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  • Batteries are one of tech’s most boring subjects… until your phone, tablet or laptop stops turning on or turns off too often. Here are our top battery tips and tricks to get the best battery life you can. Also see: How to charge your phone or tablet's battery faster.
    While most of us live in fear of a fading phone battery when we’re out and about, we don’t worry too much about that battery’s eventual lifespan (probably between three and five years). But there are ways to keep your battery in tip-top shape for a long and fruitful life. 
    Batteries do not enjoy eternal life. Most smartphone manufacturers say their devices rate their batteries at 300-500 cycles. Apple claims that its laptop batteries reach 80 percent of their original capacity after 1,000 charges.
    After this point batteries aren’t able to hold as much electricity and will power your device for increasingly shorter periods of time.
    So here’s some tips to extend your battery’s lifespan, be that in an iPhone, Android phone, Windows phone, tablet, or laptop. The big questions about how to re-charge a battery is whether you should let it run to zero before re-charging to 100 percent. One reason why people are unsure is something they’ve heard of called the battery “memory effect”.

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KNOWHOW guide to preventing your laptop from overheating

Some simple steps to prevent your laptop from overheating, and a guide to getting it running again if it does

If your laptop switches off for no reason, the likely cause is overheating. You should be able to tell if this is the case by touching the bottom of the machine. If it feels very hot, here are the steps to follow to get it running again. It should take you about thirty minutes. You'll need a Philips head screwdriver, a flat-head screwdriver and a soft brush.     

The first step to avoid overheating in the future is to ensure that the vents underneath the laptop are not blocked. You should keep it on a hard, flat surface or worktop. In spite of its name, it's never a good idea to use your laptop on your lap, or on the bed or sofa. If you want to use it like this, you can buy a laptop support or stand that provides a flat surface for it to rest on and allows air to circulate underneath it and keep it ventilated.

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If your laptop has already overheated, you'll need to clean the fans inside.

Note: Opening your laptop voids the manufacturer's guarantee. Please do so at your own risk. If you have insurance or your laptop is still under warranty, please contact the manufacturer or return it to the shop you bought it from for further help.

The inside of your laptop can get very dusty, so it will need a clean from time to time. To clean your laptop, follow these steps:

1. Unfasten the screws and open the back of the laptop.

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2. Be careful to avoid touching anything in the laptop other than the fans.

3. Using a cotton swab or small soft brush, gently wipe away any dust caught in the fans.

4. Once you're finished, place the cover back on and fasten the screws again.

Watching DVDs or having lots of programs open at once can consume more processing power –which can lead to overheating. If this is the case, you should change your laptop's power settings so it's not running on full performance. This can be done in Control Panel > Power Options.

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Viruses and Spyware running in the background can also take up a hefty amount of power. To ensure your laptop is clean and not overheating for this reason, run a full anti-virus scan.

Leaving the problem can damage your laptop, which can include corrupting your hard drive. If your laptop is overheating, make sure you take the correct steps in fixing it or if you're unsure of what to do, contact the manufacturer for help.

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Microsoft issues emergency Windows patch to disable Intel’s buggy Spectre fix

If you’ve noticed any unexpected reboots or PC instability as a result of the recent Spectre patches, there’s a solution: Microsoft has issued an emergency Windows patch that rolls back the recent Spectre mitigations.

Confused? It’s a bit complicated. After the intial Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilites were disclosed, both Intel and Microsoft hustled out patches to mitigate the problem. Unfortunately, Intel’s latest microcode updates—and the BIOS updates from PC makers based upon them—were themselves buggy, causing instability, reboots, and data loss in some PCs.

Microsoft’s latest patch (KB4078130) allows people with affected systems to download the patch via the Microsoft Update Catalog, which disables the mitigations for the “Spectre variant 2.”

Note that the patch notes specifically state that you should run this patch “if you are running an impacted device” (emphasis ours). In other words, if your system is working normally, don’t bother downloading this patch. This is what Microsoft calls an “out of band” patch, and it doesn’t appear that it will be made available via Windows Update, either.

Why should you consider it? Intel has warned previously that the faulty patch can sometimes cause data loss and corruption, and Microsoft is saying the same: “Our own experience is that system instability can in some circumstances cause data loss or corruption,” the patch notes state.

There’s another wrinkle, though. As part of the patch, Microsoft is allowing users to edit the Windows registry to toggle the mitigations on or off. (Instructions are here.) It’s possible to toggle Microsoft’s patch off, and then, when Intel solves its own patching problem, re-enable it. That scenario is actually what Microsoft recommends—again, only if you’ve noticed system instability and want to take action against it.

Toggling the mitigations on and off is also a feature of the latest InSpectre utility.

What should you do? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. But we can tell you what we’re doing: if a PC is working as expected, we’re leaving it patched and in place. If you’re backing up your data (to the cloud or an external drive) chances are your most crucial data will be saved in case your system goes down unexpectedly. Obviously, install Microsoft’s emergency Windows patch if you’re running into system issues. There’s no perfect solution—if you’re more paranoid than we are, feel free to deploy the patch even if your PC hasn’t hiccuped.

Good luck, and be sure to check out PCWorld’s guide on how to protect your PC against Meltdown and Spectre. Operating system updates are just one part of it.

As Bleeping Computer noted, system makers such as Dell and HP also advise rolling back their own BIOS patches to an earlier version, which they’re redeployed. It’s all horrendously confusing for consumers and IT organizations alike. Fortunately, at least, there haven’t been any public cases of these vulnerabilities being exploited, Microsoft says.

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What is a Battery Backup?

Do you need a UPS? How much will a battery backup protect your computer?

A battery backup, or uninterruptible power supply (UPS), is primarily used to provide a backup power source to important desktop computer hardware components.

In most cases, those pieces of hardware include the main computer housing and the monitor, but other devices can be plugged into a UPS for backup power as well, depending on the size of the UPS.

In addition to acting as a backup when the power goes out, most battery backup devices also act as power "conditioners" by ensuring that the electricity flowing to your computer and accessories is free from drops or surges.

If a computer is not receiving a consistent flow of electricity, damage can and often does occur.

While a UPS system is not a required piece of a complete computer system, including one as part of yours is always recommended. The need for a reliable supply of electricity is often overlooked.

Uninterruptible power supply, uninterruptible power source, on-line UPS, standby UPS, and UPS are the different names for a battery backup.

Popular UPS manufacturers include APC, Belkin, CyberPower, Tripp Lite, and Ultra, among many others.

Battery Backups: What They Look Like & Where They Go

The battery backup sits between the utility power (power from the wall outlet) and the parts of the computer. In other words, the computer and accessories plug into the battery backup and the battery backup plugs into the wall.

UPS devices come in many shapes and sizes but are most commonly rectangular and freestanding, intended to sit on the floor near the computer.

All battery backups are very heavy due to the batteries located inside.

One or more batteries inside the UPS provide power to the devices plugged into it when power from the wall outlet is no longer available. The batteries are rechargeable and often replaceable, providing a long-term solution to keeping your computer system running.

The front of the battery backup will usually have a power switch to turn the device on and off and will also sometimes have one or more additional buttons that perform various functions. Higher-end battery backup units will also often feature LCD screens that show information about how charged the batteries are, how much power is being used, etc.

The rear of the UPS will feature one or more outlets that provide battery backup. In addition, many battery backup devices will also feature surge protection on additional outlets and sometimes even protection for network connections, as well as phone and cable lines.

Battery backup devices are manufactured with varying degrees of backup ability. To determine how powerful of a UPS you need, first, use the eXtreme Power Supply Calculator to calculate your computer's wattage requirements. Take this number and add it to the wattage requirements for other devices you would plug into the battery backup. Take this totaled number and check with the UPS manufacturer to find your estimated battery runtime when you lose power from the wall.

On-Line UPS vs Standby UPS

There are two different types of UPSs: A standby UPS is a type of battery backup that's similar to an on-line uninterrupted power supply but doesn't go into action as quickly.

The way a standby UPS works is by monitoring the power that's coming into the battery backup supply and not switching over to the battery until it detects a problem (which can take up to 10-12 milliseconds). An on-line UPS, on the other hand, is always providing power to the computer, which means whether a problem is detected or not, the battery is always the computer's source of power.

You can think of an on-line UPS as if it were a battery in a laptop. While a laptop is plugged into a wall outlet, it's getting constant power through the battery which is getting a constant supply of power through the wall.

If the wall power is removed (like during a power outage), the laptop is able to remain powered on because of the built-in battery.

The most obvious real-world difference between the two types of battery backup systems is that, given the battery has enough power, a computer won't shutdown from a power outage if it's plugged into an on-line UPS, but it might lose power (even if just for a few seconds) if it's attached to a standby UPS that didn't respond to the outage quick enough… although newer systems can detect a power issue as soon as 2 ms.

Given the benefit just described, an on-line UPS is normally more expensive than a line-interactive UPS.

More Information on Battery Backups

Some battery backup systems you find may seem pointless because they only supply a few minutes of power. But something to consider is that with even 5 minutes of extra power, you can safely save any open files and shut off the computer to prevent hardware or software damage.

Something else to remember is how frustrating it is for your computer to immediately shut off when the power turns off for even a few seconds. With the computer attached to an on-line UPS, such an event may even go unnoticed because the battery will have been providing the power before, during, and after the power break.

If your laptop has ever gone to sleep or shut down on you after you've stopped using it for awhile, but only when it's not plugged in, you're familiar with the fact that battery-powered devices can behave differently than desktops.

This is due to built-in power options in the operating system.

You can set up something similar on a desktop computer that uses a UPS (if the UPS is able to connect via USB) so that the computer will go into hibernation mode or safely shut off if it switches over to battery power during an outage.

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Sony Xperia XZ Pro could be among first phones with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845

Sony has had a whirlwind few months due mainly to the launch of several new phones, but it looks like it’s not slowing down anytime soon. According to recent rumors, the company is readying a new flagship to serve as a follow-up to the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, and it’s called the Sony Xperia XZ Pro. The phone is rumored to debut at Mobile World Congress 2018., which kicks off February 26.

We don’t know all that much about the new phones just yet, but there are a few rumors that give us hints at what the new phone may look like. Here’s everything we know about the Sony Xperia XZ Pro so far.

Specs

Perhaps the most notable thing about this device is what’s under the hood. According to a leak from MyDrivers, the phone will be among the first to feature the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, which is Qualcomm‘s most powerful mobile chip yet. It will also boast 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage — though there could be options for how much RAM or storage are available on the phone.

MyDrivers notes that the phone may feature a 5.7-inch OLED display with a 4K resolution, which would be one of the highest-quality displays so far. Sure, it’s not the first phone to feature a 4K display, but hopefully this device will be among a new generation of devices with ultra-high-resolution displays, which should make for far better mobile virtual reality experiences.

Sony has traditionally placed an emphasis on cameras, and it’s likely the Xperia XZ Pro will be no different. The phone will apparently feature a dual rear-facing camera with one 18-megapixel sensor and one 12-megapixel sensor.

To power all of this, the phone is rumored to feature a 3,420mAh battery. It will boast an IP68 water-resistance rating.

Design

Sony hasn’t exactly had a great track record with design, but all signs point to the company attempting to turn that around in 2018. Rumors indicate Sony will embrace bezel-less designs this year. We’ll update this article if we hear any more about the phone’s design or if any leaked images pop up.

Price and availability

According to MyDrivers, the phone will come with a price tag of 6,000 Chinese yuan, which equates to $930. That’s no small price for a phone — even if it’s a premium one. While it will reportedly be announced at Mobile World Congress at the end of February, that doesn’t mean it’ll be available then. Sony could wait a few months to launch the phone, depending on factors like availability of the Snapdragon 845. Last year, because Samsung manufactured the Snapdragon 835, it got first dibs. That may also be the case this time around.

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Do you need a smart band or a smartwatch?

The world of wearable devices is vast and complicated: there are all types, sizes, colors and prices. I'm most often asked about the difference between smart bands and smartwatches, and which is better. In this article, I'll explain the differences to help you decide which is right for your needs.

What are smart bands?

Connected bracelets or smart bracelets are called smart bands. In most cases, they have a simple form and their main function is to track and analyze your movements during the day. That's why, most smart bands have a pedometer, and sometimes also an optical heart rate sensor and various other sensors.

Smart bands are closer to the concept of a bracelet than a watch, but there are some smart bands with displays that can tell you the time and various other useful tidbits of information.

What are smartwatches?

Smartwatches are like regular watches, but with smart features. Their shape is close to that of a normal watch and usually these devices are paired with a smartphone to perform their main functions.

Smartwatches, in principle, all have a display that simulates the dial of a real clock, analog or digital. Thanks to the display, many other features are made possible, like reading notifications, interacting with them, using the apps installed on the smartwatch itself or choosing an alternate watch face that fits our style. There are also hybrid smartwatches with real hands and some limited smart functionality.

Which should you choose?

The choice between a smart band and a smartwatch is personal, but there are some things you should keep in mind when deciding which fits your needs best. First, you should ask yourself if you want to be able to read the time on your wrist. If the answer is yes, don't rule out smart bands entirely, because some can display time. Second, you should determine whether or not you're interested in monitoring your heart rate. If the answer is yes, you still don't have to rule out smart bands, as some like the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 have this feature.

Another question to ask yourself is if you want to use the wearable every day, or only when you are doing physical activity? Not only that, the last thing to consider is perhaps the most important of all: do you want to be able to interact with notifications?

The answers to those last two questions are the ones that move the needle from one category to the other. Smartwatches can inform you that a notification has arrived, and you can even interact with them by replying with quick responses or your voice. In addition, smartwatches have a more traditional design so they can fit in everyday situations, elegant dinners or work meetings.

On the other hand, smart bands are more conspicuous and sometimes brightly colored, though it depends on the model. Smart bands tend to have better battery life due to either having no display or just a small one, and no apps or notifications to sync. One of the few exceptions to this is the Gear Fit2 Pro, a smart band with a beautiful display and many apps available.

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Apple Confirms All Macs and iOS Devices Are Affected by ‘Meltdown’ Chip Flaw

Apple Inc. said all Mac computers and iOS devices, like iPhones and iPads, are affected by chip security flaws unearthed this week, but the company stressed there are no known exploits impacting users.

The Cupertino, California-based company said recent software updates for iPads, iPhones, iPod touches, Mac desktops and laptops, and the Apple TV set-top-box mitigate one of the vulnerabilities known as Meltdown. The Apple Watch, which runs a derivative of the iPhone’s operating system is not affected, according to the company.

Despite concern that fixes may slow down devices, Apple said its steps to address the Meltdown issue haven’t dented performance. The company will release an update to its Safari web browser in coming days to defend against another form of the security flaw known as Spectre. These steps could slow the speed of the browser by less than 2.5 percent, Apple said in a statement posted on its website.

Apple shares rose less than 1 percent to $173.56 in early trading Friday in New York.

Intel Corp. on Wednesday confirmed a report stating that its semiconductors contain a vulnerability based around a chip-processing technique called speculative execution. Intel said its chips, which power Macs and devices from other manufacturers, contain the flaw as well as processors based on ARM Holdings architecture, which is used in iOS devices and Android smartphones.

In December, Apple came under fire for iPhone software changes that reduced the performance of some older models of its smartphone. Alongside an apology and an explanation that a software change was implemented to balance out the effect of aging batteries, the company reduced the cost of replacing the power units from $79 to $29 through the end of 2018.

Security experts have said highly regulated sectors of industry, such as government offices and public health institutions, are most at risk of compromise as a result of the chip security vulnerability.

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Top tips for shooting video on your smartphone

The phone you carry around all day is also a brilliant video recorder. Here are some basic tips for mastering mobile video.

As Christmas draws closer, many of us will be taking photos and shooting videos on our phones.

Follow our shooting tips to make your home movies even better.

Shooting Tips

Record in landscape

Filming in portrait mode can seem natural because that’s generally how we hold and use our phones. But it’s no good if you want to share it on any online portal or cast it to your TV. That’s because you’ll get vertical black borders surrounding your thin-looking clip.

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So shoot in landscape mode – holding the phone is on its side – is essential. You might have to stand a little further from your subject, but it gives you a wider angle to fit more of the scene in your shot.

Keep a steady hand

There’s nothing more distracting than wobbly video, motion blur and out-of-focus subjects. One way to steady your shot is to hold your phone with both hands.

It’ll help you cut the amount of movement – but take care not to cover the lens or the microphone by mistake.

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Many high-end smartphones, like the Sony Xperia X, have stabilisation technology to help reduce shake.

Keep movement smooth

Capturing moving subjects isn’t easy. So you’ll need to keep your camera movements smooth. One way to do that is by moving your body rather than just your arms – keep your elbows locked to your side and rotate your body instead. Or try using a tripod.

Take care with zooming

The digital zoom on most smartphone video cameras enlarges the pixels, which can diminish the quality. So try not to use it unless you really need to.

If you can, get closer to your subject instead. The alternative is pixelated, noisy video you won’t want to watch anyway. Have you ever had to sit through a friends’ video shot at a concert? That’s  what you want to avoid.

Experiment to find the best light

It’s important to try to find the best light for your imagery, so move around and make use of natural light if possible. In daylight, try to make sure the sun is lighting your scene rather than shining directly into the lens.

Avoid the flashlight

On most phone cameras, the flash can double up as a light to illuminate subjects when recording video. But it can be too strong and make it look unnatural. So save it for when you can't find any natural light.

Manually adjust exposure and focus

Many smartphone cameras feature a tap to focus setting and a way to adjust the exposure (controlling how much light the sensor lets in). Both methods can help with lighting your subjects correctly.

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On an iPhone, for example, you can long press on the focal point to lock the focus and exposure.

Use the time lapse setting

Most high-end smartphones now have a time lapse setting, which lets you condense several minutes or even hours of footage in to a much shorter clip. This can be a great way to capture interesting road trips, tidal scenes or sunrises and sunsets. Here it’s important to lock the exposure (as we explained above) to make sure the lighting stays consistent.

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Protect yourself from the elements

If it’s possible you should use your body to shield your phone from the wind, because it’ll ruin the audio. Position yourself in a way that stops the breeze getting to your phone’s microphone at the bottom of the handset.

Practical tips for your smartphone

Shoot at lower quality

4K and Ultra HD video are becoming more common on our phones. Which is great, but the resulting clips take up much more space on your phone. You can save space by shooting at lower quality.

Don’t eat up all your data

Upload large video files over wi-fi so you don’t use up all your mobile data allowance.

Trim your footage

Most phone cameras offer the ability to whip off the awkward start and end of clips, giving the video a more professional feel.

Use an editing app

You can use a specialised editing app to pull more than one clip together. Many will also let you add fades and transitions as well as a soundtrack. Try Apple’s own iMovie for iOS and KineMaster for Android.

Bring a spare battery

Shooting video does as much to drain battery life as any activity, so come prepared. If your phone has a removable battery, bring a spare. Otherwise, think about investing in a portable battery pack. 

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How Do You Know When It’s Time to Replace Your Battery?

Batteries don’t last forever. As you charge and discharge your battery, it degrades and over time, you get less battery life from a full charge. Eventually, the battery—or the device—needs to be replaced.

Battery Capacity Decreases Over Time

A battery doesn’t just go from good one day to bad the next. Instead, batteries slowly degrade over time. This capacity decrease is a gradual process—happening over many charge cycles—and you won’t necessarily notice until you realize you used to get a few more hours of battery power from a charge.

You can help prolong your battery’s life and keep its capacity up by properly caring for your battery. But you can’t avoid battery degradation forever. If you replace devices often—say a new phone every couple of years—you may never notice. Or, you may notice but the problem won’t get bad enough to do anything about before it’s time to replace your device again. But for devices like laptops, which you’re likely to keep for longer, you may have to replace your battery at some point.

Some devices will even warn you when it’s getting time to replace your battery. For other devices, you can often find third-party apps that let you check up on your battery’s health.

How to View a Device’s Battery Health

Unfortunately, many devices don’t display battery health warnings ahead of time. You’ll either notice a problem yourself or the battery will simply fail. Even devices that do include some kind of warning often don’t give you much advance notice. It pays to check up on battery health yourself once in a while.

Here’s how to find battery health information on some common operating systems and devices:

  • Windows Laptops: We recommend NirSoft’s BatteryInfoView to find a Windows laptop’s battery health, but there are other utilities you can use instead.
  • MacBooks: Hold down the Option key and click the battery icon on the menu bar. You’ll see a “Condition:” line displayed here.
  • iPhones and iPads: You can actually ask Apple support to tell you your iPhone or iPad’s battery health
  • Android Phones: Unfortunately, most Android users are out of luck. Some older phones would show battery health information if you opened the dialer and typed *#*#4636#*#*, but this doesn’t seem to work on modern phones.

For other devices, search for the type of device and “battery health” to get instructions.

When It’s Time to Replace a Battery

Whatever your device says about the health of its battery, the rest is up to you. If your battery reports it’s at 40 percent of its original capacity, but you’re still happy with how much battery life you get, there’s not much need to pay for a replacement until it declines to a point where it becomes bothersome.

How to Replace a Battery

If you have a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or another device with a removable battery, replacement is easy. You just need to purchase a replacement battery designed specifically for your device, power down your device, and then replace the current battery with the new one. This gives your device a fresh battery with maximum capacity.

However, devices these days are often made so that you can’t access the battery yourself—at least not easily or without voiding your warranty. Instead, you’ll need to have the manufacturer replace the battery for you. For example, you can take an old iPhone, iPad, or MacBook to an Apple Store and pay a fee to have Apple employees open your device and replace the battery for you. Check if your manufacturer offers this service.

Of course, even on devices without an easily accessible battery, if you’re so inclined and don’t mind the associated risks, you always have the option of doing it yourself. You could  open up your device, get a replacement battery, and try to seal it back up again. We don’t necessarily recommend this, though. Too many modern devices have batteries and other components that are glued together and not designed to be opened.

The battery health status your device reports can help you decide whether it’s time to replace your battery, but the decision is ultimately up to you. If your battery feels okay to you, then you don’t need to do a thing right now. Better to put that money toward a future device replacement. If the battery is no longer performing adequately and you’re not interested in replacing your device, then it’s time for a replacement.

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Two Ways To Clean Laptop Screen

Laptop screens tend to collect dust, food particles and other debris that starts to look unattractive after a while. It's important to use very gentle supplies to clean your laptop screen, since the LCD surface is easily damaged. Using a microfiber cloth and a simple solution of water and vinegar will do the trick if you don't want to purchase a special screen cleaner.

1.Cleaning the Screen With A Microfiber Cloth

First, turn the computer off and unplug the power adapter and battery. Cleaning a screen that's in use can result in permanent damage, so err on the safe side and turn everything off. Don't just put it to sleep. Then get a microfiber cloth. This is made with a type of fabric that doesn't produce lint, in addition to being very soft. If you use a washcloth, T-shirt or another type of cloth, it could leave extra debris on your screen or scratch it. Avoid using paper products as well. Never use a napkin, paper towel, toilet paper or another paper product, since these are scratchy and will damage the screen. Then wipe the screen gently with the cloth. Using one sweep of the cloth should take care of any dust and loose particles on the screen. Wipe gently without exerting much pressure, since if you press too hard you could damage the screen. When you wipe with gentle circular motion, you'll be able to lift up some of the tougher spots. Never scrub the screen, or you could cause pixel burnout. Clean the laptop frame with gentle cleaning solution. If the area around the screen is dirty, you can use a standard household cleaning solution and a paper towel; just be very careful not to let it touch the screen.

2. Using a Cleaning Solution

First, turn the computer off and unplug the power adapter and battery. Since you're using a liquid to clean the screen in this method, it's important to turn off the computer and unplug it from the outlet. Create a gentle cleaning solution. The ideal solution is plain distilled water, which contains no chemicals and is gentle on the screen. Make sure you use plain white vinegar, not apple cider vinegar or any other kind. Put the solution in a small atomizer bottle. This is the type of spray bottle that you push from the top to get a fine mist, similar to a perfume bottle. Pour some of the solution into the spray bottle and screw on the top. Don't use this to spray on the screen itself, however. Apply a minimal amount of the solution to a microfiber cloth. A static-free, fiber-free cloth works best. Remember not to use regular cloth, since this could scratch the screen. Do not soak the cloth; you just want to get it moist, which is the purpose of using the atomizer bottle to wet it. A wet cloth can drip or run when cleaning the screen and the solution can weep behind the bezel and permanently damage your screen. Try applying the solution to just one corner of the cloth at a time, to make sure you don't get it too wet. Wipe the cloth against the screen in a circular motion. Rapid circular movements generally eliminate streaks. Apply a gentle and even pressure to the cloth. Use only enough pressure to keep the cloth in contact with the screen.

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