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5 ways you're ruining your computer without realizing it

5 ways you're ruining your computer without realizing it

We often take our computers for granted. It's sad but true. We interact with our computers so much, we rely on them so heavily, that we forget what can happen when they stop working.

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

Here are some typical ways we ruin our own systems and ways that we can break 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, plug it in, and then manually drag all of your files away from your desktop. But nowadays this process is easy; you can use Time Machine on your Mac, or 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 that 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 you use. 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 that you used for several years, but you no longer use it. Why keep it on your hard drive? Maybe you have old videos that are clogging space when you could easily move this to a cloud service. The more junk you have lying around, the more you have to sift through it in order to find the things you need. Some of these programs may also be continuously running, which eats up your RAM. So take a few hours to do some spring cleaning. Your desktop will thank you.

4. You don't update your software

"Windows XP works just fine," you think to yourself. "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 overflowing with hackers. Companies routinely create new versions of their operating systems in order to patch vulnerabilities. You should do the same for all of your software and apps as well. 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 on a regular basis. Unless you have the latest version, your computer or mobile device is basically 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 itself. But your computer is useless without its physical circuit boards, its cooling fans and its screen. When grime collects on the keyboard, or heavy books are stacked on your laptop, or you subject your desktop to extreme temperatures, these all have an effect on your device. So take care of your computer. The better you treat it, the better it'll treat you.

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