While your laptop is designed and tested to hold up to a lot of use, common sense should tell you that you should not misuse your machine. As a result of some hard lessons students have learned in the past few years, we offer you the following advice.
Caring for Your Laptop
Features of your laptop
All modern laptops have abundant features. Perhaps the best way to learn about the features of your laptop is to use the built-in Help.
To learn about the features of your laptop, open the Windows Start menu, select the Help and Support option, and then enter "laptop features" in the Help and Support search bar. You may then select any of the items from the menu list or start a new search, such as "keyboard shortcuts."
Don'ts and Do's
- Have liquids, especially sweet, sticky drinks like soda, nearby when using your laptop. Spills can cause serious damage to the machine and can be costly to repair.
- Crush your laptop by stuffing too many books around it inside your backpack.
- Pile heavy objects on top of it.
- Drop, jar, or bump your laptop.
- Pick up or hold your laptop by the screen, or scratch, twist, hit, or push the surface of the display.
- Leave a pen or pencil on your laptop when you close it. Doing so will break the screen.
- Disassemble or attempt to repair your laptop yourself.
- Leave the laptop's base resting directly on your body (your legs or torso) for an extended period of time. It can get hot!
- Use your laptop in or near water.
- Use or store your laptop at temperatures above 95° F or below 41° F. This means don't leave it in your car!
- Place your laptop closer than five inches from any electrical appliance that generates a strong magnetic field, such as a television or refrigerator.
- Touch the lens on the CD-ROM tray or the surface of the compact disk.
- Condition your battery.
- Replace the plastic bezel when you exchange drives.
- Use a soft cotton cloth, such as a handkerchief, moistened with non-alkaline detergent to clean your computer. These types of cleaners should be available in the Rensselaer Collegiate Store. Please note that since different types of the screen cleaners are available, make sure that you purchase one that is made especially for laptop computers, and anti-glare and polarized computer screens.
- Use a carrying case that provides good protection for your laptop, such as the backpack you received as part of your Mobile Computing package.
- Keep a record of your system's serial number, as well as the lock code or key number to any locking security cables you may have.
Physically Securing Your Laptop
Always remember to use the security cable that you received with your laptop! This is especially important whenever you need to leave your machine for a few moments, whether you're looking for a book in the library, asking a question at the VCC Help Desk, getting your lunch in one of the dining halls, or leaving your dorm room.
You may want to seriously consider using some of the following tips and tricks to make your machines more secure:
- Always secure your laptop in your dorm room by using the security cable.
- It may sound like common sense, but keep your laptop with you as much as possible, and never leave it unattended and unsecured. For example, let's say you need to run into the Union Bookstore to buy a book; you know you'll only be in there a minute. Think you can just leave your backpack -- with your laptop in it -- on the open shelves inside the door? Well, think again! Sure, it may be tempting to leave your laptop and backpack unattended, especially if you know you'll only be gone for a short period of time, but the truth is that the potential for someone to walk off with your laptop is high. So keep your machine with you, whenever you can. And whenever you go into the Union Bookstore, take advantage of their free lockable storage to secure your laptop and other belongings until you've finished your shopping.
- Protect your data by requiring the use of a password.
- Consider using a Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) password, which you can add for additional security; it won't prevent the actual theft of your machine, but it will protect the data on it. However, please note that you should exercise extreme caution when setting any of these passwords, as setting and then forgetting them can have serious consequences, as explained below.
The Power-on Password prevents unauthorized users from starting up the ThinkPad. You must enter the correct power-on password prior to starting an operating system. If you forget this password, beware that three incorrect password guesses on some systems may wipe hard drive information. If you do forget this password, it MAY BE possible to clear it by removing the CMOS battery, but do not attempt this yourself, as it is very possible that this will not restore access. If you are not prepared to manage your passwords, do not set a power-on password.
The Supervisor Password protects the system information stored in the BIOS in such a way that a user can change the computer's configuration only after entering the correct supervisor password. Important note: If you forget the supervisor password, RCR or a Lenovo repair facility will have to replace the system motherboard. This expensive repair is not covered under the Lenovo warranty or by insurance.
The Hard-disk Passwords (master and user) protect the information stored on your hard disk in that you can only access the information on a hard disk after entering the correct hard-disk password. Important note: If you forget the hard-disk password, RCR or a Lenovo repair facility will have to replace the hard disk, and you will be unable to recover the information from the hard disk. This expensive repair is not covered under the Lenovo warranty or by insurance.
Getting Your Laptop Repaired
Tempting as it may be, don't ever attempt to repair any hardware portion of your laptop yourself. Instead, first take it to the VCC Help Desk to verify the hardware problem, and then take it to Rensselaer Computer Repair (RCR), located in the lower level of the Voorhees Computing Center. The RCR staff look over your machine and repair it for you as needed; the department also has a number of loaner laptops available for use in case they can't repair your machine in a day or two.
Please refer to the Program Support section of the Mobile Computing website for more information on laptop warranties and repairs.
Getting Help if Your Laptop is Stolen or Missing
We like to stress to all students that the first and most important step in safeguarding your laptop against theft is to keep it with you at all times, and to keep it properly secured if you do need to leave it for a moment.
However, in the event that your laptop is stolen or missing:
- If you're on-campus, contact Public Safety immediately by calling ext. 6603 (Investigations) or ext. 6611 (Emergency) to report the theft.
- If your laptop is stolen while you're off-campus, contact the local police authorities where the theft occurred and file an official police report.
In either case, it's very important that you be able to supply the officers with your laptop's serial number, so make sure that you have that information recorded. The serial number is also recorded in the RPI Student Information System.
You should also check to see if your insurance company offers a policy that will offer monetary compensation if your laptop is stolen. If you can not find your receipt contact the Mobile Computing Program staff at mobile-L@rpi.edu and request a receipt.
Students are eligible for a loaner from the Rensselaer Repair Center.
Please refer to the Program Support section of the Mobile Computing website for more information on laptop theft or loss.
Recommendations and Tips for Students Studying Abroad
International warranty coverage
Any student who is studying outside of the United States and who experiences a problem with their laptop may contact Lenovo's U.S. service center directly at 1-800-426-7378. (To contact Lenovo's service center in Canada, call 1-800-565-3344; for all other countries, please refer to Lenovo's service website for service provider information.) Wherever you call, make sure to have the make/model and serial number of your laptop ready; the serial number should be on the bottom of the unit. For newer laptop models, the serial number is located under the battery; you can also obtain your laptop's serial number by pressing the F1 key during boot-up.
Lenovo will provide you with information and/or instructions on how you can best get your computer repaired. For example, they may direct you to take your laptop to the nearest Lenovo repair center, or may provide you with a pre-paid shipping box in which you can send your laptop back to Lenovo with an explanation of the problem.
All students who are traveling abroad should note that Lenovo's ThinkPad Protection against accidental damage is not covered outside of the United States.
Before your warranty expires, you can choose to purchase a warranty extension directly from Lenovo for either a one- or two-year period. Simply call 1-866-968-4465 and press the selection for "Sales"; this will connect you to a Lenovo representative who will assist you with your selection of coverage. Additional details are available on the Lenovo Care webpage. Please note that the extended warranty does not include extended ThinkPad Protection against accidental damage.
Students can verify when their warranty expires by going to the Lenovo support website and entering their laptop's model number and serial number or using the automatic lookup feature.
If you purchased an extended warranty, please visit Rensselaer Computer Repair (RCR) -- located in the basement of the VCC -- well in advance of your trip to verify that Lenovo that has correctly recorded your extended warranty.
Return shipping charges for returned laptops
Due to many foreign countries' high shipping costs and value-added tax (VAT), shipping laptops and laptop components between Rensselaer and foreign countries is not feasible.
Rensselaer and Lenovo service contacts
Students who are studying abroad may use this list of Rensselaer and Lenovo contacts for help and information:
- VCC Help Desk -- Phone: 1 (518) 276-7777 | E-mail
- Rensselaer Computer Repair (hardware repair) -- 1 (518) 276-8178 | E-mail
- RPI laptop repair information (on- and off-campus)
- RPI Mobile Computing Program -- Phone: 1 (518) 276-3838 | E-mail
- Rensselaer Collegiate Store: Phone: 1 (518) 276-6555 | E-mail
- Lenovo (United States) -- 1-800-426-7378
We recommend that all students studying abroad use an international AC plug adapter. One such adapter is currently available from the Rensselaer Campus Computer Store:
- The Targus World Power Travel Adapter -- This adapter creates a universal solution that allows you to connect to any standard wall outlet worldwide. Simply attach any of the three interchangeable adapters to your device's AC power cord. Adapters included are for use in North America, Europe, UK, Australia and Asia Pacific. A storage tube is also included for ease of portability. They also feature red safety shutters for protection against accidental contact with electrical current and are made of high impact durable polycarbonate plastic. Travel light around the world with one set of universal power adapters for all of your powering needs.
If you would like to purchase the Windows and Microsoft Office software to use on your laptop while you're studying abroad, we recommend that you stop by the Campus Computer Store well in advance of your trip to obtain a copy. If you're participating in the Mobile Computing Program (MCP), you will be billed a media charge; otherwise, you will be charged the educational price.
If you are a Mobile Computing participant but are unable to obtain Windows and/or Office software before you leave, you may request to have a copy shipped to you while you are studying abroad. Shipping charges are determined by the destination and will be added to your Rensselaer student account. Please contact the Campus Computer Store for more information.
Windows backup and recovery
Students can follow the procedure given below to run a Windows backup and recovery on their laptop. Please note that this process assumes that you have an external hard drive.
- Create a repair disc:
- Power on the laptop and select Maintenance from the Start menu.
- Select Backup and Restore.
- On the upper left side of the panel, select Create a system repair disc. Follow the instructions which appear on the screen, and save this disc. You will need it to recover your system.
- Connect the external hard drive to the laptop.
- Select Create a system image. (You should create additional system images in the future if you wish.) Note that creating a system image does not mean that you should stop backng up your work files!
Installing the system image back onto your laptop
- Connect your external hard drive to your laptop.
- Start your laptop. When the initial boot sequence begins, press the F12 key; this will provide a boot menu. With the Repair CD in the drive, select the DVD as the boot option.
- When the "Press any key to boot from CD or DVD" message appears, press any key on your keyboard. IMPORTANT!! This message is only on the screen for a few seconds, so watch closely for it!
- Select the US keyboard option.
- Select Restore your computer using a system image that you created earlier. This should bring up the image that is on your external hard drive. The default is to use the latest available system image.
- Select Next. (If you suspect that your system is corrupted with a virus, the best option is to select Format and repartition disks, then select Next.)
- A final message stating that the system will be restored will appear on the screen. Select Finish. The final warning tells you that all the data on your hard drive will be replaced with the data on your back up image. If you are sure you want to continue, select Yes.
- Connect the external hard drive to the laptop.
- To create a backup, open the Start menu and select the Maintenance option under All Programs.
- Select the Backup and Restore Center option.
- Select Back Up Computer, and save your backup on your external hard drive.
- Attach the external hard drive to the laptop.
- Power on your laptop. When the system begins to boot and displays the large ThinkPad logo, press the F12 key. Insert the Vista DVD into the drive and boot from it.
- When the "Press any key to boot from CD or DVD" message appears, press any key on your keyboard. IMPORTANT! This message is only on the screen for a few seconds, so watch closely for it!
- When the Install Window displays the keyboard option, select the US default option.
- Select the Repair your Computer option in the next window that appears. The repair software will look for a backup location and will find your external hard drive.
- Select the Windows Complete PC Restore option.
- The latest backup will be an option. Click on Next. (If you suspect viruses on your system, select the Format and repartition disks option and then click on Next.)
- Click on the Finish option. You will need to confirm this option.
When the recovery is complete, your system should reboot on its own.