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Extending the life of your electronics

Keeping your electronic gadgets out of landfills before their time is largely a matter of common sense, say the people who repair them.

"In 95 percent of the cases, it's the battery that brings people into our shop," says Clint Smith of Beam Echo, one of Toronto's largest centres for used electronic sales and repairs. But with proper care and maintenance, "batteries that die soon after the one-year warranty could potentially last three to four years."

By conditioning your battery -- running it all the way down and then charging it all the way up -- you'll get the most out of it. And with the cost of some types of batteries, such as those for laptop computers, costing hundreds of dollars, this practice pays off.

Calculate time
The best indicator of how long your battery will last comes from doing a little research instead of trusting what Smith calls the "unreliable" indicators on the device. "Charge the device all the way up, and see how long it lasts," he advises. Doing this from time to time will also show you just how quickly your battery wears out.

"A laptop battery that lasts four hours at first can, over time, last as little as a half hour, even 15 minutes," he says.

Once the battery is charged, take it off the charger, advises Darryl Abus of Toronto's iPod Repair Shop. Overcharging can "fry" a battery. In addition to battery problems, he says damaged cable connectors are another common cause for repair. "Keep them clean with compressed air or cotton swabs dipped in alcohol."

Turn them off
Shawn Khan, of Gear For Tech Inc., in Etobicoke, Ont., says the growth of multiple function devices is responsible for much of the repair business he sees. He cautions that cell phones and other wireless devices have a second internal memory battery that's working even if your phone is switched off.

"The more you load on (such as pictures, phone numbers and music), the harder the device will have to work even when it's not in use. And remember that with devices such as cell phones, they are constantly looking for signals to lock onto even when not in use. So, you need to turn the device off as much as possible."

In fact, some experts advise that if you're not using a device for an extended period of time, you should remove the batteries all together so they don't leak into your equipment. This may not be practical for devices like cell phones, but it does make sense for gadgets like digital cameras that you may not use regularly.

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-- Posted: Feb. 1, 2008
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