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Grow Your Business Technology

Home Ec Tech: 10 DIY Ways to Fix Your Gadgets

Home Ec Tech: 10 DIY Ways to Fix Your Gadgets
You don't need expensive repair services to fix your gadgets. Here are 10 things you can do at home. / Credit: Home in hand image via Shutterstock

As a small business, you always need to find a way to stretch your dollar. From office supplies to the latest gadgets, technology costs add up. Instead of always heading out to replace expensive devices and products or calling costly professionals to fix them, here are 10 do-it-yourself ways you can hack technology without breaking the bank.

Hard drive not working? Try popping it in your freezer. IT pros say freezing your hard drive for a couple hours or overnight can magically bring it back to life. The scientific explanation is that the temperature will cause moving parts to contract, enabling them to function normally again.

Note that this method won't work if your hard drive has a head crash or electronic failure. Freezing your hard drive is also not a long-term solution. The idea is to get it working long enough to recover data so you don't lose them forever. Freezing your hard drive can also damage it due to condensation once you boot it up again; to minimize shorting out, make sure to keep your hard drive dry using a freezer bag and a desiccant.

If freezing your hard drive doesn't work, you have one more DIY option before sending it off to a hard drive recovery service, which can cost a couple hundred dollars or more. Data recovery softwareis a cost-effective solution that will enable you to retrieve files from damaged hard drives and lost or deleted files that remain in the hard drive's memory. To recover data, the software is installed onto a separate device, which is then connected to the malfunctioning hard drive.

The best data recovery software ranges from $39.95 to $79.99 and are compatible with Windows 8, 7, Vista and XP. Mac data recovery software is also available for just under $100.

Ink cartridges can be expensive and costs add up. To get the most out of your ink cartridge, don't throw it out just because your printer says so — your cartridge may actually still have some juice left.

Some people swear by removing the cartridge and shaking it to loosen the remaining ink. Another option is to heat the cartridge to help the ink flow out to the very last drop.

To do this, use a hairdryer and heat the ink cartridge nozzle for two to three minutes, then start printing while the cartridge is still warm. Results will vary based on your cartridge type and how long the cartridge has been sitting in your printer near-empty.

Cookie sheets are for more than just baking. They can extend your Wi-Fi signal too.

Here's how: place aluminum cookie sheets behind your router. Acting as a satellite TV dish, it will redirect radio waves in one direction, instead of all around.

Our sister site, LAPTOP, put this method to the test:

We downloaded an app that displays Wi-Fi signal strength in dBm and stood in one spot about 10 feet away from our router. A cookie sheet was placed behind our Wi-Fi router while we remained stationary. We started off with a signal strength of -52 dBm and saw the graph climb to -45 dBm when we set the cookie sheet behind the router. We took the cookie sheet away and it dropped down to -55 dBm. When we repositioned the sheet behind the router, it shot up to -42 dBm, then dropped to a mere -50 dBm when we removed it one last time. Success!

Just like computers, smartphones slow down as they age, too.  If your phones are feeling sluggish, here's how to speed them up:

iPhone – Speeding up an iPhone as it ages is pretty simple, as outlined by Lifehacker:

  1. Don't update iOS or your apps. These updates take a toll on older devices, as they require more resources that are only available on newer devices.
  2. Use Apple's built-in apps. Using third-party apps instead of Apple's — for instance, Chrome instead of Safari — can slow down your system by accessing additional outside resources.
  3. Free up storage. Go to Settings, select General, then go to Usage. Have less than 500 MB left? It's time to uninstall apps you don't use and music you don't listen to.
  4. Remove any jailbreak tweaks. Jailbreaking your iPhone is great way to customize your iPhone beyond Apple's boundaries. Unfortunately, these hacks are also the No. 1 cause of slowdowns.   

Android – According to LAPTOP, there are five easy ways to speed up an Android phone:

  1. Clear your app cache using the settings menu or via App Cache Cleaner, a free cache-clearing app. 
  2. Disable or uninstall or unused apps, many of which remain in the background, taking up system resources
  3. Install a third-party app launcher that speeds up OS navigation
  4. Remove unnecessary widgets and shortcuts, which take up memory
  5. Limit or disable background data, such as syncing and app notification alerts

One of the most common iPhone problems is a malfunctioning home button. Whether it's just slow to respond or doesn't respond at all, here are a few easy fixes from CNETTV:

  1. Calibrate home button – As recommended by Apple, calibrating the home button can reactivate responsiveness. Simply open an app and hold the sleep button. When "Slide to power off" appears, immediately hold down the home button.
  2. Realign docking port – When the docking port is misaligned, the home button can malfunction. To fix this, plug in the USB cable, then carefully push down, such that the port pushes up against the home button. Press the home button, then remove the cable.
  3. Clean the home button with alcohol – The space surrounding the home button can collect dirt, dust, oil and other particles over time, causing the home button to slow down or stop responding. To clean it, use a cotton ball or tissue to squeeze drops of 99.8-99.99 percent isopropyl alcohol — not rubbing alcohol — directly on the home button and the space surrounding it. Tap the home button several times with the eraser end of a pencil or other narrow object to spread the alcohol and let dry for 10 minutes before use.

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We've all been there. We try to be careful with our phones, decking them in all sorts of protective gear. Yet, somehow, some way, we always manage to scratch our screens. Here's a surprising scratch-eraser: toothpaste.

According to apartment therapy, toothpaste is an easy and effective way to buff out scratches on your screens. Dab a tiny bit of toothpaste — actual paste, not gel — on a cotton swab or soft cloth, then gently rub it on the scratch using a circular motion. Use a soft, barely damp cloth to clean and finish it off.

Is your USB charger loose when you plug it into your device? Or does it fall out completely? Don't buy a new one just yet. Buy toothpicks instead.

In some cases, USB ports aren't broken, but have just collected debris over time. It clogs the ports, preventing them from latching onto your device.

Lifehacker found this cheap fix to clean out micro-USB charger ports and get them to attach to devices again: using a sharpened toothpick, carefully remove any dirt, dust, lint and other particles inside the port. Do the same on the outside, particularly where the bolts are located. If you don't have a broken connector, this should solve the problem.

Air bubbles don't just cramp your style by making your phone look muddled and unprofessional, but they can impair touch screen functionality as well. The easiest way to fix this is to run the edge of a credit card against your screen to smooth and push out any air bubbles. This method, however, doesn't always work.

To remove air bubbles, eHow recommends using Scotch tape to eliminate any dust or debris. First, remove the entire screen protector from your screen. Clean your screen with a microfiber cloth, then cover it in strips of Scotch tape, leaving enough on the ends. Use the Scotch tape to remove any remaining particles, then replace the protective screen.

Tip: Air bubbles are caused by airborne particles. The best way to avoid air bubbles is to apply screen protectors in a dust-free environment. Here's how: Put on a hot shower. Let it steam to allow the dust to settle, then apply the screen protector.

Water gets spilled. Phones fall in swimming pools, puddles and even toilets. Accidents happen. But hope is not lost. Here's an age-old solution to drying out a wet phone: uncooked rice.

Uncooked rice acts as a desiccant, soaking up the moisture from your device. Here's how in three easy steps, as successfully tested by LAPTOP:

  1. First, remove the battery and SIM card, if you have one
  2. Gently wipe off any remaining water with a washcloth
  3. Leave the phone in a bowl of uncooked rice overnight

If this doesn't work the first time, plug in your device and check that it is charging normally. If not, try a replacement battery before replacing your device.

LAPTOP warned that you should never turn on the phone while it's still wet because it can short-circuit. They also warned against using a hair dryer to dry your phone, which can further push water into crevices and fry your device.

Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.

Sara Angeles

Sara is a tech writer with a background in business and marketing. After graduating from UC Irvine, she worked as a copywriter and blogger for nonprofit organizations, tech labs and lifestyle companies. She started freelancing in 2009 and joined Business News Daily in 2013. Follow Sara Angeles on Twitter @sara_angeles.