Six Quick Tips for a Better Laptop Experience

Paul Mah
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Extend Your Laptop's Longevity

Follow these practices to stay far away from the repair folks.

I first dispensed a number of generic tips for laptop users in "Get the Most Out of Your Laptop," which I wrote earlier this year. With an increasing number of users using laptops on an exclusive basis, I thought it may be time to revisit the topic on getting the best experience from your laptop. I've put together a number of quick tips and configurations on that front below.


Sleep Instead of Shutdown


Still wasting 5-10 minutes per day shutting down your laptop in the evenings and starting it up in the morning? It is a relatively trivial matter to set your laptop to "sleep" mode instead, triggered either by the power button or when closing the lid. I've been doing this since last year and find recovering from sleep mode to be a snap at just 2 to 3 seconds on average. This is particularly invaluable for sales executives or employees who bring their laptops home. Setting your laptop to sleep mode does tax your battery slightly as some power from the battery is required to maintain the contents of the memory. I've personally found the drain to be imperceptible even with a few hours of moving around.


Utilize Your Thumb Scanner


Practically all business laptops incorporate a fingerprint scanner today. Instead of leaving it unused, my advice is to take the 10 minutes or so to initialize and register your fingerprints using the manufacturer-bundled software. This makes it possible to log into your laptop with a swipe of your finger instead of having to type in a password first thing every morning. My experience is that using the fingerprint scanner also encourages better security habits, since it simplifies the mundane process of logging in using passwords.


Toggle Wi-Fi to 5GHz


New laptop models typically come equipped with Wi-Fi radios that can operate in the 5GHz band. Make sure you tap into this feature since 5GHz mode is far less prone to wireless interference than the cluttered 2.4GHz band. Indeed, it is highly recommended that businesses lean towards the use of 5GHz where possible.


Disable Virtual Memory


Virtual memory allows users to use their hard-disk (HDD) drives to run more concurrent applications than they would otherwise have the random access memory (RAM) for. The downside though, is that the access speed of your typical HDD is magnitudes slower than that of RAM. With newer laptops appearing on the market sporting 4GB or more of RAM, light users may want to disable their virtual memory altogether. I'm a mid-tier user, and the 6GB of RAM on my laptop is adequate for me to disable virtual memory with no negative repercussion - I've not run out of RAM so far.


Leave Your Battery in Place


I've never understood users who remove their laptop battery when plugged into an AC outlet, which I feel negates its convenience and portability somewhat. The fear of over-charging is an irrational one since laptop manufacturers have already put in multiple, automatic protective features to ensure that lithium-ion batteries don't explode or burn at very high temperatures if overcharged. This means that never happens. In fact, your modern lithium-ion battery is designed to permanently "brick" first rather than overcharge. On the other hand, I've seen poorly designed laptops dump exhaust heat onto the battery, which does indeed shorten its lifespan.


Plug in a Wireless Mouse


Ok, this is not strictly a "quick" tip, but I just wanted to add that it may be a good idea to get a good wireless mouse to use with your laptop. On a positive note, it is a simple matter of moving your wireless mouse investment to a new (or a home) laptop.

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