This is the most common question I get. Customers are almost always disappointed with the answer because they expect computers to last as long as major appliances. The typical lifespan for a PC is about 5 to 7 years, and laptops are even less, at about 3 to 6 years. The main driver is software, which continually gets bigger, more complex, and requires faster hardware. The next factor is hardware, which even for the best brands will start to fail after 7 years. Most customers are also unaware of the major jump hardware has taken in the past 4 years or so, with multiple processors (2 or 4) becoming the standard nowadays. Fortunately there are affordable solutions which I detail below. In general though, a new PC or laptop will cost about $600 to $800, but you should not have to spend more than that.
If you have files on your computer worth protecting, most likely you’ve been doing backups one way or another. Usually people get started with backups by simply copying files to an extra folder, thumb drive, memory stick, or external disk drive. When moving to a new computer, more copies get made.
Next thing you know, your backups get duplicated several times over and you end up with dozens of gigabytes of duplicate files. You could spend days or weeks plowing through folders trying to get rid of all the duplicates. Photos especially end up being confusing because cameras are simplistic and repetitive in how they name files.
There’s a solution. There are programs you can run that automatically sort through all your files and do a very thorough job of finding duplicates that you can delete. The one I use is called “Duplicate File Finder”. You can download and install it from CNET’s “Download.com”. It’s easy and safe to install and fairly straightforward to run.
After installing the Finder, it will pop up an online, step-by-step tutorial. The main things for getting started is to 1. Select a location-drive to search, and then 2. click the Search button in the upper left corner. If you are Searching a lot of files or drives, your search could take many hours, possibly overnight. You might want to run this before you go to bed.
A customer with a laptop could not view email in Outlook or view product details when shopping online. I checked for malware, viruses, damaged windows system files, etc. I reset Internet Explorer. We still couldn’t figure it out. Then I started looking at Installed Software. Over time, the customer had downloaded and installed all sorts of what I call “Junk Ware”. Toolbars, Games, Coupon gadgets, you name it. I uninstalled most of it. Problem solved! A lot of this “junk ware” is either buggy, a security risk, or does unexpected things to both Browsers (IE, Firefox, Chrome) and Email programs like Outlook, Thunderbird, or Windows Mail. In general, the fewer installed programs, the better.
(Update: April 2015, I’m no longer recommending Netbooks.) Is your XP computer limping along or losing its battle with viruses? On a tight budget? Think you need $600 or more for a new PC? Well I just bought a new PC with Windows 7, a dual processor, 1 GB of RAM, and a 320 GB drive for less than $250 ! And it works great! Once again I’m astonished at the progress of Personal Computing. I bought what’s called a “Netbook” from Walmart for $248, $276 with tax and shipping to my door. Netbooks look like small laptops. The screens and keyboards are tiny, but there are simple work-arounds for that. A larger screen can be attached to a monitor (VGA) port on the side, and you can pick up a wireless keyboard and mouse combo from discount stores for as little as $25. The screen on my new Netbook is 10″ and has a resolution of 1024 by 600 pixels. The brand is Acer, which I’ve had pretty good luck with. Here’s a quick rundown of the pros and cons of such a purchase: Pros: Low cost Light-Portable-Small Upgradeable Dual Core Cons: Windows 7 “Starter” Longevity? Small Screen-Battery-RAM Performance WalMart? I’m not a fan of WalMart, but I think deals like this will become more widely available as time goes by. At $250 you are taking a bit of a gamble, as I can’t guarantee that such a computer will last more than a few years. If you’re lucky, maybe 5 or 7 years. If not, maybe only one or two. Even so, I’m still amazed with this purchase. Steve