Chemist Jim Bostick, an assistant fellow at Sandoz Research Institute in East Hanover, N.J., recalls a colleague who made a fundamental error in taking care of the personal computer in his lab--he placed his PC next to a machine that generated a high electromagnetic field.

"His PC actually got used to the field that had been generated, and as soon as we moved the machine away to put in a bigger one, my colleague's monitor didn't work right anymore, because it had adjusted to that high field," says Bostick. The error in placement of the PC was such an obvious one that "even my friend had to laugh about it," Bostick says.

Even in meticulous labs run by top scientists, neglect can cause personal computers to malfunction. Some of this is unavoidable--no matter where you place a PC, for example, some dust will accumulate in the machine. Still, many PC...

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