University of Oregon

Laptop Maintenance


Hardware Repair Advice & Accident Prevention


 Fans & Vents

Clean your fans and vents using a canister of canned air (you can find one at any large grocery store). First, find your vent or vents located on the bottom or sides of your laptop. Your fan will be behind the vent. Next, spray the canned air into the vent. How often you will need to clean you fan depends on how dirty your machine gets. If your laptop is in a dusty environment, then you should try to clean it on a monthly basis. 

 Screens & Keyboards

Clean you screens and keyboards using a damp rag or paper towel and plain water without soap or detergents. First, turn off the computer. This is especially important when cleaning the keyboard as water can find its way inside your laptop. Next, dampen your cloth or paper towel (you want it damp, not sopping wet) and wipe down your screen and keyboard. 


Spilling liquid on your laptop can be a very expensive accident. Sadly it's also a very common one. The best way to deal with a spillage is not to have one. That means keeping liquids away from your machine!  

If a spill occurs do the following:

  1. Disconnect all power from the unit, disconnect the battery, and DO NOT TURN ON THE MACHINE! Powering on the machine before it's been properly cleaned could result in further damage. Note: Some computers do not have easily removable batteries, and should be taken in to hardware shops as soon as possible, as electricity continues to run through the machine while the battery is connected.
  2. After disconnecting the power, place the computer upside down to allow the liquids to drain. Make sure you place your keyboard facing downward. This will help liquid drain through the keyboard.
  3. Give your laptop a few days to dry, perhaps longer depending on the amount of spilt liquid. It can take up to seven days in a warm area for laptops to dry out.
  4. Once the machine has dried take it to a hardware repair shop for diagnosis and testing.

Basic Handling


Turn off your laptop before traveling. Your hard drive (unless it's a solid-state hard drive) has moving parts and operates similarly to a record player. And like trying to move a turntable while it's playing a classic piece of vinyl, moving a laptop while your hard drive is spinning is a bad idea. To do so risks corrupting your data or physically damaging your hard drive.

With wires and power cables: create a long bow-like shape. The larger the arch the better. The idea here is to avoid applying pressure to parts where the wire physically connects to the power adapter. This will reduce the risk of damaging the wires and hopefully keep you from needing to replace your adapter.

Handling Your Laptop

When moving your laptop, handle it from the sides. Avoid pressing down on either your hard drive or your optical drive as the extra pressure can damage the drives.

Software Repair Advice & Prevention

Virus Protection

  • Always keep your virus protection installed and up to date.
  • You can run full virus scans weekly, monthly, or as often as you like. And of course, it is recommended you run a scan if you suspect a malicious item may have infected your machine. 
  • Note: More is not necessarily better. Using multiple anti-virus programs is not recommended and can actually increase the chance of an attack. 
McAfee VirusScan

The UO recommends McAfee virus protection with spyware module. This can be installed from the Software Center; follow the on-screen instructions.

  • To update McAfee, right-click the McAfee icon in the bottom right tray that looks like a V-shape and mouse over “Update Now...” and left-click.
  • To run a scan with McAfee, right-click the “V” symbol for McAfee in the bottom right tray and mouse over “On-Demand Scan...” and left-click. 
  • While under the “Scan Locations” tab, the user can specify what to scan by using the “Add”, “Edit”, and “Remove” buttons; the default values are acceptable for most virus scans.
  • Once the locations to scan have been chosen, click the "Start" button on the right of the window to begin the scan.
  • An average scan can take two or more hours to complete, and this time can increase depending on what is being scanned and how much data is stored on your hard drive.

Updating Your Operating System 

Use Windows Update or the Mac OS Software Update to ensure your machine is as up to date as possible.

  • For Windows, go to Start -> Control Panel -> Classic View -> Windows Update -> Select any updates labeled “Important” or “Critical” and any optional updates the user finds useful or necessary.
  • To use the Mac OS updater, click the apple in the menubar, select Software Update, your Mac will look for updates.

 Backing Up Your Data 

Regularly back up your data to ensure it's secure. Learn more about backing up your data.

Cleaning Out Junk

After months of usage your computer can get a little sluggish. Defragmenting or "defragging" your hard drive can get your machine up to speed again.

  • Use the Windows defragment utility under My Computer -> Disk -> Properties -> Tools -> Defragment Now.
  • You can also download third-party defragmentation utilities, which some folks believe work better than the Windows utility. Popular utilities include IOBit and Defraggler.
  • Don't forget to clean up temporary files, which are generated from opening/saving documents, viewing webpages and downloading files.
  • Your browser of choice will have an option to clear cache/temporary internet files.
  • You can also download utilities to clean all the temp files in one go. Popular utilities include CCleaner and Advanced System Care Free.