Q: With more of us now using flat-screen monitors instead of the glass-front old types, what is the proper way to clean the surface?

Share story

Q: With more of us now using flat-screen monitors instead of the glass-front old types, what is the proper way to clean the surface? Does it hurt to keep the screen covered with clear plastic? When I bought two identical monitors a few months ago, they had a clear piece of plastic taped over the screen. I have left it in place — I can clean it with glass cleaner. And it keeps all the dust of the screen itself. Do you know of any reason why I should not do that? What other maintenance items should be considered?

Rick Harrison, Seattle

A: There’s no problem with keeping your monitor screen covered with plastic. Many users, however, will find that the display loses some vibrancy when viewed through an additional layer of plastic.

As for cleaning the LCD screen, first let’s cover the big don’ts. Don’t use paper towels and don’t use glass cleaner! LCD screens are more susceptible to chemicals and scratching than glass screens are. And don’t press hard on the LCD screen. You can actually damage the underlying pixels.

Now for the do’s. Use a microfiber or 100 percent cotton cloth. Some swear by using a sprayed mixture of water and white vinegar, though the consensus seems to lean more toward a solution of water and isopropyl alcohol. The isopropyl alcohol should be about 20 percent of the solution, certainly no more than 50 percent.

Q: I have a 5-year-old laptop with a 100-gigabyte hard drive partitioned into 50 gigabytes on the C: drive, where Windows XP and all Windows programs reside; 25 gigabytes on the D: drive, which I use for data storage; and 25 gigabytes for a Linux installation. I am running low on disk space on C:, so I deleted programs that I use rarely or not at all and I have freed up about 15 percent of that partition and defragmented it. I notice that updates are taking up lots of space. Can any of these updates be deleted after they have been run? Would I be better off ditching some of the older programs that the updates service and look for newer versions that presumably wouldn’t need the updates? I keep hearing that I should just add another drive because they are so cheap. I guess I am cheaper because I would rather remove stuff that I don’t need and use the money for necessities or to take my wife to dinner.

Sewall Young

A: Operating-system and program updates do tend to take up a lot of disk space. Fortunately, once you’re confident that your programs are running properly after the update, you can safely get rid of the update files. The only reason they are retained is so that you can return to an earlier state if it turns out there is a conflict with an application that you want to keep using.

Why do such conflicts occur? The most common reason is that an application programmer may have taken shortcuts that work fine with the current version of the operating system, but that runs into problems with a later version. In such cases, it’s really up to the application vendor to make its programs compatible. But in the meantime you may want to forgo an update in order to keep functional.

I would not recommend, however, putting off updates that involve security fixes.

Note: In a recent column about audio books available for download at the Seattle Public Library, I noted that only certain digital players — those that support Digital Rights Management — could be used, not including iPods. Several readers have contacted me to point out that while that is true with the netLibrary Recorded Book Collection, the Seattle Public Library also offers access to Overdrive Digital Books & Media. The collection includes more than 1,400 audio books, and these can be loaded onto iPods and other MP3 players.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by e-mail to pmarshall@seattletimes.com or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.