Nathaniel Hawthorne once said, "I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air." Autumn is a time to reflect on how well we managed to get through another hot summer and the annual arrival and departure of the monsoons. This year seemed fairly tame in comparison to recent years, but it did leave some work for every computer owner.


• There were a large number of dust storms this year and with them come a hazard of dust particles becoming embedded in the bearings of fans and causing failure. You should have an established routine of monthly fan maintenance but if not, at least take this time to get a can of compressed air at any grocery store, computer store or office store and clean your fans. Turn off the laptop and locate any vent slots on the bottom, sides and back of the computer. Blow compressed air into every vent slot. If you can see a fan anywhere, pay special attention to blowing the fan out very well. Doing this will add years of life to your laptop and help prevent early failure.

• Restart the computer and once it is fully warmed up, check the sides and bottom of the laptop for any unusual heat build ups. Laptops are generally much too hot to sit on your lap, but if you do notice some spots are much hotter than they should be, you may want to invest in a cooling pad. The laptop sits on top of two or more fans built into the cooling pad, which dissipate the heat. Cooling pads will also extend the life of a laptop and at about $20, are one of the best things you can do to prolong the life of your laptop.


• Desktop computers have fans that cool the chassis and dissipate heat generated by internal components of the computer, and if left unchecked, they can lead to premature failure. To service these fans, turn off your desktop and situate it in such a way that you can see the rear of the computer, where all the wires plug in. For many of you this will mean disconnecting all the wires plugged in to the back. I recommend labeling those wires and where they go so you can easily plug them back in later. Get a can of compressed air and blow out the fans on the rear of the computer. Direct the compressed air so it spins the fan in one direction and then in the other direction.

• On the top of the back of your computer is the power supply. Some have a fan mounted just inside the grille and some do not, but you should intentionally blow this area out very well. You may be amazed at how much dust comes out!

• If you are the adventurous type and a little handy, you may be able to figure out how the side cover of the computer comes off. Take the computer outside, if you can, and blow out the inside of the chassis. We have seen some computer cases literally packed with dust bunnies and all types of other creatures living inside computer cases. I live by a simple rule, if they don't pay rent, they have to go. So, get rid of them! Once this is done reconnect the wires you labeled and restart the computer.

In general, check out your protective programs. Whatever programs you use to protect your computer from spyware and viruses, they need to be up to date in order to protect you, so make sure they are working and running scans. Longtime readers of this column know which ones I use and recommend so I will not repeat them, but they are not the ones that come on your computer when it is new or the ones that are free with your Internet service provider. If you want my recommendations, email me at the address listed below.

• Mike Smothers is president of Smothers Computer Services, based in Ahwatukee Foothills. Send questions to or call (480) 753-7667.


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