Tips for Preventing Accidental Damage to Student Laptops

Hundreds of thousands of laptops are issued to students every year. Spending the time, resources and money to do so is a valuable investment into children’s development in today’s digital age. This article shares common causes of damage and the best ways to prevent them from occurring.

Protecting a laptop from damage is much more than reducing costs and administration time. The laptop will form a core part of a child’s school life and will hold a large amount of information and material important to them.

It is impossible to stop all accidents from happening. However, by identifying how accidents can occur and educating parents and children, steps can be taken to protect these valuable assets

Look Out For Cables

One of the common causes of a laptop being damaged is by someone tripping on a power cable which has been left on a walkway, suspended in the air or coiled up at their feet.

Most laptops provide between 4 and 8 hours of battery life when fully charged. This means there will be times the laptop must be plugged in when being used.

Even when not in use, damage can occur if the laptop is on charge. Carefully positioning the laptop, cable and power outlet is very important in an effort to prevent this.

  • Position the laptop close to the power outlet to prevent the need to stretch the cable and cause it to hang in the air – a very effective trip wire!
  • When charging a laptop, place it on a flat surface (not the floor!) and ensure the cable is tucked away neatly
  • When using the laptop while plugged in, try to sit close to a power point which is above the height of the desk where possible. If this is not possible, keep the power cable positioned as close as possible to the wall, away from the legs of the chair and feet
  • Be aware of your surroundings and take a moment to think about the best place to plug your laptop in. If possible, change seats to a better location, re-arrange bags or other obstacles and keep your cable safe and tidy

Too Hot To Handle

Laptops are electrical goods with moving components and some of them move at very fast speeds. This generates heat with even more heat generated when the laptop is recharging.

This heat escapes through ventilation slots on the bottom of the laptop and blocking these will cause the laptop to overheat.

  • Always place the laptop on a flat surface when in use or when it is being recharged – this lets the air flow through and keeps the laptop cool
  • Never operate the laptop on a bed, doona or pillow – this is a popular place to watch movies, browse the web ad network socially. Fabrics are especially bad for laptops as they can restrict airflow completely
  • Sounds ironic but try to avoid operating a laptop on your lap. The heat generated from prolonged use can not only damage the device but also cause harm to the user

Which Way To The Port?

Laptops have many ways of connecting to other devices. These include USB Ports (often more than one), network ports, video outputs for connecting to monitors (VGA or HDMI), and memory card readers.

Damage is often caused to a laptop by attempting to force the incorrect cable into a port or by putting an incompatible memory card into a reader.

For example, a USB cable will fit into a network port but is not compatible. Trying to ‘wiggle’ the cable in a mistaken attempt to get the USB device to work can lead to damage to network port. Once devices are connected, these ports can become damaged through tugging or knocking the cable.

  • Become familiar with the ports on your laptop – you may never use the network or video ports so look them up in the user manual and know what they are
  • Never pull on a cable to disconnect it from the laptop
  • If you are unsure if your memory card is compatible with the reader, refer to the user manual – never ‘give it a go’ as it may be very difficult to retrieve once inserted (memory cards that fit will CLICK once engaged)
  • Never pack a laptop away with devices still connected; this risks the ports knocking against objects and getting damaged

Handle With Care

Hands up who has ever opened a bag to find a drink container has opened or something has broken – pens snapped, sunglasses cracked or an iPod scratched…

Carrying a laptop in a bag is a great way to keep it safe; just think of it like a carton of eggs…would you put that at the bottom of your bag?

  • Many backpacks have special pockets for laptops which are padded and separate from the rest of the bag. Use these where possible as to prevent pressure on the laptop or items knocking against it
  • Ensure the laptop cables and accessories are stored in a separate pocket – especially as the power cable can be quite bulky and has many sharp edges
  • Avoid carrying liquids with the laptop. Perfume lids separating, drinks containers opening and even the condensation from cold drinks may cause liquid damage if it comes into contact with the laptop (OK, eggs don’t care about getting wet, however…)
  • If carrying the laptop out of a bag – carry with extra care! Don’t run with it. Always close the laptop. This will reduce the chance of an accident and the amount of damage caused

It’s What’s Inside That Counts…

Subtracts and multiplies, connects to the internet, creates documents, stores pictures, plays movies and generally make things easier.

Within a laptop there are complex processors, hard drives and memory chips which make all the above happen. Most of these are hidden away and difficult to access, but some parts need to be available for servicing and upgrading.

It is important that only qualified and authorised people attempt to open a laptop. Attempting to open a laptop can cause extreme damage, invalidate the warranty and lose stored content.

Ensure that everyone issued a laptop is aware of the consequences of attempting to open it; whether it is an attempt to upgrade it, swap parts or just out of curiosity

  • Place a non-replaceable label across the entry point to the hard disc highlighting any attempt at access. This label can also contain contact details for the school should the laptop be lost (which will increase the chance of recovery)
  • If the security label seal is removed accidentally, the laptop should be returned for inspection and re-labelled as soon as possible.

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