Maximize your SSD's lifespan with the right maintenance

Phillip Mitchell replaced his hard drive with a high-capacity SSD. He asked how best to keep it healthy.

Flash RAM--the storage technology within SSDs--is immune to the violent disasters and wear-and-tear that can crash a hard drive. But SSDs have their own problems. Every time you write to flash RAM, you bring it a step closer to the day it fails.

Fortunately, those steps are very tiny. If you avoid unnecessary writing, your SSD will probably last until you want to replace it with something better. But it's still a good idea to avoid unnecessary writing. You can do that by turning off these four Windows settings.

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Free up space on your SSD or hard drive

Frank Yao asked how to free up space on his local, internal drive.

I've already discussed how to free up space in Windows itself and in your various installed programs. This time, I'm concentrating on libraries and data files. If you're like most people, these take up most of your space and most of your waste.

But there are limits to my advice. I can't tell you exactly what to remove; that's a decision you'll have to make for yourself. All I can do is suggest some techniques and free tools that can make the job easier.

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When your fast PC suddenly slows down

Rodolfo's laptop "started to slow down 2 days ago." A number of factors can cause that change.

Let's start with the easiest and most obvious fix: Have you rebooted lately? A lot of people leave their PCs on 24/7, or put them into sleep or hibernation mode rather than shutting them down completely. But a simple, full reboot can clean out a lot of Windows' temporary cobwebs.

Did that do the trick? If not, we'll have to do some detective work.

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Windows System Restore: You can adjust this utility to save your PC image more often

I noticed that Windows wasn’t creating restore points as often as I wanted them. I set out to discover how I—and you—can better control how often this vital task happens without manual intervention.

Just about any new problem that makes Windows behave badly can be fixed by opening Windows’ System Restore and returning to an earlier time. But this only works if you have a restore point that was created before the unfortunate changes.

Restore points are also vital to Windows’ File History feature. If you want to go back to last Thursday’s version of that spreadsheet, you'd better hope that a restore point was created last Thursday. (You can avoid this problem with a good backup program.)

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Windows Live Mail stores your messages, but where? Here's how to find them

Ed Faris asked where Microsoft’s Windows Live Mail program stores his email.

If you don’t know where your important files are, you can’t be sure you’re backing them up. And if they’re not backed up, you can lose them.

And not knowing an important file’s location isn’t just about backup. If your files disappear, it’s easier to recover them if you know where to look.

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What to do if someone steals your IP address

Sam Cook’s ISP informed him that he has been downloading illegal material. He has done no such thing. He asked me to help him solve this problem.

Neither your ISP nor anyone else can actually tell what you are doing on the Internet. But they can follow the activity of your public IP address—the one your router uses to access the Internet. And if someone else uses that address for unsavory purposes, you could become a prime suspect.

As I’ve previously explained, your public IP address is readily accessible on the Internet. Anyone can use it to discover your general location (your neighborhood, not your house) and your ISP. Your ISP can identify it as yours, and will do so if subpoenaed.

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The easy answer to the laptop vs. desktop question: Use a docking station

Henry Johnston wants a PC with the advantages of both a desktop and a laptop. But he can’t afford to buy two computers.

There’s no way to get all of the advantages of a desktop and laptop without buying two computers. You simply can’t slide next year’s most powerful graphics card into a PC that could count as carry-on luggage. Laptops are generally less powerful than similarly priced desktops, and always less upgradable.

But if you’re willing to make a few compromises, you get something close to your needs and desires.

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