Have stuff to sell online? Let customers fill up their shopping carts and pay securely with an Ecommerce Website Plus plan.

  • Supports online credit card transactions and features a Rapid SSL cert
  • Includes eCommerce Store Builder -- create an engaging storefront and easily optimize your store for mobile devices, sell products and services directly on Facebook, and more
  • Provides advanced Web hosting features, plus all the online marketing tools in our other website hosting packages (including a mobile website)

No time to roll up your sleeves?
Prefer to pay for professional services?

Then you might be just the person for an EarthLink Do-It-For-Me Plan. Keep in mind, the price drops big time after the first year! All Do-It-For-Me plans offer professional website design services, copywriting, maintenance, email marketing, SEO tools, and more.

Options include…

Do-It-For-Me Option 1: Standard Design & Marketing Website
(for $79.95/month, drops to $29.95/month after the first 12 months**)

Count on a professionally designed and branded website, a mobile website, plus tools to market your business. Details.

Do-It-For-Me Option 2: Premium Design & Marketing Website
(for $124.95/month, drops to $69.95/month after the first 12 months**)

Get a bigger website for your business, a mobile website, and additional online marketing tools to help drive traffic. Details.

Do-It-For-Me Option 3: Ecommerce Design & Marketing Website
(for $154.95/month, drops to $84.95/month after the first 12 months**)

Help your business sell more online with a sophisticated and professionally designed store and a mobile website. Take your marketing to the max. Details.


* First 3 months are billed at the rates listed above. Standard monthly rates apply thereafter. Current standard monthly rates listed above. Free Domain Name: After you click to sign up you will have an opportunity to search for and choose your free domain name, or you may transfer a domain you already own. Top level domains ( TLDs) included in Free Domain Name promotion are .com, .net, .org, .info, .biz, .us, .name, .mobi, .asia and .tel. Other domain name extensions are available for additional fees.

** Plan requires a 12-month commitment. Cancellation prior to the end of such 12-month period will result in EarthLink billing you an early termination fee equal to the applicable monthly fee multiplied by the number of months remaining in your 12-month term.