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Should you just buy a cheap computer?

Technology is always changing, evolving and improving. I don't mind showing my age by telling you my first computer had 1K of memory, which seemed like a lot at the time. Today, my laptop has six million times more memory for about the same amount of inflation-adjusted dollars.

As new components are released, the price drops on what once was the best computer you could get.  When buying a new computer, how can you know that you are getting a good deal?  Should you just buy the very cheapest computer you can find?  Here are some things to watch out for when a computer deal seems too good to be true.

 How long will it last?

Many cheap deals are understandably for computers that have cheaper parts.  Unfortunately the likelihood of an electrical or mechanical failure in these cheaper components can be comparatively high.  Remember, you may be sacrificing quality for a lower initial purchase price.

The cheapest computers available at retail are only cheap because the manufacturers are not making any profit. As a result, they tend to cut corners with flimsy plastic parts and cheap processors that either are sluggish in performance or not very efficient (inefficient processors use more electricity and therefore produce more heat, which in turn reduces the life of the computer). We suggest you consider spending just a little bit more, which will save you money and aggravation over the long term.

What kind of warranty comes with it?

If you can increase the warranty to more than just one year, it is money well spent.  We have seen computer components fail after just 12 months.  Check the warranty details to see if you have to send the computer away for repair, or if they will come to you or even post you a replacement part.   

Computers purchased at retail almost always include a one year warranty. We generally recommend business grade computers with a manufacturer warranty of three or more years.

Does it have ‘genuine’ software?

Computer software like Microsoft Windows can be found on the internet for a fraction of the retail price.  However, chances are it is a copy and does not have its own original, unique license.  Microsoft is implementing increased security measures to ensure that only genuine software licenses have access to software updates and extra features (like Office templates).  In the future, illegal copies of software may expire and be rendered unusable.

Will it run games or my other software?

One of the biggest problems with cheaper computers is how well they handle the display processing for your monitor. 

You may have a great screen, but without the computer having ‘3D’ graphics capability, you may find you can’t run games like World of Warcraft or Counter Strike.  You’ll also have the same problem running software for house or garden design. 

Can I add things to it later?

Right now you may only type letters and send a few emails.  But what if you get a digital camera for your birthday or you see some great new software?  Your computer needs room to grow as you push it to do more and more.  Some cheap computers come with the absolute bare minimum of components and may not physically be able to read additional memory (RAM) or have space for new devices like DVD-writers.  Also, older components, like some motherboards, may not be compatible with newer devices.

What’s happening in technology lately?

Microsoft continues to evolve the Windows operating system, from XP to Vista to Windows 7, and Windows 8. They also continue to evolve the popular Office suites, from Office 2003 to Office 2007, Office 2010 and Office 2013.

Generally new versions require more memory and disk space than older versions, but this is not always the case. Windows 7 and Office 2010 were more stable, streamlined, and user friendly than their immediate predecessors (Vista and Office 2010), for example.

Contact us about how we can put these and other tips into action for you.


The information presented in Dave's Tricks & Tips is provided "as-is", and is not intended as a substitute for the hands-on services of Computer Problem Solvers.
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