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Extending the life of your electronics

On the subject of cameras, don't mix rechargeable and nonchargeable together, or different brands, types or grades of batteries. Be sure to store batteries in a cool, dry place protected from moisture in a sealed plastic bag as well.

Khan says that where cell phones or wireless devices are concerned, you should change the battery "in half the recommended period for optimal performance. In other words, if the manufacturer says change it after one year, you should replace it in six months."

Keep them dry
Moisture is a major cause for failure in electronic devices, and repair shops say they see everything from cell phones damaged at the beach because they were in someone's pocket to condensation in PDAs because someone had them in the bathroom while taking a shower or near a steaming kettle.

"People always say they haven't had their device near water," says Khan, "but they forget that they picked it up in the staff kitchen at work before drying their hands. And water is the biggest enemy of communication devices of any kind." In fact, Khan says manufacturers put special paper inside devices, usually under the battery, that turns red from any contact with moisture "and this voids any warranty."

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Where laptops are concerned, repair experts say to protect them from physical damage by using a well-padded case. If it's a backpack, says Smith, make sure it has a special protective section.

And for optimal performance, he says, you should "wipe the hard drive once a year. You don't physically touch it, it's done through your operating system CD." He advises backing up all data, wiping the hard drive clean and then reinstalling your software.

Worth a fix
Repair shops say customers often comment they didn't even know their devices could be fixed and not just replaced. Khan points out that repair becomes even more economical for devices such as a BlackBerry or a cell phone that are often cheap to buy initially as part of a service contract. Yet if you look at the fine print, he says, it can require you to purchase a certain replacement model at full price. "If you break the glass screen, it's easy to replace with a $50 repair instead of having to buy a new device for $500."

Khan says that in the newest devices, parts such as charging connectors used to be made of metals that could be soldered. "Now everything is glued, so you can't fix it." With that in mind, you might find that maintaining and repairing your older model electronics is the best way to ensure it has a long and healthy life.

Diana McLaren is a writer in Toronto.

-- Posted: Feb. 1, 2008
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