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The information presented on this page was originally released on August 18, 2011. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Protect data from computer mishaps
As students across Mississippi head back to college, many have more money invested in technology than they do in food or textbooks.
Unfortunately, few students are prepared for a spilled drink in the laptop, a virus during midterms, burnt dinners that activate the sprinkler system or careless roommates who leave the door unlocked. Precautionary measures to protect devices and renter’s insurance can minimize students’ frustrations and problems.
E-mailing important documents and photos ensures that the material is saved on a server that can be accessed from anywhere in the world.
The most frequent disaster to impact a laptop computer is a drink spilled directly onto the keyboard. When the liquid hits the laptop, it immediately starts seeping toward the hard drive below the keys. The hard drive is where all of the homework, term papers and photos are stored on the computer. Once liquid is spilled onto the laptop, there are only minutes to act.
First, press the Control key and the letter S to save current work. Then unplug the laptop from power. If it is running off battery power, simply press the power button on the laptop until the computer shuts down. Next, turn the laptop over and flat so that the keys are facing down. Mop up as much of the liquid as possible, being careful not to send it farther into the laptop.
A common mistake people make is to mop up the liquid and then turn the computer back on to see if it still works. This is how most people ruin the computer. The laptop needs to dry out for at least 72 hours before it is turned back on. A safer bet is to take the computer to a local repair shop and let a trained expert take the hard drive out of the laptop and back up the data.
Desktop computers are much more durable than laptops, but there are a few precautions to take, especially if the college student has a pet or has the computer in a room with a sprinkler system.
First, desktop computers should be elevated at least six inches off of the ground. The elevation ensures that pet hair, dust and dirt kicked up from foot traffic do not enter the computer.
A desktop computer has one intake vent on the front and one on the back of the computer to draw air in to cool the internal components. The fan can pull dust and dirt from the air and cause the computer to overheat. The warmth of computers attracts small animals and rodents, and their hair and dust can cause problems.
Make sure there is nothing blocking the fan from drawing air into the computer. Move textbooks, papers and other materials at least three inches away from the computer.
Students or their parents may want to consider renter’s insurance as a safeguard against theft, fire or natural disasters. Many insurance companies will offer renter’s insurance to students who live in apartments as well as students who live in dormitories. Renter’s insurance on average costs around $10 to $15 a month. The cost of the insurance depends on the construction of the housing unit.
Some discounts are offered if the renter also has a car policy with the insurance agency. Keep in mind, however, that the deductible is usually $1,000 if they do not have auto coverage with the insurance agency and $500 if they do have auto coverage with the company. Many homeowner policies offer some coverage to students who are still dependants, but the parents would bear the responsibility of the claim on their insurance.
If there is time to evacuate personal belongings during a fire or other emergency, students should take their back-up device and their laptop or desktop computer. Digital cameras should also be taken with them as well as chargers for cameras and phones. They do not need to take peripherals such as monitors, keyboards and mice. Those items are more easily replaced and can be left for last.