Computer Buying Advice
Holidays 2020
  • Take a few minutes now to make an informed decision about the next computer you'll likely own for 5-10 years
  • Important things to consider before your purchase
  • Operating system choices: Windows, macOS or Chrome OS?
  • Recommended computer specifications
  • FAQ: Switching from a desktop to laptop computer
  • FAQ: How much does a new computer cost?
  • FAQ: What are the disadvantages of a refurbished PC?
  • FAQ: Where to buy a new PC?
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Since you'll likely be spending the next 5-10 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. 
Support for Windows 7 has been discontinued: If you purchased a PC between 2009-2012 it most likely came with Windows 7. The operating system was released over 10 years ago and has since been replaced with Windows 10. Microsoft has decided to retire support for Windows 7 effective January 2020, thereby stopping the release of important security and reliability patches.

While you could continue to use your PC running Windows 7, without continued software and security updates, it will be at an ever-increasing risk for viruses and malware. Going forward, the best way for you to stay secure is on Windows 10. And the best way to experience Windows 10 is on a new PC. While it may be possible to install Windows 10 on your older computer, it is not recommended.

Why updating the operating system on existing computer hardware is not recommended: Since your computer was manufactured over 5 years ago the hardware is nearing the end of its useful life. Particularly, the HDD/mechanical hard drive has an average lifespan of 4-5 years. Additionally an old computer likely has a processor with an unpatched serious security flaw that was discovered in early 2018.

Assuming your computer can be upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 10, the job typically takes 2+ hours. Since your current computer’s hardware is past it's average lifespan – I would hate for you to spend the money for the time involved in upgrading only to have a mechanical failure happen soon thereafter. For about $500 you can get a new computer that’s much faster and reliable.

Therefore it's time to start replace your old computer which will come with the latest version of Windows. But don't buy just any computer before reading the valuable information contained in this newsletter.
Important things to consider before your purchase

Since stores are making little profit on the sale of a new PC they will likely try to upsell you on unnecessary items such as an extended warranty*, security software, the "Pro" version of Windows, 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 for your circumstances, feel free to ask us.

* An extended warranty typically only covers 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 either in the first year, or after 4-5 years on average. 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 national chain 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 word processing/spreadsheet software.

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

· Install initial updates. A new computer out-of-the-box is already several months behind critical operating system updates and computer hardware updates.
· 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)
 
Operating system choices: Windows, macOS, or Chrome OS?
On a Windows PC, Windows 7 is no longer available for purchase and was no longer supported effective January 2020. Windows 10 was released in July 2015 and is now fairly mature, secure and reliable. Microsoft releases feature updates for Windows 10 on a semi-annual basis.
 
You may be persuaded to switch to a Mac by acquaintances, or when visiting the Apple Store. Macs feature the macOS operating system which is quite different from Windows. We generally don't recommend switching to a Mac due to the learning curve, limited software choices compared to Windows, and expense that's typically more than double the price of Windows computers. 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 Chrome OS - mostly available on new laptops with limited solid-state storage based on Google's Chrome web browser. This is a low-cost alternative to Windows and macOS, but is limited to running the Google Chrome web browser - though some Chromebooks can run Android-based applications downloaded from the Google Play Store. If you just use a computer for internet usage and web-based email, this can be a good alternative if you're looking for something inexpensive and portable. Please contact us if you'd like help to determine if a Chromebook would be right for you.
Recommended computer specifications

If you prefer to shop on-your-own there are generally 3-4 specifications you need to look for as shown in order of importance and best bang-for-the-buck listed below. While there are less expensive computers than what is recommend below, they will likely have a slower mechanical hard drive, a slower processor, speed will be slow down when multitasking, laptop screens won't be as clear, and other components are lesser quality. Also 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. Hard Drive storage type/size: SSD (Solid State Drive)* - 128GB-256GB or larger
  2. Processor: Intel Core i3 or i5, or AMD Ryzen 5
  3. RAM/Memory: 6GB or higher
  4. Laptop screen: 768 vertical resolution minimum, 1080 or higher recommended. Click for more info.

* SSD (Solid State Drive) provides an ultra-fast computing experience, reliability and battery efficiency in laptops - yet their availability less common. A second HDD (non-solid state drive) of 1TB or larger may be installed in the computer, and is recommended if included.

How fast is a SSD? One measurement for storage devices is how much data can be read from a drive in terms of MBps (Megabytes per second). HDDs average around 100 MBps. The latest NVMe m.2 SSDs that are included in some of today's new computers can read data over 2500 MBps - that's likely 25x faster than your old computer's HDD!

The graphic below shows performance tests of the MBps differences between a HDD, SATA SSD and NVME m.2 SSD - the later being the SSD standard in new computers manufactured today.
FAQ: Switching from a desktop to laptop computer
Below are some things to think about when considering switching from an old desktop to a new laptop computer:

  • Screen size: Desktop computers can connect to a monitor up to 32". Laptops screen sizes range from about 12" to 17.3". However, most laptops can connect to a larger external monitor if desired.
  • Portability: Laptops can be used on your lap, and are more portable than a desktop computer. This can be important as we get older and may need to travel with our computer, or be confined to a hospital, chair, bed or a smaller living space for an extended period of time.
  • Computing power and speed: Laptops today are just as powerful as desktop computers for most people who use it to browse the web and pay bills, check email, work with documents and spreadsheets, and play games.
  • Laptop touchpad and touch screen: While the touchpad and touch screen can be convenient for navigating around the computer, you don't have to use them. Some people still use an external mouse for navigation around the screen along with the laptop's keyboard.
FAQ: How much does a new computer cost?
For a Windows computer, expect to spend an average of $500-$700 for a mid-range tower or laptop with a fast, reliable Solid State Drive. This is likely less than you paid for your last computer 5-10 years ago, and a new computer will be noticeably faster and more reliable. These days most people use their computers on a daily basis to shop, manage finances, communicate with others and stay on top of the news. For about an average cost of $100/year or less over the lifespan of the equipment - that's a bargain!
FAQ: What are the disadvantages of a refurbished PC?
We often get asked "why not save some money and buy refurbished?". Typically refurbished computers have been used for 5 years or more, and only had the operating system re-installed to be considered "refurbished". 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 unfixed security flaws and/or have been degraded by recent operating system patches meant to patch but not fix the flaws. Refurbished computers do not meet our recommended specifications. Bottom line: buying a refurbished computer is not worth any savings that they may offer.
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 with security flaws that is near the end of its lifespan. 
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, please 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? (On less expensive models you might be able to see the 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?
Specific computer model recommendations
For current specific computer model recommendations, please refer to the following frequently updated webpage: https://computertechsreno.com/newpc-links/