10 things we hate about laptops

Sure, laptops have revolutionized the way we compute. That doesn't mean they don't drive IT bonkers.

Software drivers are another area of frustration for both users and support staff. On the road, laptop users can encounter a dizzying array of network connections, multimedia display ins/outs, and peripherals options -- not to mention the moldy five-year-old technology used in hotel "business centers."

That means IT managers need to equip their road machines with a comprehensive suite of drivers -- after, of course, defining what's "comprehensive" for which users -- and then keeping those drivers up to date.

As Applied Materials' Archibald says, "If it moves, you have to keep track of it, brand it, fix it and change it."

With drivers -- as with laptop computing in general -- there are always a lot of moving parts to keep track of.

When bad things happen to good laptops

At Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, laptops have been frozen solid (a liquid crystal display is a liquid, after all), recovered from the bottom of a creek bed (along with the car it was stolen from) and sliced in half when a train suddenly rolled back a few feet, right over the laptop balanced on the tracks.

At Atlas Air, tech support once took a call from a road warrior who was driving, computing and talking on the phone at the same time ... the call ended with a loud crash.

And our favorite, from an outraged Applied Materials user's actual e-mail:

"Were you aware that at my current salary of roughly US$90/hour, the requirement to log in/unlock my laptop computer more than five to eight times a day, including mistyping, takes up to 20 minutes per day, 2.9 hours per week (I work 7 days a week), 145 hours per year (I take 2 weeks off for vacation).

"So, in effect, the security requirements for my laptop are costing the company more than US$13,000 per year. When you multiply this for even 2,000 laptop users, your 'need for protection' is costing the company more than US$26,000,000 a year. Can't we just turn it off and save the company money?"

Kind of gives new meaning to the phrase, "You do the math," doesn't it?

To outsource or not

It's certainly been said that IT folks are a masochistic lot. And nowhere is that more true than when the subject of laptop support comes up.

In-house support of laptops is liable to cost a company more money by far than, say, support of servers, says Ron Silliman, an analyst at Gartner. His view: The most cost-effective way to support laptops is by contracting with third parties offering distributed on-site support.

A surprising number of IT folks we spoke with are unwilling to take that advice and aren't even considering outsourcing their support.

Stephen Laster, CIO of Harvard Business School, says his group has to support the campus, otherwise it risks becoming too distant from what's really going on. "The interchange between us and our users is important, and it defines our culture," he says.

To be fair, Silliman agrees that universities are one place where on-site support can be cost effective, mostly because of the almost free labor provided by the many work-study college students. And universities also tend to be smaller environments where it's easier to control laptop standards, he points out.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Valerie Rice

Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy


First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni


For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell


The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi


The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott


My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?