Laptop threat: drops, thefts


I bought a Sony Vaio GR 370 laptop as my home system. How long can I expect it to last? What can I do to keep it in as good a shape as possible for as long as possible?

A laptop's batteries are its Achilles' heel. They'll probably give out long before anything else. You can buy new ones, but eventually your machine might need to be plugged into a wall socket more and more.

Folks worry most that laptop hard drives will crash because they are delicate. But manufacturers say data doesn't support this concern. For example, IBM predicts many of its Vaio hard drives will last beyond 2020.

Since laptops' electronics are low-power transistors, heat damage is no problem, even with color flat-panel screens. Those screens may be the weakest link, predicted to last about 60,000 hours - 6.8 years of continuous burning. Laptop screens are switched on and off frequently, so it would take a long time to rack up those years.

The main problem you must face is yourself. Some studies claim one-quarter of laptops get stolen. And dropping them has catastrophic results.

Avoid using yours on your lap; put it on a desk or table. When you use it in public, take it with you when you step away.

James Coates is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached via e-mail at

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