How to extend the lifespan of electronic devices

Some of our belongings and possessions will outlast us all, but there are now compelling reasons to try and extend the lifespan of electronic devices as well

Monday, 6 June, 2022

While houses like the one in this photograph are built to last for centuries, and many furnishings are designed to deliver decades of use, we have a far more disposable attitude to consumer electronic goods.

In normal times, annual smartphone replacement or regular laptop upgrades would have been seen as acceptable – maybe even desirable. But these are not normal times.

With much of the world still in the grip of a pandemic, manufacturing and supply lines have been further disrupted by war in Ukraine and chronic materials shortages.

This has impacted everything from cars to smaller, less customisable electronic devices like broadband routers and home computers.

Although these mass-produced goods are still readily available, supply line issues continue to affect the production and supply of anything incorporating semiconductor chips.

Add in growing environmental awareness of how difficult some items are to recycle, and it seems prudent to extend the lifespan of electronic devices already in your possession.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to maximise the lifespan of existing products, in turn optimising their value…

Turn off when not in use

Even on standby, electronic equipment consumes electricity. It might not run at normal operating capacity, but it’ll be working harder than if you pulled the plug out.

Unplugging is inadvisable for smart speakers and set top boxes scheduled to record TV programmes overnight, but most appliances benefit from being switched off.

Smartphones and computers in particular benefit from periodic resets, erasing cache memory.

The same is true for home broadband routers, which may take this opportunity to update essential firmware.

Invest in protective equipment

This varies by device. You don’t need to put an impact-absorbing cover on a TV as you would with a smartphone, but you should strap it to the wall or a piece of furniture, to prevent it falling over.

Phones and laptops benefit from scratch-resistant screen protectors and shock-proof casings, whose rounded corners prevent them denting laminate or wooden floors if they’re dropped.

As well as reducing the risk of screens becoming cracked, it’ll preserve their condition, which means you might get more money in a future part-exchange or sale.

Look after peripherals

Games consoles are reliant on controllers. Place heavy objects on top of such a controller, and its joysticks or buttons might become crushed or broken.

Nobody wants to handle a TV remote that’s been chewed by a dog, or use a tablet stylus which has started to corrode from being left outside during a rainstorm.

Because some devices will be unusable if their peripherals cease to function properly or get lost, try to allocate controllers a dedicated home beyond the reach of small children or pets.

Keep cables tidy

Pets may also enjoy playing with loose cables, while a few might be tempted to chew through their soft outer plastic sheaths.

Most home electronics have replaceable cables, but some have hardwired power leads. A broken cable would effectively render them unusable.

Bundle cables together using clips and tidies; position them behind furniture that’s pushed close to the wall; avoid leads trailing across the floor where vacuum cleaners could snag them.

Treat batteries carefully

Batteries have a finite lifespan, and can only be charged so many times before their efficiency begins to suffer.

As a result, you shouldn’t charge a battery til it’s 100 per cent full, or routinely fully deplete it.

Items with rechargeable batteries hardwired into them are useless once the battery cells degrade and cease to store charge, while overcharging also wastes electricity.

Avoid ambient damage

Another important way to extend the lifespan of electronic devices is to reduce their exposure to dust, heat, sunshine and moisture.

Don’t leave smartphones charging beside a south-facing window; cover devices with heat vents before undertaking dust-generating DIY; try to position them in cool corners.

Keep wet laundry or humidifiers away from electronic equipment whose plastic circuit cards might be damaged by damp air. Desiccant bags can help in unavoidably damp environments.

Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!