Tips for Protecting Your Gadgets

Smartphones, media players, digital cameras, camcorders, notebooks and tablets are all vulnerable to damage and loss. Between the sticker price of your devices and the value of the data they contain, you can't afford the replacement costs and hassles that can result if you leave your electronics vulnerable to threats that can put them out of service.

Back It Up

Device failure, loss, theft or damage can equal data loss. Unless you back up your home movies, recipes, business records and any writing material you may be working on, all your files can disappear in a natural disaster or break-in. A 2013 survey by online backup provider Backblaze revealed that, despite the level of daily life that takes place on computers, only 10 percent of Americans back up their data. "A good majority of people have insurance for their cars, house and health, but they have nothing in place to protect themselves against data loss," Gleb Budman, founder and CEO of Backblaze, points out.

Backblaze had customers whose homes were flooded by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and "were relieved to have one less thing to worry about when Backblaze was able to recover years worth of work and memories from their damaged machines," says Budman. The company's statistics show that half of computer users suffer data loss in a given year, increasing the need for diligent backups.

Keep It Clean

Gadget cases and covers do more than protect smartphones and tablets from liquids, scratches and dents. They also help shield them from dirt and dust, as does keeping your phone out of your back pocket, which combines lint contamination with the constant threat of seat-related damage, not to mention the embarrassment of accidentally dialing with your rear end. Microfiber cloths can clean up just about anything that picks up finger oils and other gunk. Invest in suitable cleaning kits to tidy up your devices, bearing in mind that the types of solutions that make your smartphone screen shine can damage your camera lens.

Heat, Cold & Other Elements

Exposure to the elements and house pets can render your gadgets nonfunctional. Cold drains battery life. Direct sunlight can damage smartphone or media player screens, overheat notebook-computer hard drives, and play havoc with cameras and camcorders. After you bring your gadgets inside from extreme outdoor temperatures, let them acclimate to the indoors before you start using them. Liquids also can play havoc with electronics, from the splash of an ocean wave to the coffee that spills into your notebook keyboard. Some sports-oriented camcorders can tolerate impact, dust and immersion in water to specific depths, and some enforced smartphones also survive exposure to liquids and other hostile substances.

Along with environmental damage, pet damage costs gadget owners $3 billion to replace or repair more than 8 million devices, according to aftermarket warranty provider SquareTrade. Keep devices away from areas pets frequent, especially when they're home alone, and wrap battery-charger cords in split-loom tubing, designed to protect wiring from caustics and other substances.

Passport, Luggage & Gadgets

On the road for business or pleasure, your gadgets run the risk of loss, theft and damage. Before you leave home, write up a complete inventory of the devices you're taking with you, including makes, models, serial numbers and all other distinctive details, and photograph each one. Bring a copy of your inventory with you and leave a duplicate at home so you can identify your items if one strays. Keep valuables, including your electronics, in a hotel safe. Label your devices, put them in resealable plastic bags and tuck them in your carry-on luggage so you know where to find them. To help keep the wrong people out of your private data, password protect smartphones, tablets and notebook computers.

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