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Buy Now, Buy Smart

Now is a good time to buy a new computer. Between upcoming holiday gifts and companies making end-of-the-year purchases, there’s a lot of demand – and supply. Sellers will throw the word “bargain” around very freely and tempt you at every turn. Shop smart to get your true value.

Let’s start with the “five-year rule.” It’s nothing like the “five-second rule,” and therefore, it has nothing to do with your computer falling to the floor. (Whether your computer is still usable depends less on picking it up within five seconds than it does on how far it falls and how cushioned the floor is.)

Five years is about the length of a computer’s useful service life. After five years, your total system can be woefully out-of-date. The computer itself slows down in many cases because your hard drive has less room to write and rewrite the data in the files you use – even if you faithfully run defragging programs to manage the space. If you have an old computer, you are likely to have old software and connection ports, such as older USB, that are all too slow to support newer, faster, more robust systems. That holds true whether your computer is for business or home use.

If you have a computer approaching five years old, it really doesn’t pay to upgrade the software. Your old computer won’t have the processing power to run the software effectively, and your connection ports may not support functions such as Skype or streaming video. If you have kids who are into any of the many popular online gaming activities, such as Minecraft, they won’t be able to keep up, and they won’t be able to maximize learning experiences online.

We’re not telling you to go out and buy the fastest computer on the market. But we are telling you to consider this:

  • Figure on your computer lasting five years.
  • Give a lot of thought to how you plan to use your computer.
    • Are you just surfing the Internet and answering email?
    • Do you plan to use processing-heavy applications such as
      • Complex spreadsheets?
      • Photo editing?
      • Art and graphic design?
      • Skype or other videoconferencing?
      • Online collaboration with large files?
    • Do the applications you depend on require you to upgrade frequently?
    • Will you need speed, video and sound for streaming movies, TV and games?
    • Will you be integrating your new computer with wireless devices over a Wi-Fi network?

Once you know what you expect from your computer, you can better assess what’s on the market. You can look at whether a Windows-based or Mac system is better and whether a desktop or laptop is better. You might also want to consider one of the newer tablets that use the cloud to provide a full range of computing capabilities with the convenience of a tablet.

Nothing beats going to a few stores to try out the computers to see what feels comfortable for you. You can also ask questions, but be prepared for the possibility that the sales person may be trying to steer you to a specific brand or model or may not know any more than you. Give yourself a budget. While you may go over it or find something less expensive than you planned, a budget will give you a guideline for evaluating the apples and oranges you’ll come across.

At the same time, don’t concentrate on just the hardware. Here are key considerations:

  • If you are going to use your existing software, make sure you have your original disks and product keys. You can generally download Internet browsers, programs such as Adobe Reader and drivers for peripherals such as printers – but you can’t do it with application software.
  • Have all of your passwords for your Wi-Fi system, email, cloud storage, etc.
  • Have all of your data files – word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, pictures, etc. – backed up on a portable hard drive, the cloud or CDs and DVDs. There are systems to transfer data files from one computer to another, but you should have it all backed up anyway.
  • Be prepared to buy new software or migrate to cloud-based subscription services. Your software may be so out of date that it won’t run on a new computer.

Finally, make us your first and last stop. We can talk about what you have now, how you’d like to use your new computer system, how long you plan to keep it and how much you’d like to spend. We can help you evaluate the most viable options, and then you can go out and see some things for yourself. Then, come back to us. We can help you choose the best package for your needs, and we may be able to get you a better price.

Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to set up a time to talk. We want to help you find a system you can.