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5 ways you’re ruining your computer without realizing it

We often take our computers for granted. We interact with them so much and rely on them so heavily, we forget what can happen when they stop working.

There are countless ways we sabotage ourselves by overloading the computer with useless data, ignoring regular maintenance and forgetting to take routine security precautions. In short, many of us are destroying our computers, one tiny mistake at a time.

Here are five common ways we ruin our systems, along with tips to break these bad habits:

1. You’re forgetting to back up your files.

Let’s admit, this used to be a real pain. You’d have to buy an external hard drive and manually drag all your files away from your folders. Nowadays, this process is easy; you can use Time Machine on your Mac, Dropbox or any number of cloud services. You can take every important piece of data and keep a carbon copy on the web. No matter what happens to your physical computer, your documents, photos and videos will all be saved.

2. You’re relying on lousy passwords.

Most people know weak passwords are the kiss of death, but not everyone knows what a good password looks like. The best ones incorporate letters, numerals and special characters. They don’t include personal information, like your birthdate or home address. Remember, you should use a different password for every service. If you can’t keep track of them, try a “keychain” service, which will keep them all in one place (password-protected, of course).

3. You haven’t removed unnecessary files.

Your hard drive is a lot like your home: If your living room is cluttered and chaotic, it’s hard to get anything done. You may have downloaded a program you no longer use. Why keep it on your hard drive? Maybe you have old videos hogging space when you could easily move them to a cloud service. The more junk you have on your computer, the more you have to sift through to find what you need. Also, some of these programs may be continuously running, eating up your RAM. So take a few hours to do some spring cleaning — your computer will thank you.

4. You don’t update your software.

“Windows XP works just fine,” you think. “Why would I bother to upgrade? It’s all basically the same, right?” That may sound logical in your head, but it’s very dangerous in a world saturated with hackers. Companies routinely create new versions of their operating systems to patch vulnerabilities. You should do the same for your software and apps. The more outdated they become, the worse they’ll run, and the more likely someone will be able to commandeer them.

5. You’re relying on old antivirus software.

You bought Norton Antivirus software, like, five years ago and you haven’t noticed anything amiss. So why would you need to update? Just like your operating system and apps, your antivirus software needs to be upgraded regularly. Unless you have the latest version, your computer or mobile device is just asking to be hacked.

Bonus: You’re beating up on your computer.

Many computer owners focus their attention on the software, not the machine. But your computer is useless without its circuit boards, cooling fans and screen. When grime collects on the keyboard, heavy books are stacked on your laptop or when you subject your desktop to extreme temperatures, it all affects your device. So take care of your computer, because the better you treat it, the better it’ll treat you.

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