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I own a late model car. It gets me from point A to point B and it’s reliable transportation. While it’s been many years since I personally put on new brake pads or changed the oil, I still fill up the windshield washer fluid and check the tire pressure periodically. I know that, even with my basic understanding of how cars work, periodic maintenance keeps my car on the road, safe and reliable. The same is true of your computer, whether it be a laptop or desktop, PC or Mac.

Just knowing the basics of how your computer works and how to maintain it on a regular basis can go a long way to making your computing environment safe and reliable. Whether working at a smaller firm or a larger firm with its own tech support, many lawyers will sign into their firm’s network from their personal laptop or home computer to occasionally work from home or check their email.

Here are four basic things to know about your computer that will keep it running smoothly. You should:

Keep it Clean


The number one source of failures in computers is heat caused by dust build-up and lack of air circulation. Heat will cause electronic components to fail prematurely and is a primary contributor to hard drive crashes.

Try and place computers where they have sufficient room for air circulation around them, preferably off the floor as dust accumulation increases dramatically when they are placed there.  If you’re comfortable, take the main box outside, take off the cover and blow it out thoroughly with canned air.  Make sure all fans are free of dust and spinning freely.  Laptops can be a little trickier. If yours is running hot, take it to a professional for cleaning.

Keep it Locked

Passwords are a pain, but in a law office environment, the obligation to protect client information is tantamount. While electronic breaches get a lot of publicity, the most common computer compromise is physical. Keep offices locked, keep a strong password for logon and don’t leave your computer logged on and unattended. For data in your computer or in the Cloud, choose password protection or encryption to ensure data cannot be accessed or read if it falls into the wrong hands.

Tune It Up Periodically


While your computer will never run better than the day you turn it on for the first time, there are a few things you can do to keep it running as smoothly as possible. Delete or archive files and emails that are no longer needed. Remove programs that you no longer use. There are tools built into Windows and OS X to automatically perform these clean-up tasks. While hardware upgrades are usually not cost-effective, a simple hardware upgrade to improve your computer’s performance is the addition of electronic memory, or RAM.  More RAM helps you run larger programs or multiple programs more efficiently and is the easiest upgrade for the basic user.

Trade Up Occasionally

While no one wants the expenditure of buying a new computer, the justification can be pretty compelling. Just a year or two can mean significant price/performance improvements in computers that also include more reliability and stability as well as the ability to run the latest versions of your preferred programs capably. Again, both Windows and OS X have utilities that make it easy to transfer files and settings from an old machine to a new one, but be sure to budget some dollars for support if you don’t feel like this is something you can do yourself.


In conclusion, a computer can be complicated, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do the basics. Just like that oil change and tire rotation are an easy way to ensure that your car continues to get the job done, these simple tips will help ensure your computer continues to get the job done reliably and safely. Enjoy your driving!


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Sandy Silverberg is a veteran in the technology space with more than 30 years working for, and with, Fortune 500 companies and start-ups. He holds an MBA from Texas Christian University, is a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer and is a CLIO-certified consultant. He specializes in solutions for Small to Medium-sized law practices. Sandy can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or or you can follow him on Twitter at @TEConsult.


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Last modified on Sunday, 19 May 2013
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