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Computer Technical Tips: Keeping your computer running

In the last issue I covered what to do if your computer slows down suddenly. This is available at http://www.elearnaid.com/cotetihowtod.html. In that article, I mentioned that although your computer permanently stores data on your hard disk drive, the central processing unit never directly accesses the data but instead reads it into the memory chips in your computer. This explains why if your computer suddenly stops running you will lose all the data you recently put into your computer that has not been written to your hard drive yet. The memory stored in memory chips is lost when you lose power but the memory stored on your hard disk drive is stored as magnetic impulses which are not dependant on electrical power to persist. However, if the computer is writing to the hard disk drive and you lose power this can cause corruption of the data on the drive and you may get a message that windows is having to verify and correct the content of the hard drive when you reboot the computer next time.

To make sure your latest data is not lost and to make sure the data on your hard disk drive is not corrupted you want to make sure your computer has a reliable source of power. A good and inexpensive way to do this is to get a small Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) for every computer you use. These have a battery that is used to maintain the power supply when the current drops and they have surge suppressors to keep high voltages from damaging your computer. Not only will your data be protected but your computer also will last longer. Electrical fluctuation is a major cause of computer failure.

Computers used to be much more expensive and most businesses with computers had service contracts where a company would guarantee to come out and fix your computer if it broke. Since they charged a fixed fee whether your computer broke or not they did not want your computer to break. Whenever their technicians were not busy handling broken computers they would visit working sites and vacuum out the computer because of dust build up. Dust can damage a computer because it prevents cooling and can cause static electricity problems. The large chips often generate a lot of heat. They may have heat sinks on them and often with a fan on top of the heat sink. I have seen the fins of the heat sink entirely covered with dust to the point where air could not flow despite the fan and the chip had overheated and started to fail. So periodic cleaning of at least once a year is vital.

A Heatsink without a fan

Whenever you hear a computer making a lot of noise you should take it apart and either replace the fan or the disk drive (floppy, hard or CD/DVD etc). These are only things that have moving parts on most computers. Usually, it is the fan. It can be the fan in the power supply (some heavy duty power supplies have two fans) or one of the fans on top of a heat sink. You just have to locate the source of the noise or spin the fans and see which one does not spin easily. If you do not want to do this yourself take it somewhere where they will service your machine.

A power supply from a PC

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