Karl W. SwartzComputer Notebook — Computer Maintenance

Many computer problems are preventable or, at least can be greatly alleviated with proper user care. Along with the desire to have computers in the classroom comes the responsibility of becoming involved in helping this to happen.

1.  Please observe the following precautions:

2.  Computers must be shut down properly! Windows must be shut down before the computer is switched off! The printers should be turned off at the printer switch, not at the outlet strip, because many of these cycle through a shutdown procedure, also. Invariably, when the technician is called to look at a computer, it has not been shut down properly. If it boots up in ‘Safe Mode’ or runs Scandisk, this is the reason.

3.  Shut the computers down over weekends and holidays. Shut the computers down if a thunderstorm approaches. If the power goes off, switch the computers off; do not allow them to be on when the power returns. These steps will avoid problems that invariably arise when the computers remain unattended for long periods, or when the power becomes uncertain.

4.  Clear errors! Do not leave your problems for others! If the computer locks up, reboot it. If the printer runs out of paper, refill it. If you can’t fix the problem, then leave a message informing the technical staff.

5.  Teachers and Students both can take responsibility for keeping the computers and peripherals clean. Too often the technician must first clean off the computer before he can even begin working on it. Computers, keyboards, printers, and tables are frequently covered in dust and littered with eraser crumbs, paper clips and staples, candy wrappers and other trash. All of this dirt eventually finds its way into the computers, floppies and CD-ROMs, mice, and printers. This is a significant cause of the mechanical failure of these devices, and it wastes a lot of resources in maintenance. Dirt and dust on the CDs and floppies is carried into the drives, causes data errors and device failure. Additionally, if the computers are constantly filthy and trashed, what message does this give to the students about their own hygiene and environment?

The computers and tables should be dusted off weekly. Smudges and fingerprints can be cleaned with a damp (no dripping water!) cloth and mild detergent. Monitor screens can similarly be wiped clean. Students should be encouraged to wash their hands before using the computer, and to clean up the area when they are finished.

6.  Teachers must provide sufficient space for computers, printers, keyboards and mice, and all of the associated cables; as well as workspace for the users. Books and papers must not be placed on top of monitors and printers; this prevents air circulation, which leads to overheating, and can damage the equipment. There must be reasonable access to all equipment. The technician is not your housekeeper, if he cannot get to your computer he may refuse to work on it. The network hubs must be accessible at all times.

7.  Computer connections must be taken into consideration when planning classroom layouts, just as are the doors and windows. Computers must be placed within close proximity to the network and electrical outlets, and there is often little flexibility in these locations. It is wholly unrealistic to expect that a computer can simply be ‘fitted in’ into whatever space may be left over after everything else is planned, this too often is just not possible.

8.  Computers will not be moved without consulting the technician. I have seen few non-technical people with the competence to move a system so as to prevent damage to all components and cables. Now that the computers are becoming networked, this is even more essential. There are not enough resources to be continuously repairing damage that is so easily preventable.

9.  Teachers who have special requirements for a class or project should consult with the technical staff first, to ensure that both the hardware and software resources they need are available. We have experienced several instances in the past where someone ‘assumed’ that their project would be no problem, only to find it was not possible at all! In every instance, had they inquired in advance, the resources they needed could have been put into place. The technical staff is here to assist, but if you do not involve us in your plans it too often creates unnecessary difficulties for us all.

Copyright © 2004 Karl W. Swartz — http://KarlSwartz.com
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