Sure, call it a First World problem. If you're lucky enough to own a computer, you're lucky enough.
But it's undeniable: One of the biggest pet peeves of our online lives is being inundated with software updates.
And here we have a new survey confirming our annoyance (or just plain apathy) when "Do you want to download the latest version?" messages pop up (invariably when we're trying to get work done).
According to polling conducted by YouGov on behalf of Skype, 42 percent of Americans don't always upgrade software when prompted. Results were similar for Britons and Germans surveyed: 41 percent and 37 percent of them, respectively, aren't diligent about always following through on software notifications. About a quarter of adults say they need to be prompted twice before upgrading.
Among respondents in all three countries, the top reasons people don't upgrade include worries about them weakening security (45 percent), the whole shebang taking too long (27 percent), having only a negligible benefits (25 percent), and just sheer failure to understand what they do (26 percent). (Read all of the findings over at Mashable here.)
What gives? For this unresponsiveness, blame must be shared between both software makers and software users. Those afraid that a little upgrade will make their computers a lot less secure are shooting themselves in the foot. Upgrades are frequently done to patch up weak points in software that viruses might exploit. In fact, "as much as 99.8 percent of all virus/malware infections caused by commercial exploit kits" in Microsoft Windows, according to a study by CSIS Security Group.
On the other hand, software firms often don't make it clear why they're upgrading products in the first place. Many are still caught in a 1990s mindset, when shoddy software tweaks caused computers to crash. Other just don't like being bothered and don't see the benefit. To ease their concerns (or lack of concern), a simple message from the company explaining what is being patched up is all that's needed.
But perhaps the more important question: Why is Skype suddenly interested in commissioning surveys about attitudes toward software upgrades? Well, the video chat service, along with Adobe, Norton, and TomTom, are making push to raise awareness about the value of upgrading, having dubbed this past week "International Technology Upgrade Week." Those first three companies have rolled out blog posts extolling the virtues of software fixes--they make programs less vulnerable to viruses and run better. Apparently these companies are as annoyed with their upgrades getting the cold shoulder as users are of the upgrades themselves.
But the campaign might be moot. Those same three tech companies let users switching on automatic software upgrades, essentially giving users the ability to give permission once to a company to forever make upgrades without being bothered. It's a recent trend in tech after the days of ceaseless upgrade prompts during the early years of personal computing. Even Firefox, famous for its incessant software notifications whenever the browser was booted on, recently incorporated a silent upgrading process in its 12th version, released in April.
With hope, in the next year or two there will be no need for a week dedicated to upgrades as more software makers allow them to be done automatically. And users take them up on the offer.
Be Careful Plugging In Your DC Jack
Unless you have an Apple laptop with its MagSafe magnetic connector, you need to be gentle when plugging in your computer. If excessive force is applied to the jack, the solder joints connecting the jack to the motherboard can crack. The points of contact can quickly overheat, further damaging the motherboard and the jack. In some cases the motherboard can even catch fire. So don't apply too much force, don't use a cheap after-market charger (only an original charger), and if you notice that the jack is loose, bring it to a repair place ASAP. The more you use a laptop with a loose jack, the looser it becomes and the more you risk destroying both the charger and the motherboard.
Clean Your Cooling System With Compressed Air
Buy a bottle of compressed air and blow the dust out of your fan and heat sink once a month. Laptop heat sinks are very fine and get cloaked with dust easily. Open the case and get rid of all the dirt, dust, lint, Cheetos remains and whatever else might have accumulated in there. If you can't figure out how to open the case, call the manufacturer. Most help desks will be more than happy to tell you how to open the case for maintenance, even if your warranty or support plan is up. Also make sure to use static-neutral compressed air. The most popular brand is probably <a href="http://www.dust-off.com/" target="_hplink">Dust-Off</a>.
Don't Use Your Laptop In Bed
If you can avoid using a laptop that's lying on a bed or sofa, then please do. When you put your laptop on soft material, you block the ventilation holes in the bottom and the laptop can't suck in air for cooling. Make sure that your laptop sits on a hard surface such as a table or computer mat and that there is space between the bottom of the computer and the surface so that air can travel under the computer. If you must use your laptop in bed, prop it on a big hardcover book or a lapdesk.
Consider a Cooling Pad
Avoid overheating at all times. The lower the temperature of your laptop, the longer it will live. All of the repair shops we spoke with reiterated the importance of keeping the laptop's temperature low and agreed that overheating was a huge cause of laptop failure. Even <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/search/ref=sr_nr_scat_2243862011_ln?rh=n%3A2243862011%2Ck%3Alaptop+cooling&keywords=laptop+cooling&ie=UTF8&qid=1316580080&scn=2243862011&h=c0e469de81e81fe1a07328301960ae52fc27e8fc" target="_hplink">a cheap $20 laptop cooling pad</a> can help extend the life of your device.
Get CCleaner, Use CCleaner
Download CCleaner for Mac and PC. Every second you spend on your computer doing even simple things, the computer is working hard. That means it can get clogged with temporary files, history, cookies, etc. You can clean the computer and the registry with this very useful tool. CCleaner is free and incredibly easy to use, and <a href="http://www.piriform.com/CCLEANER" target="_hplink">you can download it here</a>. We've heard suggestions to use it as often as every day, but you should be fine with every week or two.
Don't Drink And Surf
No liquids near your laptop! It's that simple. Don't drink by your computer, don't eat by your computer, don't keep your goldfish bowl by your computer. Even if you've never spilled anything before in your life, it's just a matter of time, and the spill could seriously fry your electronics.
Clean Your Screen Correctly
When dust dirties your screen, don't grab for chemical cleaners like Windex. The chemicals in those cleaning solutions can destroy the thin protective layer on your screen and damage the display over time. Instead, take two tissues, one with a touch of H2O and one dry. Wipe your screen with the wet one and then the dry one, to clean completely and soak up any water drops on the screen. Even better, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lcd+display+cleaners&x=0&y=0" target="_hplink">use only approved LCD cleaners</a> to keep your screen shiny, new and scratch-free.
Manage Your Battery Life
Drain the laptop's battery all the way occasionally. Most manufacturers recommend using the computer until the battery is drained completely at least once a month. Don't keep the laptop charged all the time, as this can reduce battery life in the long run.
Get Anti-Virus Software
There are millions of viruses, malware, spyware and other really nasty bugs designed solely to harm your system. Fortunately, there are plenty of free anti-virus programs recommended by our New York-area repair shops, including: - <a href="http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/security_essentials/default.aspx" target="_hplink">Microsoft Essentials</a>. ("It's light, free, updated on a regular basis and just works," according to one of our repairmen.) - <a href="http://www.malwarebytes.org/" target="_hplink">Malwarebytes</a>, a program for all the malware that's flying around. - <a href="http://www.safer-networking.org/index2.html" target="_hplink">Spybot</a>, for spyware protection. - <a href="http://www.avast.com/en-us/index" target="_hplink">Avast</a>. - <a href="http://free.avg.com/us-en/homepage" target="_hplink">AVG Free</a>. Even <a href="http://www.reedcorner.net/guides/macvirus/malware_catalog.php" target="_hplink">if your laptop is a Mac</a>, you should have one of these anti-virus programs.
Download Those Windows Updates
Get those Windows Updates! Once a week Microsoft releases updates to its operating system, and often those fixes are critical to your security. In Windows 7, simply click on "Start," type in "Windows Update" and click on the first result to be taken to the Windows Updater. Mac users should also update regularly, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/20/mac-os-x-lion-password_n_971469.html" target="_hplink">especially in light of the recent bugs in Lion OS X</a>.