Computer Buying Advice
Fall 2018
  • Important things to consider before your purchase
  • FAQ: Should I get a Windows PC, a Mac or Chromebook?
  • Where to buy a new PC
  • Recommended computer specifications
  • FAQ: Why not buy refurbished?
Reno's PC & Technology Help Experts since 2003 

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Since you'll likely be spending the next 5-7 years or more with your next computer, please take a few minutes now to make an informed decision about what to look for in a new computer and accessories - and get the best deal. 

If your computer was purchased prior to 2013, it is most likely near or at the end of its useful life. The average life of a HDD (Hard Disk Drive) - a major component inside a computer - is about 5 years. According to the Windows operating systems timeline below, support for Windows XP and Windows Vista expired in 2014 and 2017 respectively, and Windows 7 will no longer be supported in 2020. The end of support for older operating systems means that Microsoft is no longer releasing fixes and security updates, making it more vulnerable to malware and dangerous to operate if connected to the internet. 

Today's new computers are faster, more reliable and secure. Fortunately new computers are more affordable than those that were sold over 5 years ago. 
Important things to consider before your purchase

Since stores are making little to no profit in the sale of a new PC they will likely try to up-sell you on unnecessary items such as an upgraded version of Windows, security software, extended warranties* and their in-store or remote tech services. The only add-on I usually recommend is a 1TB external hard drive for backup purposes, and in certain circumstances I recommend Microsoft Office with Word and Excel. If you have questions about an upsell, feel free to ask Computer Techs.

* Extended warranties typically only cover hardware problems that occur after the manufacturer warranty period (typically the first year of ownership), through the purchased extended warranty period (typically 2-4 years). Most hardware problems occur in the first year, over after 4-5 years. Thus if you purchase an extended warranty, you are spending money to cover a time period when the computer is least likely to fail.

Please consider our IN-HOME services to get your new computer set-up quickly and properly, vs. the chain stores offerings or attempting it yourself:

· Set-up and connect your new computer to your network, printer and other external hardware.
If you buy from a local store you'll likely notice that they don't specialize in in-home service, or they charge much more for the option. We'll make sure all of your external devices work with your new computer.

· Transfer data (documents, pictures, music, etc.) and compatible programs from an old computer.  Some tech services just transfer your data to a folder on your desktop - we organize your data and put it in the right folders and programs. 

· Remove trialware and unnecessary adware.  We also setup free security, backup and Office software.

· Customization and explanation of Windows features. We'll setup the menus, controls and buttons with familiarity of your previous computer.

· Consulting about questions you have about your new computer system

· Recommended storage/disposal/donation of an old unused computer
Windows operating systems timeline

Below is the support timeline for Windows Operating systems. If you're unsure what operating system is on your computer  see this article .
 
Operating System  General Availability   (End-of-support)

Windows XP        Oct 2001 - June 2008  (Apr 2014)
Windows Vista      Jan 2007 - Oct 2010   (Apr 2017)
Windows 7         Oct 2009 - Oct 2016   (Jan 2020)
Windows 8/8.1      Oct 2012 - Oct 2016   (Jan 2023)
Windows 10        July 2015 - TBD      (TBD)
 
FAQ: Should I get a Windows PC, a Mac, or Chromebook ?
Windows 7 is still the most popular operating system, however it is no longer available for purchase. Windows 10 was released in July 2015 and is now fairly mature and glitch-free. Microsoft releases feature updates to Windows 10 on a semi-annual basis.
 
You may be persuaded to switch to a Mac by younger acquaintances, or when visiting the Apple Store. Macs feature the macOS operating system which is very different from Windows. We generally don't recommend getting a Mac due to the learning curve, limited software choices compared to Windows, and equipment expense that's more than double the price of Windows computers with similar components. Though there are less macOS viruses, Macs are just as vulnerable to adware and fake pop-up warnings from redirected websites and tech support scammers.

Another option is a Chromebook - a portable laptop-like device which operates Google's Chrome OS operating system. This is a low-cost alternative to Windows and macOS, but can be very limited to what software will run on it. If you just use a computer for web browsing and email, this can be a good alternative. Please contact us to help discover if a Chromebook would be right for you.
Where to buy a new PC
For a Windows computer, I recommend that you buy a new, name brand (e.g. Dell, HP) computer from a local store such as Costco, Best Buy, Staples, or Office Depot. An additional benefit for buying from Costco is that they extend the manufacturer's warranty to 2 years .

It may be tempting to buy online from places such as Amazon.com for slightly better prices, however returns can be a hassle if it becomes necessary. Also, various local and online outlets offer cheaper refurbished equipment, but you're likely going to get slower hardware that is near the end of its lifespan. 
Recommended computer specifications

If you prefer to shop on-your-own there are generally just 3 specifications you need to look for as shown in order of importance below. While there are less expensive computers than what I recommend, they have slower processors, speed will be sub-par and other components are lesser quality. Avoid towers with the smaller "slimline" case design, or all-in-one touchscreen computers - since some replacement parts are non-standard and expensive to replace should a failure occur. Fixing non-standard computer form factors may require shipping it back to the manufacturer for repair.

  1. Processor: Intel Core i# processor, or AMD Ryzen # processor (#= higher number is faster)
  2. Hard Drive type/size: SSD* - 128GB or larger AND/OR HDD - 1TB
  3. RAM/Memory: 4GB or higher

* SSD (Solid State Drive) provides the fastest computing experience, yet their availability less common. For more information and comparisons between SSD and HDD, see the video below:
Do you hate shopping for a new computer? Let us shop for you.
If the thought of going to the store, fighting the crowds, salespeople and choices overwhelm you - then don't do it. We'll purchase a new desktop computer for you, set it up in your home, transfer your data and install programs, and show you how to use it.

If you're considering a  laptop/notebook computer, visit a store to view a display model and take the following points into consideration when shopping, then let us set it up in your home and show you how to use it: 
  • Does the screen look clear? (You shouldn't be able to see pixels/dots on the screen.)
  • Is the screen the right size and can you see it well?
  • Is the laptop too heavy?
  • Do the keys on the keyboard feel good, is it easy to type on?
  • Do you like the color?
  • Is the touchpad easy to navigate and press?
FAQ: Why not buy refurbished?
We often get asked "why not save some money and buy refurbished?". Typically refurbished computers have been used for 5 years or more, and just had the operating system re-installed. While you may be getting a fresh copy of the operating system the underlying hardware on the computer is old, slower than modern computers and prime for failure. Also, computer processors over 4 years old likely have not been patched or have been degraded by recent operating system patches due to a widespread processor flaw that was discovered in January 2018. Refurbished computers will not meet our recommended specifications. Bottom line: buying a refurbished computer is not worth the savings.