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I have a netbook that I am not using but would like to preserve for posterity. What precautions do I need to take to ensure that the machine does not undergo any deterioration? The machine will remain switched off most of the time.

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3 Answers 3

Really the only thing you need to worry about deteriorating is the battery. According to this question previously asked about laptop batteries your best bet is to store it half charged in a cool dry place. As always it's not a good idea to store the laptop in warm humid environment since moisture can seep in and collect on important components. Moisture also may have an affect on the screen, plastics, and silicon used in the chips, if you leave it exposed to such moisture over extended periods of time there is a chance they will warp. If you have to store it in an attic, basement, storage unit or any other environment that may expose the laptop to humidity over extended periods of time, I would suggest putting it in an airtight freezer ziplock bag. However if you plan on keeping it in a climate controlled portion of your house I would just worry about the battery as I have 10+ year old desktops and servers that still work just fine.

EDIT: Brad makes an excellent point (below) you should also take the battery out of the computer when storing it for long periods of time.

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It may be best to pull the battery out completely if it's going to be stored for a long time rather than leaving it in the computer, if possible. –  Xanny Mar 28 '11 at 15:59
    
@Brad very true I figured that was kind of a given but I guess I should add it to the answer. –  Kyle Mar 28 '11 at 16:00
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If the netbook has a hard drive, you may want to power it up occasionally to ensure the hard drive still spins up. Regardless of whether it has a hard drive or only SSD, keep a backup of the OS and data, preferably on SSD or somewhere on the network.

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I could be mistaken, but powering up a hard drive will only shorten its life. Hard drives are not like cars. The longer a drive sits still, the less chance it will have of crashing. –  Phil Mar 28 '11 at 23:40
    
+1 for keeping a backup of the data. –  Johnsyweb Mar 29 '11 at 5:52
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If the computer will be stored a long time:

If it's small enough, I'd put it in an airtight container with a desiccant (you could get one of those ones intended for closet dehumidification. A laptop w/o battery in a ziplock with a "do not eat this" packet would be fine. A PC in an air-tight plastic storage box with a "dry closet" pack would be fine too.

Batteries are bad - they go bad, leak, etc. Ziplock those separately. For PC's, there's a battery on the motherboard for CMOS/etc. You could remove that and bag it separately. There's a small chance that it'll leak and corrode the motherboard.

However, if the computer will be stored unused for periods, but also used occasionally, then I'd just clean out the dust once in a while, make sure it's not in a moist place (since it will rust quickly), and keep an eye on any batteries. For laptops, remove the batteries unless you're actively using the computer. Half charged is best. The battery will eventually die anyway, but this will give it the best chances.

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My 2c on CMOS backup batteries: There are two types: The new style button cell lithium batteries - these are unlikely to leak but are easily removed anyway. Then there's the old nicad type (you'll probably only see them on 20 year old machines.) These WILL leak if left for a couple of years and often have to be desoldered or cut off the motherboard. They will ruin the motherboard if they leak... see amiga.org/forums/showthread.php?t=49745 for a picture of one that leaked... –  ali1234 Mar 28 '11 at 23:02
    
@ali I have an old 1993 or 94 era laptop that used the nicad type of battery. I got it from a friend, and it leaked all over the motherboard along with outside the case. It still booted, but was very unstable. –  Earlz Apr 14 '11 at 0:27
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