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How to avoid owning a broken computer?

broken computer

Computers have one rule, they only stop working when it’s inconvenient. At least that’s what it seems like. Predicting a failure is difficult if you don’t know what to look for, or what to expect your computer to stand up to. Under normal usage, a broken computer is often the result of bad manufacturing, so check your warranty. These are five things that will actually break your computer.

Physical Damage

Product designers like to make modern devices durable. Small accidents happen, and so any reputable tech brand will expect and prepare for this.

The two most common forms of physical damage that will break a computer are shock and liquid spills. Laptops aren’t designed to fall out of windows, and phones aren’t designed to get thrown at walls. Large shocks can cause internal disconnects, breaking of circuits, or particularly dangerously, the killing of a hard drive. Spinning disk hard drives are particularly vulnerable; be extra careful if your laptop hasn’t been upgraded to Solid State yet. As far as liquid goes, electronics just can’t deal with it. Avoid using liquid to clean devices, and keep the drinks at a safe distance. Once the circuits are fried, your only choice is to replace the components, or the device entirely.


There are several ways age can impact your computer, phone or laptop. Sometimes they’ll become outdated, sometimes components will fail, and sometimes a system will genuinely wear itself out until it no longer works.

If your system is 3-5 (or more) years old, there’s a strong likelihood that it’s struggling to keep up. There’s a lot of constant innovation in technology. Processors get faster, storage gets bigger, screens get clearer. Following along, programs get more demanding as they introduce new features. A laptop from 2001 won’t keep up in 2021, even if it’s good as new.

Whether or not your device dies unexpectedly is simply down to luck. Most manufacturers and retailers offer extended warranties to combat this – if you’re not ready to repair or replace, get covered. However, most devices and components have a life expectancy. Processors can last 7-10 years, hard drives around 3-5 and memory up to 20. It’s good to know how long your system should last, so it’s not a surprise when your computer eventually stops working. This also helps make sure your systems are up to date with current demands.

Power Surges

This is one that’s quite difficult to prepare for, mitigate, or avoid. Both surges and brownouts can be particularly painful for computers, especially desktops which need constant power to operate. Laptops and phones tend to be a little more resistant, as they have a battery to rely on if the charging current dips. Sufficiently strong power surges can result in a broken computer, even through a surge protector. Surge protectors can still be a good idea though, as they’ll help resist again smaller (usual) surges.

Power cuts typically won’t do any damage. Beyond not letting you save a document, you’re normally fine. However, most power cuts involve power surges when the electricity returns, which is where the damage can happen.

Unfortunately, there’s really not a whole lot you can do to protect against this. Back up your important (unrecoverable) files regularly. If you can’t afford to have you drive wiped at any point in time, backup. If you have any type of server in your home or office, a UPS or Uninterrupted Power Supply is a very sensible choice.


Overheating is a clear sign of a computer struggling. Many components inside a computer, laptop or phone create a lot of heat when they work hard. Making sure they’re able to cool themselves is therefore incredibly important. Sometimes, you won’t even feel the heat from the outside of the system – especially with larger computers.

Make sure your laptop isn’t buried in a blanket, and don’t keep a desktop in a closed cupboard under your desk. These can restrict airflow, making the computer literally bake itself (it’s not unusual for components to reach 90-100°C). It’s also good to make sure any air vents are clear of dust or debris, and any fans are spinning properly.

Most electronics are designed to power off when they reach a certain temperature, but this isn’t a long term fix. Gradually it’ll be incapable of running for more than a few minutes, and finally you’ll be stuck with a fried and entirely broken computer.

Hard Drive Failure

If you’re using mechanical hard drives or Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) for any type of data storage, be wary. They work similarly to vinyl records. The HDD has multiple disks spinning, with reading heads scanning along. Any impacts, strong magnetic forces, liquids or even power issues can cause a part to misalign, and the drive to fail. They’re great for long term storage, and more so when used in RAID arrays (as your office servers or NAS do).

The other major type of storage technology, Solid State Drives (SSDs), are much more resilient. They’re not invulnerable to damage and eventual death, as the tiny circuits in them will every wear down with enough rewrites of information. Under normal use, expect many years out of an SSD, they’re also much more durable against bumps and drops.

Either way, if your drive fails, your system becomes unusable. However, it’s not a broken computer that you’re left with. In most cases, a technician can replace the drive in the system and get it back up and running, only without your data. Once again why it’s a good idea to keep multiple/regular backups of important information.

If you have any concerns about your equipment we can check, repair or even replace computers. Call us on 03333 055 055.

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