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I have an experienced laptop — a Dell Latitude D400, with a Pentium M CPU — that I'd like to run as an always-on server. This model was launched in 2004; I got mine second-hand in about 2007.

I've heard that continuous operation is generally not a good idea with consumer hardware, but am lacking in specific knowledge about related problems, and have little idea of how much such usage patterns would reduce the lifespan of the machine.

I'm mostly concerned with the unit's core components; parts such as the hard drive which are readily replaceable are, well, readily replaceable.

What sorts of things can I do to increase the lifespan of this machine under such circumstances? For example, I'm guessing that it would be wise to limit the CPU frequency or take other steps to keep the internal temperature low. However, I'm not sure where the point of diminishing returns would lie with such an approach — 50°C? 40°C?

Would it be useful to suspend the machine periodically, for perhaps an hour each day, or a few hours each week?

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Keep the ventilation clear. Get a cooling stand. Pull the battery (or leave it in place if it's already almost dead). Keep the backlight off when not needed. That's how I run my Acer laptop 24/7.

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+1 Pretty much how I've been running my laptops as well. – Sathya Jan 17 '11 at 6:43

In addition to Ignacio's instructions go to advanced power settings and set what to do when lid is closed to nothing

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No, set it to blank the screen. – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Jan 17 '11 at 6:46
+1 forgot that option :) – Shekhar Jan 17 '11 at 6:48
I'm actually blanking the screen and not closing it, which helps to keep it cool. Also helps to avoid an Ubuntu bug that was causing hangs when the lid was reopened :( – intuited Jan 17 '11 at 7:09
Depends on the laptop model... Keeping it running while the lid is closed can cause some to overheat rather quickly. (Other than PowerBooks, I can never remember which models this applies to, so I tend to assume it applies to all laptops.) – Dave Sherohman Jan 17 '11 at 9:52

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