Used Computers Are a Great Way to Save Money

New computers are expensive, even the entry-level ones, which prevents many people from owning a computer. With so much of normal life revolving around computers the need for access to a computer increases every day. Want to buy a book? You will need a computer because all the book stores are closing. Want to take night classes? Many are only offered online. Want discounts on your monthly bills? Many companies offer discounts if you opt to receive an electronic bill instead of a paper bill.

One solution is to use the free computers available at public libraries. This is great service if you need to use them and are available to use them during library business hours. Borrowing a computer from family and friends is another option but that gets old in hurry.

Another solution is buying a used computer. The average computer user does not need a high-end computer with the latest and fastest processor so a few year old computer is more than adequate. Fortunately for these people there is no shortage of people looking to sell computers that are in great condition and only a few years old.

Many people get a new computer every couple years either because they just want the latest and greatest technology or because they need to processing power for graphics design or engineering applications. These are the ideal people to buy a used computer from because there is a good chance that when they bought the computer a couple years ago it was the top of the line model with the fastest processor available. A computer purchased a couple years ago with the fastest processor available at the time becomes obsolete a lot slower for the average user.

There are relatively few components in a computer that are prone to failure which makes the due diligence process before buying a used computer fairly simple. A few simple tests and thorough inspection are sufficient in most instances and do not require a computer technician and can be performed by persons with basic knowledge of computers.

Hard drive

A computer’s hard drive is vital to its operation and its failure can mean more than just a non functioning computer. It can also mean loss of data stored on it. Backing up important files is good practice for any computer user but especially someone buying a used computer. Affordable back up options include burning files to DVD if the computer has a DVD burner and USB thumb drives.

Hard drives are one of only a couple computer components with moving parts so they can wear out. A hard drive that makes excessive noise or a noise whose volume or pitch varies is not a good thing. The best time to listen to a hard drive is while it is reading or writing data such as while the computer is booting up.

Cooling fan

Several components in a computer and on a mother board generate significant heat so computers have fans to keep them cool. If computer’s fan is not working there is a good chance that some damage has been done to its components. Excessive dust and dirt on the cooling fins of a CPU can prevent the CPU from cooling properly thus increasing the likelihood the CPU may be damaged. To determine if a fan is in good condition listen for an even, low-pitched hum.

Operating system

Reboot a computer several times to test the operating system. It should not take an overly long time to boot up and it should not hang up or pause during the boot process.

Business Computer Rental

Computers today are relatively inexpensive to purchase. Most decent computers cost approximately $400 – $600. Unfortunately, when starting a business, especially when you have several employees, those costs can add up to be quite high. A good way to save those up front costs is to look for a good business computer rental service. Business rental companies charge a monthly fee, perhaps $50 a month, for the use of their computers. Looking at a business computer rental store has several advantages over outright purchasing computers.

Financially, business computer rental services save quite a bit of up front money. If a computer costs about $400, and you have 20 employees who need computers, it would cost a total of $8000 in order to ensure all computer needs were met. There may also be a few people in the company that require a portable computer in order to work at home or on the road. This adds another layer of cost. The rental cost, however, would be much less expensive, up front. If you use a business rental agency that charges $50 a month, the initial cost of ensuring your entire company has computer is only $1000. That is only 12% of the cost of purchasing.

Another advantage of using a business computer rental source is that they generally come complete with support for the computers. If a computer that you have rented from the shop ever breaks down, contacting the company will usually enable you to replace the computer at no cost to the company. They also have technicians that know how work all of the programs that are installed on their computers. This means that they are able to answer any questions or concerns about the programs, you can call up the company and have them help you with whatever the issue may be. If requested, you can also have the company help with the install of all of the new computer systems. This could save you much time and money, not to mention aggravation.

One more advantage of business computer rental is that you are generally given the option to rent to own. That means that the rental place will apply all of the payments you have make toward the total price of the computer. When an agreement has been fulfilled, the computer will completely have been paid off. You can now keep the computer you rented, or you can return it to the shop and replace it a new one. Often, by returning the computer to the store, the store will give you a rather large credit toward your next rental, saving even more money in the long run.

Purchasing computers in bulk can become quite expensive. Rather than purchasing a set of computers from a store, research around and find a good business computer rental shop. Using a rental service will save a lot of money in the immediate sense, sometimes costing less than 15% of the total purchase cost. Business computer rental places also have technical support employees that know the computers better than most people. In the end, renting a computer can even save you money by allowing you to keep the computer as if completely paid for. For companies just starting out, that amount of saved money can mean the difference between surviving or not.

Choosing and Buying a New Personal Computer

Buying a new PC can be a daunting task for some people, the average home user will not know what the different options mean and when faced with these decisions might end up making the wrong choice and end up with a computer that won’t do everything they need it to do. This guide will help you understand the different options so you can choose the correct PC that meets your needs to ensure you are getting the best value for your hard earned money.

Before you start shopping for a new computer you need to make a few decisions to help you find the right computer suitable for your needs.

  1. Determine if you want a laptop or desktop computer. See Laptops vs Desktops further down for more information.
  2. Create a list all the different things you want to be able to do with your new computer – for example, browsing the internet, sending/receiving emails, word processing and storing photos, videos and music. Without this list you will find it very hard to determine which computer will be suitable for you.
  3. Determine the minimum hardware specifications for your new computer, see Hardware Specifications further down for more information.
  4. Determine how you are going to buy your new computer. See Where To Buy A Personal Computer further down for more information.
  5. Buy your new computer. Keep an eye out for my up coming guide “Setting Up A Personal Computer”, which will cover the basics of setting up your computer and maintenance tasks you should do on a regular basis to keep your computer running fast and secure.

Laptops vs Desktops
A laptop computer has a major benefit over a desktop computer, portability – you can take your laptop with you almost anywhere meaning you will have instant access to the information stored on your laptop, however this also makes it easier for someone to walk off with your laptop and your information. Desktops are not portable, but are also a lot less likely to be stolen.

A laptop is generally much more expensive than a desktop computer, and, for the same cost of a laptop, a faster desktop could be purchased.

Laptops are generally not upgradeable and are made using proprietary parts, this means that if your laptops breaks only the manufacturer of your laptop can supply parts to fix it – when your warranty runs out this can become very expensive. Desktops are fully upgradeable and do not use proprietary parts, meaning that the replacement parts are normally inexpensive and can be found in practically any computer store.

Hardware Specifications
There are a lot of different options when it comes to the hardware specifications of a computer, once you have made your list of things you want to do with your computer you will be able to determine the minimum hardware specifications of your new computer, normally the best way to do this is to talk to a specialist and give them your list of things you want to do with your computer. The main hardware components you need to look at are the CPU (processor), RAM (memory) and HDD (hard drive).

Processor – Determines how fast your computer can process information.

RAM – This is the temporary space the computer uses when accessing your programs and information stored on your computer. This can be thought of as a desk, the information you are currently working on is put on the desk and is removed when you are finished. The more RAM your computer has, the more information you can access quickly at the same time.

HDD – Determines how much information you can store on your computer.

For basic tasks, such as browsing the internet, sending/receiving emails, word processing and storing photos, videos and music, a computer with at least a dual-core processor, 2GB memory and an 80GB hard drive would be suitable, depending on how many photos, videos and music files you have – the hard drive capacity might need to be increased.

For more advanced tasks such as gaming you will need to look at a fast processor, more memory and a separate graphics card – refer to the minimum specifications for some of the games you would like to play to get an idea on the sort of hardware specifications you will need.

Where to Buy a Personal Computer
There are a few different ways to buy a new computer, below is a list of the most common ways people buy computers.

  1. Buying a computer form an electronics store or department store (such as Dick Smiths or Big W in Australia). This is possibly the most common way the average user will buy a PC and is also the worst way to purchase a computer. These types of stores generally do not have staff with a good knowledge of computers, therefore they cannot really help you make the right choice and cannot offer good after purchase support. Avoid this option where possible.
  2. Buying a brand name computer from a manufacturer over the internet (such as Dell or HP). This is a relatively good option however you cannot look at, apart from pictures, or test drive the computer before buying it. You can normally get good advice when buying online by calling the sales team or searching for reviews on the internet. After market support is reasonably good with this option, they will have a dedicated technical enquiry team and will normally have a local service representative who will normally do house calls.
  3. Buying a custom built computer from a computer store (such as Principal Computers in Australia). This is a good option and will allow you to get great advice and buy a computer that fits your needs. You can sit down with a specialist and discuss exactly what you need your computer to do, it is also generally cheaper than buying a brand name computer and they will provide great after purchase support.
  4. Buying the individual hardware components and building the computer yourself, this is only a good option for those who already have good knowledge of computers. If this option interests you please look out for my up coming guide “Building Your Own Personal Computer”.

Shopping For a New Computer – Understanding Total Cost of Ownership

As owner of a computer repair service center it is quite common to see customers who are contemplating simply buying a new computer as opposed to repairing their existing computer. Many of these customers tend to believe that a $300-400 computer that they’ve seen in an advertisement from one of the big box stores may be the answer to their problem and eliminate their need for service. While it is true that there are some models of new computers that are sold in the $300-400 range the initial purchase price is only one factor to consider when buying a computer. More important than the purchase price is what’s know as the Total Cost of Ownership, or TCO. Determining the TCO of a computer involves adding together the purchase price as well as all of the incremental costs associated with owning it to determine the true cost of the computer to its owner over the life of the machine. Determining the TCO of a computer involves adding together the following:

  1. The initial purchase price of the computer
  2. The cost of service, maintenance and repair work over the life of the computer
  3. The cost of lost productivity during any times that the computer was out of service
  4. How many years the computer can be expected to last for

As you might expect, it is common for computers with very low initial purchase prices to have among the highest Total Cost of Ownership. Accounting people at big firms have understood this for many years which is why you will never see a Fortune 500 company using any of the models of discount computers that you will see on the shelf at Best Buy, Circuit City or any of the other big box stores. Almost every manufacturer (Dell, HP, etc.) offers two separate lines of computers. One line is referred to as their “Business” class computers and the other is the “Home” line of computers. The primary difference between the two is that the business line of computers are built for people who understand TCO. The initial cost of a business computer will always be higher than the “home” line even though the CPU speed, memory and hard drive size may be the same, but you will be getting a computer that is built with better parts: not necessarily faster, but less likely to break down and more economical to service if it does break.

The home lines of computers are built based on an entirely different measurement– mainly that having a broken computer isn’t going to cost you anything. This unfortunately for an uninformed consumer is often not the case; especially once the computer is out of warranty which on new computers is generally only one year. For the do-it-yourself type of computer user who has a good backup system, doesn’t rely on the computer for important business functions and is able to perform their own repairs, the home model computers sold at the big box stores are often a worthwhile option. For everyone else you may benefit from buying a business class machine. You can find purchasing prices and options for business class computers on the websites of any of the major manufacturers, or by contacting your local computer repair service center. Many computer service centers will also have off-lease or refurbished business model computers to choose from as well.

Computer Repair Technicians Taking the Easy Way Out – The Wipe and Reinstall Fix

This “syndrome” in the computer repair industry ranks near the top of my frustration list of practices by some computer repair technicians. I am referring to the practice of a few unprofessional computer repair technicians, and even some big company franchises, taking the easy way out to fix a computer by telling the customer that they have to wipe the hard drive and reinstall everything.

In my head, I am still trying to figure out how someone can call wiping and reinstalling a “fix” for any computer repair problem. On my list of remedies, that is my last resort. Generally it kind of leaves me feeling a bit defeated. But, since I rarely have to ever do that, I think only 3 or 4 times in the last 18 years, it is not a big issue for me.

So why do so many computer repair technicians find it so easy to resort to destroying the customer’s data and wiping their hard drive as a solution to a computer repair problem? Here are a few of the reasons.

  1. They really do not know how to fix the problem. This is the number one reason. Most of the time this is the approach most often used by technicians that have little experience in actually troubleshooting and fixing computers, You know who they are. Its the guy, often barely out of high school, that grew up playing with computers and built his own gaming system so he thinks he is an expert at repairing computers, or the person that home studied the certification books and proceeded to get a certificate because he answered all the question right on a piece of paper. Any way it goes, they just don’t have the experience and this is their only solution. What is worse is they are taking advantage of the customer that is trusting their “expert” conclusion that this is the ONLY solution to their problem, often leaving the customer with a feeling of regret for not having backed up all their data, documents and pictures and losing them because of the reinstall
  2. Time and money equals profits. It takes longer to troubleshoot and attempt remedial actions on a computer with complicated problems. Often a consumer is looking for the best price for the computer repair. In order to remain competitive and maintain a volume of business, a computer repair company may resort to the wipe and re-install of a computer because it takes significantly less time than actually resolving the issue. Thus, they can make more money by taking the fastest route to getting the computer up and running again. Again, not usually in the customer’s best interest because they end up generally losing their data and having to reinstall all of their software applications on their own.
  3. Laziness. This comprises a little of both of the above plus a poor attitude, but is really self-explanatory. The computer tech or the company philosophy is to take the easy way out, avoid possible complications, get the computer out the door repaired, and do so with the least effort, time and expense. It is a “repair mill” mentality. In general, they just don’t care about the customer. Rather, it is all about whatever is easiest and most profitable. Again, the customer becomes an innocent victim of unprofessional business attitudes and practices.

A comment response by a self-proclaimed computer repair guru on a forum posting by another newbie technician asking “What’s a good turnaround time on computer repair for consumers?” read the following: “It really depends on clientele, If you want to do this in a full time extent, you should be able to do this in about 8 – 12 hours. If you just reimage the computer it shouldn’t take more than 2 hours.” I guess we know how he operates.

A true technician can resolve nearly any problem without resorting to wiping a hard drive and reinstalling the operating system, also referred to as reimaging a computer. A technician with a genuine concern for the customer’s best interest will use everything in their arsenal to fix a problem before resorting to a total reimaging of a computer system.

In my own computer repair company, I can site multiple instances wherein a customer brought a computer to me because they were told by another computer repair person that it was necessary to reimage the customer’s computer resulting in total loss of their data, only to find that indeed, it could be fixed without any loss. Yes, sometimes it costs more than reimaging a system due to the longer repair processes, but the customer more often than not would rather pay a bit more than lose all their data, and all too often, their precious libraries of family memories on the computer in digital pictures.

My advice to consumers is to ask around and check the reputation of the computer repair tech. Don’t be gullible and easily accept a computer repair technician’s assertion that a total wipe and reinstall of the hard drive is required. Drill them on the reasons why it is necessary, and what the alternatives are. At the very least, always tell a computer repair person or company that they should contact you for authorization before wiping your hard drive and reimaging your computer. Be aware as well, that many of the large franchise operations use a business model wherein a series of mandated minimal troubleshooting steps are undertaken before the company policy dictates a complete reinstall of the computer is required for problem resolution.